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fa20driver

Flavor difference? - Malted barley vs unmalted barley

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Has anyone done any experimenting with malted vs unmalted barley on new make whiskey flavors?  I am currently making a single malt whiskey from locally grown and malted barley.  This is pretty costly at about .90/lb, so I was contemplating how much unmalted barley I could add without sacrificing flavor.  Of course the standards of identity for malt whiskey would only allow 49% unmalted barley to the grain bill, but using this much unmalted barley could cut my grain bill cost significantly.

Essentially, I am wondering how much flavor is actually derived from the slight toasting of the malt as compared to simple unmalted barley?  If I am not mistaken, Irish Whiskey is usually made from about 50/50 unmalted vs malted barley, but the high distillation proof and used barrels likely contribute more to the flavor profile than the fact that only 50% of the mash is malted.

Anyone have any insight?

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We messed around with unmalted barley early on, but can't really speak to anything notable in the flavor profile (too many other experiments in conjunction). I would definitely recommend looking into buying your malt in bulk (we use bsg) and then weighing out the value in using local grown/malted barley verses a .45/lb or more savings. We use locally grown corn, rye and wheat for our other whiskies, but for malt... BSG makes the most sense for our program. 

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Thx Lenny,

We are also a brewery, and do order in bulk from BSG, but we have a farm distillery license which requires a large percentage of local products to be used.  In exchange, we get to sell any other farm product (beer,cider,wine,spirits) by the glass without jumping through all of the typical "on premise license" type hoops.  I guess that I can try out a recipe and see how it ends up.  Worst case scenario is that it gets processed into neutral grain spirits...

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The 50:50 malted versus unmalted barley grain bill is a traditional one for some of the Irish whiskies. The result is usually a rougher new make, and hence why the tradition of triple distilling instead of double distilling. It might also need more aging. So, if you like that style of whiskey, I say give it a try! Few American distillers are doing it, and it would be interesting to see someone try.

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Thx bluestar - that is an interesting insight.

  I had someone recently tell me that it wouldn't make a difference, since the limited amount of heat in drying the malt doesn't really add that much of a toasted flavor and would have very little effect on the process in general other than perhaps a longer conversion during mashing.  I guess I will do a batch back to back and compare. 

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2 hours ago, fa20driver said:

Thx bluestar - that is an interesting insight.

  I had someone recently tell me that it wouldn't make a difference, since the limited amount of heat in drying the malt doesn't really add that much of a toasted flavor and would have very little effect on the process in general other than perhaps a longer conversion during mashing.  I guess I will do a batch back to back and compare. 

That person definitely doesn't know what they are talking about. Malting changes the flavor of the grain, and not just for barley. Malt rye tastes different from unmalted rye, too. Even malting corn or wheat changes its flavor, although perhaps less so. It's not just that you had enzymes convert the starch. The malted grain has actually initiated germination, and a lot more chemistry is happening than just the conversion, and that will affect the congeners produced.

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