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Neutral Grain Alcohol

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Neutral Grain Alcohol

Postby ScotchPalate » Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:45 pm

I don't know much about Neutral Grain Alcohol. (Never really been into blends too much.) I've read that Neutral Grain Alcohol is produced in a "continuous process" ( I understand the process) and that it doesn't particularly matter what grain is used. :? I've heard it can be wheat, unmalted barley, maze or other grains. If the grain doesn't make a difference to the taste, why drink it? It must just taste like alcohol. Anyway, I'm left with a few questions, and I hope you all might enlighten me.

1) Why doesn't it matter what grain is used? What does NGA taste like?

2) What can be appreciated in the taste of NGA?

3) What is Maze / Maize? How is different than corn (or what is used in bourbon)?

4) In an age stated expression (e.g. Johnnie Walker Gold 18 Year). Does the age only refere to the Single Malts or does it also refere to the NGA ?

5) If NGA is aged...how? Oak casks?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:54 pm

Here's the easy one: Maize is corn.

I will await a better-informed opinion as to whether NGA is the same thing as grain whisky, and if not, what the difference is.

Grain whisky is indeed aged in oak, just like malt whisky, and the age statement applies to it, too.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:57 pm

I was quite surprised very recently (over the last 2-3 days) to learn that the difference between grain and malt whisky is only that ALL the barley used in malt whisky is 'malted'.
The same barley is used for grain whisky, but the majority of it is NOT malted, although a proportion of it may be.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:04 am

MT, I'm quite sure that other grains can be used in grain whisky, as well, and in fact they usually use whatever is cheapest. I remember a bottle of single-grain being reviewed in the magazine, and it being said that it was particularly good because when it was distilled--sometime in the '60's, as I recall--barley was the cheapest grain available.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:08 am

Mr. T. I am sure you are correct as I always thought Grain whisky WAS made exclusively from other grains. I was just surprised to hear that it was primarily made from Barley like single malt, but not malted!

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Postby Admiral » Thu Mar 22, 2007 3:44 am

I was just surprised to hear that it was primarily made from Barley like single malt, but not malted!


Hmmm....not quite correct.

A small percentage of malted barley is used, but this is chiefly to assist with kickstarting the fermentation process. Very little unmalted barley is used, except for in Ireland, where unmalted barley is the basis of Potstill.

The rest of the mashbill in grain whisky is chiefly either maize (corn) or wheat.

Now up until recently, maize was the more common (and certainly preferred) ingredient of the two, however, I understand that certain economic pressures now apply with the EU. Subsidies & concessions now make wheat the cheaper (and therefore more common) ingredient for grain whisky.

One distiller recently told me that he much preferred to use maize - it gave a cleaner, sweeter, flavour, and was also apparently much cleaner to use (i.e. less residue, bulk, and easier fermentation), but that he was resigned to using wheat because of the EU pressures.

Grain whisky is often unfairly described as being 'neutral', but of course it has flavour. Grain whisky is quite uncommon in bottled form. Some of the independent bottlers have bottled some delicious grain whisky (I'm thinking specifically of Duncan Taylor's 39yo Invergordon), but Diageo do actually bottle their single grain whisky from the Cameron Bridge distillery (it's branded as Cameron Brig). I've tried this, and it's very smooth & sweet.

Cheers,
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Mar 22, 2007 4:08 am

Perhaps MT read something to the effect that "unmalted barley is used" [among other things] in grain whisky, unclear to the point that it seemed to say that all of the grain in grain whisky is unmalted barley.
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Postby bjorn » Thu Mar 22, 2007 6:54 am

To go back to another question of ScotchPalate's concerning aging(#4)...I think I already know the answer but I've always wondered how they can charge such a price for Johnny Walker Blue if a large portion of it is unaged....

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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:40 am

Thanks for clearing that one up Admiral.
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Postby kallaskander » Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:43 am

Hi there,

the difference between grain whisky and neutral grain alcohol is the abv with which both come out of the column still. The NGA is allowed to go to the limit you can reach with distillation at 96.8% abv.
Grain whisky has to stop at the 94.8% abv the law and whisky regulations allow in order to be called whisky.
Like malt whisky the grain whisky has to be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. For the age of a bottling the same rules aply as with malt. If a blend carries an age statement the youngest malt or grain used defines the age of the blend.

Aged grains can be wonderful. If you can find opportunity to try a really old grain whisky by all means do try it.

The NGA is called "Neutral Sprit" in German (there is no i missing) and is used for industrial and medicinal purposes. NGA tastes of nothing but alcohol and sometimes you find an estery fruitiness.
Wheat is used most of the times nowadays because EC subsidies make it the cheapest bulk grain avalable in Europe.

