Category Archives: United States

What’s the Flavor of Yeast?

Yeast is perhaps one of the most overlooked (or perhaps the least spoken about…) ingredients in whisk(e)y distillation. We all know the main contribution of the yeast: Ethanol. I wrote about yeast on my first whisky blog in 2008. But this Summer I learned a lot more about it in the best possible way: Using my nose and mouth.

What Gets Distilled?

If you think about it, the “liquid” that goes into the first still (in Scotch whisky production, the wash still) isn’t a pure liquid. It has dead yeast in it, and lots of other things, including leftover undistilled liquids from previous passes through the wash still. There are unconsumed enzymes from the mashing process, malted barley solids (or in general whisk(e)y terms, grain solids), and the latter contains every kind of biological chemical compound from proteins to amino acids to fats to DNA to complex carbohydrates to trace minerals absorbed from the soil into the plant when it grew.

Then you cook that mixture to boil/extract the alcohol and whatever comes along for the ride. That’s distillation, and it’s not nearly as simple as “extract pure alcohol” — chemical analysis of single-malt Scotch whisky has identified over 600 chemicals in the distillate! That’s a good thing, too, because pure Ethanol has no flavor to speak of…what’s brilliant is that many chemicals that we associate with various smells or tastes are alcohol-soluble. Good stuff comes along for the ride, and gets refined during aging.

The spirit still will further concentrate the esters and other chemicals which are the source of the pleasant flavors, smells and textures of whisk(e)y.

So: What Did I Learn?

I was privileged to participate in a side-by-side tasting of two identical unaged California Bourbon whiskeys made with identical ingredients in identical proportions. The only difference was that each recipe used a different kind of yeast. One of the Bourbons was noticeably smoother in texture, almost buttery, with a “flatter” flavor profile. The other was much “sharper” and had (for lack of a better term) a “watery” texture, at least compared to the first one. The two samples were at the same ABV, which was over 60%, and they were roughly equivalent in that department. Both were clearly corn-based because that came out in the smell of the whiskey.

The lesson was that yeast has a heck of a lot of influence on the final product. I now have a much higher appreciation of yeast’s “unsung” contributions to the flavor of whisk(e)y.

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Posted by on 23-September-2011 in California, United States, Whisky2.0


Finger Lakes Distilling

Finger Lakes Distilling particulars:

Location: 4676 New York State Route 414, Burdett, NY
Post code: 14818
Region: United States
Since: 2007

Note: Producer of Rye whiskey. Thanks to Dave Mason (@dcm) for the tip!

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Posted by on 12-November-2010 in New York (state), United States, Whisky2.0


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Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey particulars:

Location: 200 South Kalamath Street, Denver, CO‎
Post code: 80223-1813
Region: United States
Since: 2004

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Posted by on 18-October-2009 in Colorado, United States



Welcome Nerd Moment Listeners

It was my pleasure to talk with Drew and Paul in episode 39 of the Nerd Moment podcast tonight regarding my hobby: Whisk(e)y.

I really appreciate that Drew and Paul had the interest and were willing to ask some good questions. The best way to learn about whisk(e)y is to drink it, preferably with other people, and talk about what you taste and smell. You can get really fancy as you learn more, but it boils down to the social aspect. There are a million details you can learn if you are a fan of trivia, but if you just really like to discover more about a really interesting product, which ranges from very affordable to very expensive (I mentioned this ultra-expensive Scotch whisky on the show; yes, this expression of Glenfiddich really is 50 years old, and it really cost $16,000!). For me, I enjoy finding stuff that I enjoy drinking and sharing that knowledge, and happiness, with others.

The product being tasted: Tuthilltown’s Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey. I can’t overstate how lucky we were that they donated two full-size bottles of their exceptional Rye Whiskey for this show.


  • During the show, I indicated that to be called Rye Whiskey the mash bill must contain at least 51% Rye grain. True statement. In this case, the Tuthilltown Rye that we tasted was 100% Rye. Thanks to Tuthilltown for pointing this out!
  • Also, I have heard from many people in the US whiskey business that Bourbon can only be made in Kentucky. Now I know that is not true. It can be made anywhere in America and still be legally called Bourbon. I don’t know if you care to read the legal restrictions on Bourbon, but there you have them. 😉

Here’s a picture of me just before we taped the show. I would count myself lucky if I could talk to Drew and Paul again someday.

Little old me getting ready to take a Skype call from Drew.

Little old me getting ready to take a Skype call from Drew.


Posted by on 10-August-2009 in Rye, United States, Whisky2.0



Charbay particulars:

Location: 4001 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, CA‎
Post code: 94574-9773
Region: United States
Since: 1972

Note: Yes, there is a distillery in the Napa Valley.


Posted by on 21-May-2009 in California, United States



Tuthilltown Distillery

Tuthilltown Spirits particulars:

Location: 14 Grist Mill Lane, Gardiner, NY
Post code: 12525-5528
Region: United States
Since: 2001


Posted by on 7-March-2009 in New York (state), Rye, United States



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