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Single Malt on or off the grain?


Penrock Distillery

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Hi All

I'm thinking of making a malt whiskey. Since I'm in England and not Scotland I'm not bound by tradition and can blaze my own trail.
My question is what are the advantages and disadvantages of fermenting and distilling on and off the grain with regards to the final spirit ?

Cheers Sim !

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Stateside, we distill on the grain because we have little other choice when working with grains like corn and rye, which do not lauter easily.  Malt is an interesting one, because there is a choice.

Personally, I think on-grain processes result in more grain character carrying through to the distillate (probably obvious right?).  If you are planning on using distinctive malts (roasts, etc), there may be additional benefit in enhancing some of those flavors on grain.  I hesitate to call off grain cleaner, but that’s the direction my head is leaning (less-characteristic).  The other big factor off grain is whether you are distilling with yeast.  Again, keep in mind you don’t have a choice on-grain, the yeast always comes for the ride.  For off-grain, this is a  pretty big impact, and you can vary how much yeast you pull over to the still.  Off grain, no yeast, is going to be fairly mild/non-distinctive, but may yield a more palatable young whiskey.

A lot of folks talk about negative impacts due to tannin from the husk, personally I’ve never found that to be the case.  I’ve distilled malt mash bills both ways (we have a brewery next door), and it’s not the biggest standout.  Given I’ve hammer milled malt to flour, if there was going to be a real negative impact, I’d notice it. 

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Thanks for the reply !!
I cut my teeth in a craft TN whiskey distillery in Nashville before moving back home to England so I'm aware that the US distilleries can do things a bit differently as not bound by tradition like the Scottish guys, which is why I asked the question here 🙂
I'm looking for as much flavour as I can get in my spirits and was leaning in that direction, perhaps going "grain in" is the way I should go since being in England, I'm also not bound by Scotch tradition either. I was just concerned there could be a negative affect.

Cheers Sim

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