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I'm about to add oak chips to my scotch ale. I was thinking about what sort of scotch to soak the chips in before hand. And then I thought, how much does it really matter?

At what point can one tell the difference between types of whiskey an ounce of oak chips were soaked in, when they've been sitting in 5 gallons for a while? For example, if I use the exact same kind of whiskey, but one is a 12 year and one is an 18, can you tell? How about Jim Beam vs. Jack Daniels? Jim vs. Johnny? What about scotch vs. bourbon?

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Side note: Do NOT try to drink the excess soaking whisky. It is... not good. I just didn't want it to go to waste. –  Rich Armstrong Jul 30 '10 at 14:04
    
What about pouring it into the batch... –  hookedonwinter Jul 30 '10 at 14:53
    
Jack Daniels is Tennessee sipping whiskey - not bourbon. Don't let anyone tell you differently. :) I would use something more dry than Jack Daniels though for sure - it's a very sweet whiskey. I've used Maker's Mark to great success; if you're feeling cheaper than that, try Fighting Cock (I know, I know, but trust me, it's tasty). –  Ell Apr 20 '11 at 13:26
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2 Answers

I don't think the age of the Scotch would make much difference, but some Scotches have more of a peaty, smokey smell to them than others, and that flavor should carry over to the beer. But if that's what you're going for, you could just use smoked peat as part of the grist (I'm not a fan of this, but you might like it as it imparts a bacon-like flavor).

As far as if you could tell the difference between different brands, I think it would depend on how much whiskey the person drinks. Someone who drinks it frequently and has a preference for one brand would likely be able to tell the difference, but I think the average drinker wouldn't notice.

And bourbon aging definitely has a different flavor than Scotch aging. I've had many bourbon oaked brews, but didn't try any Scotch barrel aged brews until Paradox from BrewDog. The flavor is distinctly Scotch, and very interesting (but they charge WAY too much for that stuff where I live--$10 for a 12oz bottle).

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I'll go out on a limb and say that there's not a prayer you could tell the difference between 2 similar types of whiskey, like Jimb Beam vs Jack Daniels, or 12 vs 18 year anything. There's just too little actual whiskey in the 5 gal of beer.

Now you might be able to distinguish say, and American Sour mash bourbon from a peaty Scotch.

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