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100% Malted Barley - Caramelized malt influence


davide

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Hi all.

I'm doing some experiments to produce malt whiskey (100% barley) keeping some fixed parameters and understanding differences changing mashbill.

For instance, keeping the yeast and fermentation fixed, how the new make changes varying the percentage of cara malt?

If I keep French Saison but I move from a 100% pils  (fruity, floral, spicy markers) to 80% pils and 20% carapils or vienna, which are the main differences in the new make profile? 

 

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Don't know if I can help much but I've worked at a single malt distillery out in Canada that did a bit of grain bill experimentation (we were attached to a brewery). I've also heard one of the distillers at Glenmorangie talking about this - their whisky Signet was a bit of a source of inspiration at my old place and our experiences line up pretty well.

At least in my experience, I think you're probably getting a bit cute with this if you think (like in a brewery) that a change between 10% and 20% Vienna or Carapils is going to make any difference at all in an aged whisky. Off the top of my head, Signet was made with something like 40% chocolate malt, and we were pushing 50 to 60% chocolate malt in our mash. Basically, as much as we could get in the mash tun without extract falling ridiculously low. Despite this, we always wanted 'more' roast character - after a 5 year aging or whatever you need to bring the spirit to maturity, even a mashbill that tasted repulsively strong in the FV and was pot distilled and left 'rough' would lead to a subtle impact on finished spirit character. Anyway like I said I'm not an expert with non-roasted malts, but I figure if 60% chocolate malt doesn't have a massive impact on finished whisky flavour, crystal and especially Vienna/Munich malts will be almost undetectable.

For what it's worth in my new job making wheat/rye whisky we did a lot of testing of yeast strains when I started and that did lead to a slightly greater impact on new make character. Plus it's much easier (and cheaper) to implement into daily production than using specialty brewing malts. Whether it'll lead to great differences after aging I'm still slightly skeptical, but that probably depends what distillation methods and cask types you are using (we use a lot of new oak and it tends to take over even pretty rough whisky after a few years.)

All that said, you'll only know what works if you try it! It's definitely a lesser-explored area of whisky innovation - only, sometimes there's a reason for that.

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On 7/21/2021 at 7:32 PM, BCRob said:

For what it's worth in my new job making wheat/rye whisky we did a lot of testing of yeast strains when I started and that did lead to a slightly greater impact on new make character. Plus it's much easier (and cheaper) to implement into daily production than using specialty brewing malts. Whether it'll lead to great differences after aging I'm still slightly skeptical, but that probably depends what distillation methods and cask types you are using (we use a lot of new oak and it tends to take over even pretty rough whisky after a few years.)

All that said, you'll only know what works if you try it! It's definitely a lesser-explored area of whisky innovation - only, sometimes there's a reason for that.

Thanks a lot Rob, very useful. I confirm on Signet the percentage of chocolate is high. I take advantage of your kind support while the next step would be testing some Rye mashbill. In Irish Pot still whisky the percentage of raw barley gives an important marker to spirit, did you try different percentage of raw/malted grain and get interesting results? Thanks!

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My 2 cents.

Just a few weeks back I mashed and distilled a "chocolate" bourbon , 30% overall dark roast malt:

10% Midnight Wheat (black as coffee), 10% Chocolate Malt, 10% Caramel Malt

Was clearly in stout territory during the mashing process, huge coffee/chocolate flavor profiles. Deep, dark, bitter, complex.  We pushed this further than we did with a previous "chocolate" wheat whiskey, which was about 20% dark roast malts.  I thought this was still fairly positive (I am not afraid of bitter profiles).  With the previous wheat - the coffee/chocolate was still fairly prominent at 2 years.

We followed that up with a 7 grain bourbon (ALL THE GRAINS!!@!) - Roast Oat Malt, Biscuit Rye Malt, Caramel Barley Malt, Dark Wheat Malt, Flaked Rice, Briess Sorghum, and of course plain ol' corn.

This one was about 40% roast malt, again, though nothing as dark as the Midnight Wheat or Chocolate Malt in the other batch. Wow wow wow, amazing toasted nut flavor profile, roast toasty. Really didn't know what to expect with this batch, but it was 51% corn to keep it bourbon-ish.

There were some old threads here and there talking about keeping the percentages on the low side. If you stay in the lighter roast category, I don't see why you couldn't go 100%, even in some of the mid-level roasts, 50% is in no way too much. Even on the very dark side, it's not at all "too much" at 20-30%.

I see absolutely no reason why you wouldn't just substitute caramel malt for 2 row barley in just about every situation, and yield a far better result.

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I'd never make a beer without some percentage of specialty malts, so I transfer that thinking into whiskey mashes as well. I've found the influence of strong ester producing yeast and specialty malts have the pretty similar effect they would in a beer, at least in the new make, which was a huge relief to me, coming from the brewing world. As mentioned, you just have to be more heavy handed. I guessing because you loose some flavor in the cuts. Also I like to think those flavors aren't so much lost in the barrel, as they evolve into new flavors while interacting with the barrel. That may be over romanticized, wishful thinking though.

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Agree, but I think the impact on aging is different across yeast and malt.  I think that aging is far more detrimental to yeast character, than it is to roast/Maillard flavors.  Sure, yes, over time oak dominates and overpowers, especially over the more subtle flavors, but the difference here is, the yeast contribution esters - they are clearly gone by 3-4 years.  The roast was still clear as day, even if overshadowed.

I think the counterbalance to this is different as well.  To maximize yeast contribution longer term, you need to cut deeper into late heads.  To maximize the roast contribution longer term, you need to cut deeper into the tails.  In both cases, there is a limit too that.  While it's easier to increase the roast contribution by simply adding more, that's not necessarily easily done on the yeast side.  Sure, you can ferment a bit warmer, or under pitch to increase yeast contribution, but those impacts tend to be minor.

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I'd really love to lay down a barrel of whiskey, with no heads cut at all, right off the still, just to see what happens over a few years.  I suspect, that by 4 or 5 years, it doesn't at all come across as an overly heady whiskey.  This would answer my question though, how far into the heads do you need to go to retain the yeast ester contribution (or does it even matter).

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I'm aging everything in 15 and 30 gallon barrels in super dry climate with fluctuating temperatures that can get very hot. So over 4 year aging times are something I may never see. Inadvertently I may have the perfect conditions to be aging spirts from high ester yeasts.

Though curious, I am also afraid to go too deep into heads, or even tails. I'm pretty cowardly with my cuts, particularly because I think most consumers vocabulary is limited to the word "clean" in their descriptions, and therefore that is what they are looking for. Pretty off topic, but do you think something like Evan Williams is an example of a longish aged product with minimal cuts? It's been a long time since I've had to drink anything cheap, but I recall not disliking it flavor wise compared to other bottom shelf whiskey, but it is quite harsh.

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