5 Whiskey Grains

By: Jackie Martin    Last Updated: December 27, 2022       


5 Whiskey Grains

When it comes to cooking, you know that quality ingredients matter, and it’s just the same when it comes to making the perfect alcohol, especially whiskey

It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey through the world of whiskey — whether you’re a beginner or a connoisseur — you get invaluable insight when you know what was in the glass you just poured.

Your ability to recognize, enjoy, and relish the ingredients that have gone into making the whisky will only help you to enjoy the drink more. 

Corn (see also ‘Is Corn Gluten Free?‘), rye, barley, and/or wheat grain are used as the foundation for every whiskey type.

The flavor and scent of the spirit are determined by these grains, as well as the oak barrels in which the alcohol is aged.

The majority of whiskeys are produced using a combination of these grains to generate texture and depth, as well as fully bring out the best flavor that each grain has to offer.

The question is, which type of whiskey grain will provide the very best experience for your taste buds?

Here, we will explain the flavor profile of each grain and show you some excellent examples in whiskey where these grains have been used best. 

Whiskey Grains

Corn Grains

If you’re looking for a spirit that’s easy to drink, your best bet is corn whiskey.

Its sweet honey-browned butter and creamy tastes provide a seductive base that is perfect for sipping, while its overtones of toasted marshmallows, which are produced from charred oak barrels, bring everything together into a delicious drink.

The most popular type of whiskey that’s made from corn grains is bourbon.

To be classed as a “Bourbon” the whiskey must meet certain criteria. First of all, it must be made in America.

Secondly, the whiskey must have a base that’s made up of at least 51% corn grains.

This is a regulation that distillers of whiskey don’t want to break because it protects the spirit’s authenticity.

Corn whiskeys can either be consumed immediately after distillation or matured in previously used oak barrels.

Because these whiskeys contain either very little or none of the flavors imparted by the barrels, the corn flavor comes through quite strongly. 

The corn sugars, which are often quite thick and syrupy, especially shine through in bottled products such as Georgia Moon and Mellow Corn. 

Rye Grains 

If you’re the type of person who likes a little heat with their whiskey, rye is a great way to add some kick to your drink.

It has the same notes of ripe and dried fruit as corn-based whiskeys, but it also has some additional nuttiness and spicy notes, in addition to an innate richness that makes it clearly distinct.

In the United States, for a spirit to be designated as rye whiskey, it must, just like bourbons, be created from at least 51 percent rye grain and matured in charred American oak barrels.

In addition, rye whiskeys must meet certain other requirements.

Some distillers are choosing to brew whiskey with rye mash bills that are as high as one hundred percent for real rye heads.

This is a great drink for people who prefer their whiskey to be extremely dry, intense, and peppery.

Whiskeys like this that come to mind include High West Rendezvous and Sonoma Rye.

Barley Grains 

If you love the riskier lifestyle or want something that really packs a punch, then you should give barley-made whiskey a go.

The most common use for barley is in the production of Scotch. 

Whisky made from barley is often malted and then dried with peat, which imparts a smoky and earthy quality to the finished product.

It is standard procedure to age Scotch in old port wine or sherry barrels to mellow out the spirit and add some valuable notes of fruit and spice. 

Other flavors such as dusty leather, orange rind, dried fig, and toasted caramel can be found in Scotch whisky. 

The majority of whiskeys made all over the world contain at least some malted barley.

However, some distillers also utilized unmalted barley, which contributes to sharp and acidic flavors, such as lemon or apple.

Wheat Grains 

Wheat whiskeys, which were once considered to be less mainstream, have emerged as a rising star in the world of whiskey.

They are uniquely American, and the vast majority of wheat whiskeys are produced right here in the United States of America.

And talk about going with the flow: Wheat whiskeys are among the smoothest whiskeys that can be made since they are loaded with tastes like honey, vanilla, dried fruit, cinnamon, and toffee.

In addition, wheat whiskeys have an innate sweetness, albeit a mellow one, which ensures that they will be smooth and simple to consume.

It’s no surprise that they’ve become such a hit with the public.

Four-grain Whiskey

Four Grain Whiskey

Sometimes a whiskey that doesn’t highlight a single variety but is instead a blend is the finest way to taste the grains that are used in making the whiskey.

A four-grain whisky uses all of the grains that we have mentioned above. 

The sweetness of the maize, the mellowness of the barley, and the cereal texture of the wheat all play off of the spiciness of the rye, which highlights how each grain’s flavors are boosted by the other grains around it. 

Non-Traditional Grains 

Because whiskey can be made from virtually any grain, certain distilleries, most notably those in the United States, are experimenting with whiskeys made from non-grain substances. 

Industry leader Jim Beam has experimented with other grains for their Signature Craft bourbon series, using these grains as complements to the maize in their products. 

Jim Beam has also utilized another grain called triticale in the past (which is a hybrid of wheat and rye).

Whiskeys made with this grain typically have the spiciness of rye, but with more sweetness, scents, and flavors that are somewhat chalky and reminiscent of breakfast cereal. 

In the Jim Beam Signature Craft series, brown rice was included in some of the experiments.

This resulted in a nuttier flavor and an oilier texture in the finished product.

Although getting used to various flavors can take some time, each one has a certain allure that makes it worthwhile.

Whiskey Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Four Types Of Whiskey? 

Scotch, Bourbon, Tennessee, and Rye are the four various kinds of whisky.

The difference between the four can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the components that go into the mixture, the process of filtering and distilling, as well as the location of production.

Bourbon whisky is brewed in the United States, most typically in the state of Kentucky in the central-eastern region of the country, whereas Scotch whisky is produced in Scotland (thus the name).

While malted barley is the primary component in the production of Scotch, maize is the main ingredient in Bourbon. 

The difference between Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon is that after the alcohol has been distilled, the whiskey gets filtered through sugar maple charcoal, which gives it a sugarier and sweeter taste.

Bourbon, on the other hand, does not undergo this process. 

How Long Do You Leave Whiskey To Age In A Barrel? 

There is no standard time frame for how long each whisky is aged in oak casks.

In general, the more expensive whiskies would have been aged in casks for a longer time, and the length of time it takes for the whisky to mature would have had a role in determining the price.

Can I Add Water To Whiskey? 

Adding water to whisky is a matter of taste, but doing so causes the whisky to become slightly smoother, and the aroma becomes more pronounced when the alcohol content of the whisky is lowered.

It is often sufficient to add just a dash or even just a few drops of water to your whisky to alter its flavor, aroma, or appearance noticeably.

What Does “Peaty” Mean When Talking About Whiskey? 

The easiest way to explain peat is to think of it as a decomposing plant that has formed over many many years. 

The material is harvested, after which it’s sliced into smaller pieces called “sod,” stacked, and allowed to dry.

After a period ranging from two to three weeks, the bits of peat become dried up, and the material that is left behind is hard peat “bricks” that have a higher energy content than coal.

The peat is then burned within the distilleries, after which the grain is exposed to the smoke that was produced by the burning of the peat.

This gives the whisky a flavor similar to that of peat.

The flavor of the whiskey and the intensity of the peat are both affected by the length of time that the grain is exposed to the peat smoke, which also serves to modify the flavor of the alcohol.


Four main grains are used in the production of whiskey, and each one will impact the overall flavor and drinking experience of the alcohol.

If you aren’t a fan of wheat-based whiskey, then try one made from another grain to see if the flavors agree with you more.

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