Greetings
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:12 pm

Sorry for the stupid question but in what way does grain whisky differ from Vodka? If you distill grain spirit you could sell it right away as vodka - or put in casks for 3 years and call it whisky?
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Postby The Fachan » Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:40 pm

To get spirit for gin and vodka you would pass it through the rectifier side of the continous still and take off the liquid the which will be around 98% alcohol, can be known as rectified spirit.
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Postby The Fachan » Thu Mar 22, 2007 11:00 pm

C_I

I would tend to think the Smirnoff thing be more brand specific than a general thing. Conversations with Distillers hasn't brought up the subject of charcoal filtering but also that doesn't mean I am correct either.
As they say " every day is a school day" so maybe I have just learned something and not realised it.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Mar 23, 2007 1:27 am

The Fachan wrote:To get spirit for gin and vodka you would pass it through the rectifier side of the continous still and take off the liquid the which will be around 98% alcohol, can be known as rectified spirit.


As a lad, I used to get rectified every Saturday night.

C_I wrote:Absolut is distilled "hundreds of times" and not over charcoal....


:? Expliquez, s'il vous plaît....
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Postby TheLaddie » Fri Mar 23, 2007 1:39 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:As a lad, I used to get rectified every Saturday night.


That's a new word for it... :shock:
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Mar 23, 2007 2:10 am

Just "wrecked" with a little extra babble....
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:56 am

C_I wrote:Smirnoff was mere an example of how "pure" companies try to make their vodka. Absolut is distilled "hundreds of times" and not over charcoal, but with the same result, NGA.

Ah, thanks for the answer C_I - and Fachan!
So, new make can be both whisky or vodka - depending on if it goes into a bottle or a cask - and the same with bourbon I guess?

Isn't one of the sources for income of newly established distilleries often "vodka" ?
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Postby kallaskander » Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:17 am

Hi there,

vodka or gin which means any white spirit that does not require aging and can be sold of imediately to pay the bills. In this way you can put your expensive new stills to a good use and earn some money. If you had sugar cane at hand you could make rum or you can make aquvavit.

Greetings
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Postby wandering pict » Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:04 am

Grain Whisky is made with Malted Barley which must be used for the enzymic reactions required to extract the starch and convert the starch to sugar. (Scotch Whisky Legislation) The starch source which is also malted barley is malt distilleries can be any grain but is normally wheat, very infrequently corn and even less often some unmalted barley is used.
The reason for the difference is that this whisky is lighter in flavour and allows the blender more options when composing his products.
Of course due to the continuous process, cheaper raw material and large volumes produced it is also much lower cost to produce grain whisky, about 1/3rd of the cost. The grain whisky spirit is produced at 96.4%
Neutral Spirit is made in a slightly different still which produces spirit at an even higher strength, normally about 98.5%, and can be made from any starch source including molasses, potatoes, rice etc. Enzymes can be added to help in the extraction process, if required and also at the conversion stage. Really very little legislation is applicable. This spirit can then be bottled, as Vodka, or cleaned up aka Charcoal filters or used as a basis for gin or other alcholic drinks.
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Postby bjorn » Mon Apr 02, 2007 8:30 am

Mr Fjeld wrote:
C_I wrote:So, new make can be both whisky or vodka - depending on if it goes into a bottle or a cask - and the same with bourbon I guess?


Actually, by law Bourbon contains at least 51% corn.

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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Mon Apr 02, 2007 12:34 pm

It's quite simle in relation to Grain whisky.

Grain Whisky is made from grain..... it does not have to contain any Malted Barley it can contain one or a mixture of grains such a corn(maize), barley, malted barley, Wheat etc or even rice :shock: . It is usually distilled around the 63.5% mark to have even the slightest flavour profile and for optimum aging. The most common grain used is corn as it is the cheapest and at the end of the day that is the bottlom line.

However to be called Grain Whiskey it of course has to be aged in Oak casks for a minium of 3 years.

Further Grain whisky is usually distilled in a Column Still, which is also known as the Patent Still, Continuous Still or Coffey Still (Named after Aeneas Coffey the Irish man that invented it). However it can just as easily be distilled in a pot still which would give it an even better flavour profile but is usually deemed too expensive of a method for grain whisky.


