Whisk(e)y musings read by tens of people worldwide.

Monday, February 6, 2023

The Other Mountain Dew

I’m sure all of you are familiar with the term “moonshiner.”  He (or she) was someone who distilled unlicensed spirit (usually corn with a touch of malted barley) in a tucked away location to avoid excise (tax) officers.  This work was almost always done cheaply, quickly, and without refinement.  In many cases, a blanket or old felt hat would be used to filter the end product.  Once filtered, it’d be put into whatever was on hand and promptly sold.  Moonshine (or any whiskey for that matter) straight off the still looks like vodka.  Whiskey gets its colour from the barrels used for maturation (or the caramel colouring added to some prior to bottling).

My favourite shine story could easily be a Dukes of Hazzard episode.  A still was on its last legs, so a group of good ol’ boys banded together and came up with the perfect plan.  One of them would get caught makin’ on purpose, while the rest would attest to his unlawful behaviour.  With the money received from witness fees and mileage reimbursements, the accomplices could go out and buy a brand new still.  As for the guy who took one for the team, prison life would be paradise compared to what he was used to at home.

Corn whiskey, moonshine’s “cultured” cousin, is similar to bourbon, but also a fair bit different.  It must be made from at least 80% corn.  Bourbon needs to be 51% corn, but most mash bills (recipes) often use 70% or more.  What makes corn whiskey unique is what’s done after distillation.  Corn whiskey can only be put in used or uncharred barrels.  Bourbon must be matured in virgin (new) charred oak.  Distillers can also bottle corn whiskey without any barreling whatsoever, making it the only (legal) whisk(e)y in the world that doesn’t have to be matured in something.

Mellow Corn is bottled in bond (minimum 4 years, one growing season, 100 proof), and made using 80% corn, 8% rye, and 12% malted barley.  I love the classic bottle design and plastic twist cap.  I’m not a fan of corks (especially the ones that rip).  Corks may look pretty, but they’re a real nuisance if you plan on setting aside bottles for a decade or longer.  I can’t tell you how many times old corks have let me down over the years.  Mellow Corn hasn’t changed much since 1945, and is matured in barrels that once held Heaven Hill bourbon.  Ex-Evan Williams black label would be my guess considering how much of it is made each year.

Mellow Corn is a little nippy upon first contact, like an untrained puppy.  There’s no way this product is a second older than four.  Big fruit notes upfront.  Vanilla, coconut, honey.  The ex-bourbon barrels are definitely at the wheel.  Decent mouthfeel.  This probably won’t be the best whiskey you’ve ever tasted, but you’ll be richer for the experience.  It’s always been my objective as an enthusiast to never stop exploring.  As Einstein put it, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...