10 Unique Grain American Whiskeys You Need to Try

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If you go by the book, making whiskey is a fairly painless, straightforward process. In the simplest terms, the whiskey production steps are mashing, fermenting, distilling, and aging. But it’s so much more complicated than this, and it starts with the ingredients. The ones most often used for the mash are corn, rye, wheat, or barley. However, distillers can also produce unique grain whiskeys.

“While barley is a key ingredient in whiskey-making, most distillers would be referring to malted barley, which is used the world over,” says Gearóid Cahill, master distiller at Slane Irish Whiskey. “Oats are another historically interesting cereal for whiskey-making. Difficult to successfully get through your brewhouse, the effort pays off with a rich, smooth mouthfeel with distinctive flavor notes of oatmeal (unsurprisingly), dried fruit, brown sugar, and a fantastic mellow character.”

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That’s not all.

“Creative distillers are using a bunch of different grains these days, including millet, quinoa, oats, and more,” says Paul Hletko, president and master Distiller at FEW Spirits in Evanston, IL.

Some use just a bit of these grains to add subtle nuance, while others have a heavier hand when tweaking the mashbill, depending on their goals, he adds.

The appeal of shaking up grain types in mashbills

Distillers might choose to use different grains for any number of reasons. They can range from the flavor to yield to terroir for grains that grow well nearby. Other reasons can include alternative uses for cover crops, preserving heritage grains, and more. “We definitely see millet and quinoa used for flavor purposes, but we’ve also seen more heirloom grains being used by certain distillers,” adds Hletko.

Unique grains can add all sorts of interesting flavors, as well as textures, to distillates.

“Really the sky is the limit as creative and talented distillers work with the grains to really express what the creative spark creates,” he adds.

If you want to try an American whiskey made with any of these (and other) unique ingredients, you’re in luck. There are loads of oat, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, and even sorghum whiskeys available on the market. Keep scrolling to see 10 of our favorite unique grain American whiskeys you can drink right now.

10 Unique Grain American Whiskeys You Need to Try

A bottle of James F.C. Hyde Sorgho Whiskey
Courtesy image

1. James F.C. Hyde Sorgho Whiskey

This whiskey gets its name from James F.C. Hyde, a well-known Massachusetts businessman and avid agriculturalist who published a guide to growing, harvesting, and eventually distilling with sorghum. Made entirely from American-grown sorghum, this award-winning whiskey is aged in new charred American oak barrel as if it were a classic bourbon. They bottle this naturally gluten-free whiskey at cask strength and it carries a bold, rich flavor profile of maple candy, caramel, vanilla beans, oak, and light winter spices.

[$49.99 for a 750ml bottle; jamesfchyde.com]

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