Photo Source: John Fornander

The Role Of Yeast In Creating Distinct Bourbon Flavor Profiles

Without yeast, there would be no alcohol. The single-cell organism feeds on sugar from grape juice or mash, a mixture of grains and water, converting it to carbon dioxide and alcohol. However yeast brings flavor as well, a fact seldom discussed in the world of distilled spirits. When it comes to spirits such as bourbon, individual strains of yeast perform differently and produce different flavor compounds according to the type of sugar the yeast feeds on, the fermentation temperature, and the total fermentation time. Distillers either use proprietary strains, which are live-culture yeasts continually produced at their facilities for generations, or strains purchased from producers, who offer live and dried strains. Distilleries are generally tight lipped about the yeast strains they use. However, the Kentucky-based Four Roses distillery share “recipes” for its whiskeys. The distillery has a collection of over 300 strains, but uses only five of them and two different mash bills to create the 10 base recipes for its various bourbons. On the Four Roses website, five-letter codes show the yeast strains and mash bills used. For instance, the “K” strain adds some spice to certain whiskeys, while the “V” strain adds lighter notes of fruit to others. Consumers haven’t shown much interest in yeast strains in the past, at least not as much as distillers. But different strains of yeast help to create the wide variety of flavor profiles of different bourbons. “I think yeast may be the single most important thing in [spirits production],” says Ian Glomski, founder of Virginia distillery Vitae Spirits. Get the full story here at VinePair.

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