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Issue 104 - The Adventurous Distiller

Whisky Magazine Issue 104
June 2012


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The Adventurous Distiller

As the American craft movement gathers pace, we look at some of the alternative grains it is using

While the Scotch whisky industry continues to use malted barley, other distillers across the globe are finding themselves less beholden to the traditional grain and are branching out; with some stunning results.

Whisky Magazine asked Corsair distiller Darek Bell, author of Alt Whiskies and all round experimenter in alternative grains, to give us his take on what is out there and what makes a decent spirit; Gavin D. Smith also looks at what is happening with corn and rye.

Elsewhere we report from both sides of the barley debate, with Neil Ridley talking to Diageo's grain buyer and Neil Wilson speaking to a barley farmer.


Currently the vast majority of whisky (and beer) is made with four grains: barley, wheat, rye and corn. There are other interesting grains, some old, even ancient, and some new grains that distillers should consider if they want to expand whisky's horizons. This may be for reasons of taste, practicality, cost, or even for sustainable reasons. When creating a new whisky recipe, or modifying an old one, these grains give more options to the distiller in terms of the final spirit. Some grains have been used in alcoholic beverage production in other cultures, like buckwheat, millet, and job's tears, but not commercially in western culture. Let's look at a couple of potential alt grains in detail.

Millet is a small seeded cereal species grown all over the world for food. It grows well in difficult environments and is extremely r...

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