Sack of Corn

Corn-Based Whiskey

Corn whiskeys are essentially the same as moonshine as they are both unaged and clear. But major distillers rarely leave them that way, preferring to make them  smoother and easier to drink through some barrel aging.  

Only a few large whiskey makers produce unaged corn whiskeys. Most corn whiskeys are are made by small craft distillers around the country.

To be labelled corn whiskey, the mash bill (or recipe) has to be at least 80% corn-based and though it is not required, they are often aged in used bourbon barrels for a brief six months or less. During that time, the whiskey absorbs the color and flavor from the barrel. The off-flavors and fusel alcohols are also lessened.

Corn whiskeys are rich, syrupy, where the corn sugars really standout. Flavor notes ranging from vanilla to maple syrup to buttered popcorn. 


Whiskey is primarily made from yellow dent corn No. 1 and 2.

A Base Ingredient in Whiskey Distillation

Quite simply, the more corn in the mash bill, the sweeter the resulting taste. Corn whiskey is made from a mash of at least 80% corn and distilled to a maximum strength of 160 proof or (80% alcohol by volume). 


A corn base is rich in starch, resulting in high levels of fermentable sugars that produces a sweet, fat spirit, that lack complexity. Unlike other American whiskey varieties, corn whiskey is not required to be aged in wood.


In modern times, corn is frequently used as a base ingredient in spirits distillation due to its cultivation and distillation efficiency. Corn often receives a bad rep as much of the crop has been hybridized to produce industrial sugar for ethanol fuel. The result is less flavor and complexity. It is also true that most distillers buy their grain from the commodity market.


On the plus side, many of the straight corn whiskeys are distilled from corn that has not been hybridized, including those made from heritage and heirloom seedlings that still maintain a vast array of flavors and new levels of complexity.


Bourbon Whiskey is corn-based

Only whiskeys produced in the United States, made from at least 51% corn and stored in a new container of charred oak can be called Bourbon. The vast majority of bourbons on the shelf will have a mash bill with around 70 to 79 percent corn in its mash. 


Today, there are only few whiskies today made exclusively of corn. Most start with a corn base that are the blended with an infinite number of grains.  

Hot Toddy Made with Bulleit Bourbon
Bulleit Bourbon is made from 68% corn, 28% rye, 4% malted barley

After corn cultivation was introduced in Europe, it soon spread across the world. Corn is now the third largest plant-based food source in the world. 


Corn was first domesticated by native peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago. Native Americans taught European colonists to grow the indigenous grains, including corn. As colonial settlers pushed further into Native American territory, they would also lay claim to the land and the knowledge of corn cultivation.


Corn was “the staff of life to the Cherokee,” according to the authors of the book, Tribes That Slumber. “At every stage of its cultivation and harvesting, ceremonies and magical rites were performed to insure its welfare.”


Tribes That Slumber, Indian Tribes of the Tennessee Region.

Cherokee lands covered much of Tennessee and Kentucky, the Virginia, Carolina’s, across northern Georgia and Alabama, the region known as the corn cradle of American whiskey.


Despite its importance as a major food in many parts of the world, corn is inferior to other cereals in nutritional value. No one here is suggesting that whiskey is health food. Just something to consider. Unlike many other cereal grains, corn flour is gluten-free and cannot be used alone to make rising breads. Either way, corn is delicious! 


WS&J Corn Whiskey Pics
  • Balcones Baby Blue.
  • Mellow Corn Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey.
  • Colorado’s Own Corn Whiskey.
  • Georgia Moon Peach Whiskey.
  • Hudson New York Corn Whiskey



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