NGA is very similar as it can use the same ingredients and same production methods as Grain Whisky's but it is distilled at a higher abv which leads to it being odourless and having very little taste. This is usually used for clear spirits such as Vodka and Gin.
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Postby wandering pict » Mon Apr 02, 2007 1:49 pm

Double Chaser

I don't like to point out the errors but see my previous posting on this topic.
In particular where you say,
Grain Whisky is made from grain..... it does not have to contain any Malted Barley it can contain one or a mixture of grains such a corn(maize), barley, malted barley, Wheat etc or even rice . It is usually distilled around the 63.5% mark to have even the slightest flavour profile and for optimum aging

Scotch Whisky can only be made from water, malted barley plus any other whole grain and yeast, as per The Scotch Whisky Order which is referred to in The Scotch Whisky Act.
Both grain and malt whisky must therefore both contain malted barley and must not contain rice as this is not a cereal.Neither is it allowed to contain modified cereal where for instance parts of the grain have been used for gluten manufacture.
As I said previously the strength of grain whisky is normally 94.5% off the still before being reduced for filling into cask
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Postby wandering pict » Mon Apr 02, 2007 1:53 pm

Sorry just realised that I addressed my last reply to double whisky chaser instead of irishwhiskychaser :oops:
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Mon Apr 02, 2007 2:10 pm

We will basically have to agree to disagree :wink:

You see Grain Whisky CAN be made from anything that I mentioned. And when I refered to Corn as the most common I'm talking worldwide consumption(but I may be wrong) and rice is hardly ever used and probably for a good reason :lol: . Whether or not it can be used in the Scottish distilling industry is a totally different and seperate matter. Maybe if I said theoretically any grain can be used.

However you could well be right about the ABV as I'm not 100% sure

No hard feeling though :lol:

I'll take a double any time wandering pict :wink:
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Postby wandering pict » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:24 pm

Irishwhiskychaser

Well as we continue to disagree I would defend my corner by saying that you may be correct if you are saying grain whiskey (I.e. Irish. American, Canadian etc)can be made from any grain but whisky i.e. Scottish can only be made as I stated. :)
Anyway having visited Midleton a few times and having a tried a number of their blends then I am happy to swap you doubles.

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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:54 pm

A man of principles, well I can't argue with that. :)

Well one thing is sure though, there'll be no argueing with the ingredients of our Single Malt Whisky's :wink:
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Apr 02, 2007 7:33 pm

irishwhiskeychaser wrote:Grain Whisky is made from grain..... it does not have to contain any Malted Barley it can contain one or a mixture of grains such a corn(maize), barley, malted barley, Wheat etc or even rice :shock: . It is usually distilled around the 63.5% mark to have even the slightest flavour profile and for optimum aging. The most common grain used is corn as it is the cheapest and at the end of the day that is the bottlom line.

Hey, this rang a bell. I've started reading "RUM" by Dave Broom and he describes that most of the available rum is actually made in columns, single columns and some in pot stills. Apparently, what is made in a single column - or even two-columns wouldn't fit the description of NGA spirit but rather as typically flavourful rum. Pot still rum is rarely available bottled but is usually used as adding flavour to rum blends. I think the rum made in the "french" areas such as Haiti and Martinique is required by law to make the rum in single column stills and distilled not under 65% and not over 75% to ensure a flavourful product. A column still - single or two column - doesn't automatically imply little or less flavour. The deciding factor for adding flavour or not is among other things (if I got this right) the temperature the stills are run at and the number of plates (these can be individually reconfigured) inside the column stills.

I for one at least have prior to to reading this book always fooled myself with believing that column stills nessecarily meant a flavourless product.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 02, 2007 8:04 pm

Rum is made from molasses or sugar, and thus couldn't be considered grain alcohol, anyway. (qv Indian "whisky")

Most American whiskey is made in column stills, is it not? Canadian whisky, too.

I invite correction (but go easy with the whip, please).
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Apr 02, 2007 8:11 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:Rum is made from molasses or sugar, and thus couldn't be considered grain alcohol, anyway. (qv Indian "whisky")

It's not important but rum is made from molasses, syrup (sugar & water) or fermented fresh cane juice.....

If I got this right the point is that the principle behind distillation is the same irrespective of what you are distilling. Temperature and internal plates are deciding factor for the level of flavour you get in the finish product. Higher temperatures means higher esters - lower temperature means more pungent and heavy esters. Potatoes, molasses, rice, barley - it doesn't matter. Surely they taste different but the the amount of flavours is dependent on among other things; temperature during distillation, the configuration of the internal plates inside the column stills, amount of copper etc.

What I said above might seem like obvious knowledge but to me it was an eyeopener to read Dave Broom's book. I previously wrote off spirit distilled in column stills as "just flavourless vodka-like spirit" ......

But as far as I understand, nothing - including the single column still - can quite replicate spirit made in a pot still.

This post has been edited.
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