Thin Mash

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Thin Mash

Unread postby Husker » Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:58 pm

I can see that there are some great whiskey minds here, so it appears to be the logical place to place a question or two;

If it was legal to do so, I wonder how many distillers would make a thin mash product?

What is the difference in the end product between a thin mash and a blend?
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Re: Thin Mash

Unread postby p_elliott » Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:15 am

Ok I'll bite what's a thin mash?
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Re: Thin Mash

Unread postby cowdery » Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:11 am

When distillers talk about thin or thick mash, they mean water content, typically measured in gallons (of water) per bushel. A thinner mash is easier to handle but uses more energy to extract the extra water. That has nothing to do with blends so I have no idea what Husker is asking.
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Re: Thin Mash

Unread postby Husker » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:07 pm

OK, we're not communicating and the fault is mine - I'm talkling hillbilly, I apologize. By a "thin mash", I'm talking about the practice of adding sugar to the beer prior to pitching the yeast in order to get more quantity. I realize that sugar can't be added to the grain bill and the end product still legally sold as whiskey. However, adding sugar is, in effect, just making neutral while you're making whiskey. If some distillers blend with neutral, as many Canadian Whiskeys are, what really is the difference between blending and a hillbilly thin mash to the final product?

I may be missing something, but it seems to me that a thin mash would make more sense than making straight whiskey and then blending with neutral. I would think that you would get more flavor as the neutral in the thin mash probably wouldn't be a true neutral and would pick up flavors from fermenting with the grains. There should also be an energy savings from less distilling.
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Re: Thin Mash

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:49 pm

From my understanding of what's available to legal distillers as neutral spirits, most of it is grain neutral spirits. Neutral spirits from beets is common in Europe. Depending on grade, tends to be very clean, and pretty cheap. And the big players can get it shipped to their facility in railroad car quantities. Can't beat that for a bulk discount. :lol:

So buying the neutral is cheaper than adding sugar to their wash. And, they get to still call it whiskey.
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Re: Thin Mash

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Mar 19, 2010 9:12 am

If you add anything other than grain neutral spirits, it is not whiskey. President taft made that decision 100 years ago. Adding sugar would make it a non-whiskey product.
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Re: Thin Mash

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Mar 19, 2010 9:36 am

What makes neutral spirits "neutral" isn't what it's made out of, but how it's made.

Neutral spirits (Grain Neutral Spirits or GNS if made from grain -- but NS can be made from anything fermentable) are distilled at nearly 100% ABV and are, well, neutral. No flavor at all. The better vodkas don't quite reach this goal, which is where their subtle flavors come from, but commercial NS is usually right up there in the 195 proof area. As a source of flavorless alcohol (not to mention cheap, of course) GNS is handy for blending with more flavorful spirits to produce a "lighter" beverage. If the blended spirit is to be whiskey, the neutral spirits MUST be GNS.

"Sugar spirit", essentially a kind of rum if made with reconstituted cane sugar juice (i.e., sugar and water) can, like any other fermented-base product, be distilled to whatever degree of purity the maker wishes. Typically the moonshiner is not concerned with the extra expense of highly pure distillation, certainly not so in the case of a distiller using sugar to stretch his mash (or to BE the "mash" as is true in many cases). Sugar spirit that is NOT distilled all the way to tastelessness usually tastes pretty awful. Think cachaça. Bad cachaça. The sugar used can just as easily (and more cheaply) be beet sugar, which isn't even suitable to be called rum.

Bottom line: If you use any non-grain-based spirits in the process you can't legally sell your product as whiskey, straight or blended. For products less concerned with legal approval, cane sugar is a common alternative among home-made liquor folks and some artisan distillers, but not that much with real 'shiners. After all, if what you want is lots of alcohol and you want it fast, why bother with converting grain at all? I would guess that the "thin" part of a thin mash more often refers to a small amount of cornmeal thrown in to add just a touch of actual flavor (you'd need a LOT of cornmeal to actually mask the sugar flavors) or so you can "honestly" call it corn liquor.
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Re: Thin Mash

Unread postby cowdery » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:51 pm

With moonshiners, adding a little grain to the sugar is more likely than the other way around. Most moonshine is sugar jack.

The whiskey portion of blended whiskey has to be straight bourbon or rye or some other straight that meets all of the bottled-in-bond requirements.

What you propose wouldn't accomplish the desired effect, which is to cut the flavorful whiskey with a liquid that adds alcohol without flavor, which is why you need GNS. Sugar jack distilled at the proof at which whiskey is distilled would have a lot of not-very-good flavor.

Although moonshiners use sugar, legal GNS producers use corn because that's the cheapest thing available. It doesn't really matter what neutral spirit is produced from since it's neutral, i.e., tasteless, colorless, odorless.
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Re: Thin Mash

Unread postby Husker » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:25 pm

Cool. Thanks for the info, all.
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