Grain Whisky, once only used for blending, is now gaining a platform in its own right.

Grain vs Malt Whisky - What's the Difference?

Grain Whisky is Whisky made from any grains, including but not limited to wheat and corn. It differs from Malt Whisky in that Malt Whisky has to be made from malted barley only.

In previous decades Grain Whisky has only been used to give a bit more body to blends, and also to lower the price on blends, as it is cheaper to produce than Malt.

Recently however, there has been more of an interest in Grain Whisky due to its accessible flavour profile and flexibility in cocktails, and it is becoming more popular, right across the globe. Here we take a look at which countries are innovating and experimenting with their grain.

Japanese Grain Whisky Takes the Lead

There is a lot going on in Japan with Grain Whisky, and Suntory are currently producing it at the Chita Distillery. The product from here mostly goes into their Chita range.

The country is currently seeing a shortage of Malt Whisky and as such, Grain Whisky has had to pick up some of the slack.

Suntory are experimenting with Grain to see what flavour profiles they can build. They are using different casks for maturation as well as trying out different strengths to see what they get.

The grains they are focussing on include Wheat, Rye and Corn. Check out any of their recent releases, including Hibiki Harmony to understand the beautifully balanced blends they are now able to produce.

Japan is certainly leading the trend where Grain Whisky is concerned but it is closely being followed by other distilleries around the world.


New Traditions in Scotland

Scotland has distilleries like Loch Lomond and Girvan that are paving the way for a new category of Scotch Grain Whisky.

These distilleries are bottling Grain Whisky that is of a high quality and well matured and is a definite threat to Single Malt.

Loch Lomond is producing Grain Whisky that has won awards and is well known for its smoothness and distinct light bodied qualities. This being the first distillery in Scotland to produce both Grain and Malt at the same time, it is only fitting that its Grain Whisky is a challenge to the Malt throne.

On the Rise in Ireland

There are now several brands of Grain Whiskey, including Teeling, Kilbeggan and Greenore in Ireland.

To pull out more flavour from the Grain Whiskey, the Irish have moved in a similar manor to the Japanese. They are employing interesting ageing and maturing techniques.

Greenore 8 Year Old Single Grain Whiskey has won multiple awards. It has been created after being matured in ex-Bourbon casks, showing how the right amount of time can create a fantastic dram, no matter what else is involved.

Get The Low Down on Grains: What Effect Do Different Grains Have on Flavour?


Barley Grains - Photo: Flickr/ Emma Jane Hogbin WestbyWhiskies made from Barley will have a sweeter flavour, with lots of caramel and brown sugar notes.

Barley is most commonly found in Scotch, Irish and Japanese Whisky and gives them a light body and sweet flavour profile.


CORN GRAINS - PHOTO: FLICKR/ jacinta lluch valeroCorn is mostly used in Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskies, and is richly sweet. It has a syrupy taste, with white sugar and cotton candy coming through.

Most Bourbons are known for the sweetness, but this is usually offset with the flavours that come from the charred barrels it is matured in.


RYE GRAINS - PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONSRye gives the Whisky a spicier flavor, with some pepper and cinnamon coming through.

This also makes the Whisky very dry. Again, this is a Whisky that is more commonly found in America and Canada.


WHEAT GRAINS - PHOTO: FLICKR/ CANDACE FLADAGERWheat will give a Whisky more cereal notes, with lots of brown bread and malted tones coming through. 

Pappy Van Winkle is famous for having wheat in the mash bill.