Why Does Whiskey Taste Sweet?

In 2022, the whiskey market in the USA alone was worth $17 billion. With every passing year, its demand is increasing around the globe.

Still, many consumers don’t know why it tastes sweet. If you have the same question clicking your brain hard, we’ve got you covered.

The sweetness of whiskey depends on the grains, wooden barrels, and artificial sweeteners. Read on to know more!

What is Whiskey?

Whiskey is a well-known drink around the globe. The term came from uisge beatha meaning “water of life,” and for many drinkers, it is.

The liquor is a distilled alcoholic drink – with a dark color. But wait! You have been drinking it for so long. Right?

Do you know that originally whiskey was not used as a drink? Yes! It was used as an internal anesthetic and antibiotic for external use only.

Whiskey is popular in Canada, the USA, Scotland, Ireland, and Japan. But the country that consumes the most whiskey is not among the above.

Yes! It’s India. Though it doesn’t produce a large quantity of liquor, still most consumers are from there.

How Can You Produce Whiskey?

The production of whiskey involves various steps. We’ve mentioned the step-by-step process below:

Step# 1 Malting The Grain

The production of whiskey starts with malting. It is a process where first you soak the grains in water and allow them to germinate.

When the grains sprout, the carbohydrates in them break into simple sugars. Afterward, the grains are dried to stop sprouting and roasted in a kiln. It facilitates the taste of whiskey.

Step# 2 Mashing The Malted Grain

Next is mashing, where you mix hot water with the malted grains to activate the enzymes in the grains. What do the enzymes do?

They break down the starch (complex sugars) into simpler ones. The liquid obtained during the process is collected and goes for fermentation.

Step# 3 Fermentation is The Prime Process

When the liquid is in the fermentation tank, yeast does everything else. It crumbles down the sugars in the liquid into carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Step# 4 Distillation Of The Liquor

The liquor obtained after fermentation is not of high quality as it contains a lot of alcohol.

Therefore, you have to pass it through distillers to evaporate the alcohol and improve the quality of the whiskey.

Step# 5 Maturation

The liquor enters wooden barrels in the final step until it gets the desired taste and sweetness.

The liquid is then bottled and sold as whiskey.

What Makes it Sweet?

What’s the secret ingredient in whisky that makes it sweet? Is it natural or the result of additives?

It’s time to find out the answers. Let’s kick-off!

The sweetness of the whiskey depends on three things.

  • The grain used in preparing it
  • Wooden barrels
  • Additives

Let’s discuss each one in detail.

1. The Grains

The main substrate of whiskey is the grain. Yes! The sweetness you feel in whiskey is because of the fermentation of the sugars present in these grains.

Any grain works perfectly for liquor production, but some common ones are wheat, barley, and corn. Each grain has a different flavor giving the drink its unique taste.

  • Malted barley gives whiskey the sweetness of toffee, caramel, and brown sugar.
  • Wheat whiskey tastes like honey.
  • Corn gives your favorite drink a somewhat vanilla flavor. Besides, it also imparts the sweetness of white sugar, cotton candy, and maple syrup.

2. Wooden Barrels

You must be thinking, how do wooden barrels do the magic with the whisky you bought? Well! Buddy, most of the magic with the flavors occurs inside these barrels.

The barrels are mostly made of American White Oak which contains mono galloyl glucose, a sugar.

Since whiskey matures inside these barrels, the wood’s flavor and sweetness become part of the liquor.

To further enhance the flavor, some whiskey producers opt for charring barrels.

They are simple wooden barrels put on fire to break the oak and caramelize the wooden sugars.

Whiskeys matured in such barrels taste like honey and caramel.

Sometimes reusing the previously aged spirit barrels is also eminent in flavor development. How?

The barrel already has the flavor of previously absorbed whiskey and delivers it to the new one. Result? Sweetness in the final product.

3. Additives

To make them sweet, some whiskeys also contain additives such as caramel, honey, and sugar.

What Are The Different Types Of Sweet Whiskeys?

Depending upon the substrate and flavor, there are different sweet whiskeys. We know you are curious to learn about them. Here we go!

1. Single Malt Scotches

The first ones on the list are Single Malt Scotches. These scotches are made of malted barley, giving them a caramel, brown sugar, and a toffee taste.

For aging, previously used bourbon barrels are used. That’s why these liquors also have vanilla and honey flavors.

2. Bourbons

Do you know what the sweetest whiskey is? Yes, you guessed it right.

Bourbons are made of corn, which is considered the most sugary grain. Furthermore, maturing them in charred American White Oak barrels also significantly boosts the taste.


What Can You Do With A Whiskey That’s Too Sweet?

Some whiskeys are too sweet for some people. For others, sweetness is all they want.

If you are the one not much welcoming to too sweet liquor, try mixing it. Yes! Mix it with another sour or spicy whiskey, for instance, rye whiskey, for a mild taste.

Why Are Many Whiskeys Sweet When They Don’t Have Sugar Content?

Well! All the sweetness is due to the grain and wooden barrel. Grains have natural sugars that mature into whiskey inside the barrel. The sugar in the barrel wood adds flavor to the liquor during the process. Hence, it makes whiskeys sweet, naturally.

Why Does Whiskey Taste Like Pure Ethanol?

Whiskey is the result of the fermentation of sugars in grains. During the process, the sugar converts into carbon dioxide gas and ethanol.

Though during distillation, most of the ethanol evaporates but still leaves its taste in the final product.

Can People With Diabetes Drink Whiskey?

Whiskey has 68 grams of calories per 28-gram serving. Besides, it has no carbs, sugars, or fats. Considering this, diabetics can also have whiskey in moderation. The liquor has to be sugar-free, which no additives or artificial sweeteners.

But we suggest you not take any risks. You should avoid drinking it.

Wrapping It Up

Whiskey is the most popular liquor globally and has many tastes. Most are sweet, but what makes them taste like that?

The grains, wooden barrels, and additives give whiskeys their sweet taste. Single malt scotches and bourbons are the two most famous whiskeys with incredible taste.

But if you don’t want the sweet varieties, the market has many other options.



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