White Whiskey vs. Aged Whiskey

By Lauren Taylor

What the EFF is white whiskey? Is it vodka? Is it moonshine? Basically, white whiskey is just unaged whiskey, or baby whiskey, if you will. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Why on earth is that a thing? Aged whiskey is the greatest thing to ever exist!” Many people have mixed opinions on the spirit, as they should. We do as well.

White Whiskey: Is It Vodka?

The white whiskey and vodka comparison is often made on the internet, but the only real similarity is the color. While whiskey can be made into vodka, vodka can not be put into barrels and be dubbed whiskey. Vodka MUST exceed 95% ABV during the distillation process while whiskey can NOT exceed 95% ABV during this time. Many associate vodkas with potatoes and whiskey with corn, but vodka can also be made with grain, in fact, vodka can be made with almost anything. Vodka is distilled and cut at a different ABV than whiskey is. Strictly regulated, whiskey must contain certain percentages of corn or grain, i.e., rye must contain 51% rye, while bourbon must contain 51% corn. Though white whiskey is unaged, it MUST touch the inside of a barrel in order to be legally considered whiskey. For how long, does not USUALLY matter… the keyword here is “touch”. Though some states do have laws on the matter. For example, Illinois will only consider a spirit kept in a barrel for AT LEAST 24 hours a legal whiskey. Check your state laws before taking on this endeavor. 

Is White Whiskey Moonshine? 

Unaged whiskey is often compared to moonshine, which is any spirit made illegally. Moonshine is essentially just an unaged, untaxed, and unregulated spirit; however, many distilleries do label their product as moonshine. White whiskey is very similar to moonshine. It is a naked grain with no REAL color, but it is legally made and regulated by the state. Many consumers are a bit turned off by moonshine due to urban legends, TV shows, and memes that have been made about moonshiners. You’re probably picturing some shirtless feller in overalls with a long beard making shady stuff in his backyard rather than a licensed distiller in a uniform managing a giant still in a well-equipped distillery. While some stories may be true about the dangers of moonshine, we’d like to make this clear: any spirit can be dangerous to consume in large quantities… consuming shine is deemed more dangerous because it typically has a higher proof and ABV. Mainstream consumers may feel that moonshine holds some pretty negative connotations due to its history and stereotypes, though many spirit lovers appreciate the cultural and traditional significance of moonshine, as well as feeling a little sneaky when enjoying it. We still suggest that you purchase it from a licensed distiller. 

If you want to make moonshine legally / commercially, read this blog article: How Do I Get a TTB License and Permit? 

Advantages of Unaged Whiskey

The market for white whiskey just simply isn’t that large. It has a very low customer base and demand. As a spirit, it is also generally less complex than aged whiskey. Though there are some disadvantages… white whiskey does have its perks. Providing a white whiskey highlights the essence of the spirit. You and your customers will get a relatively clear vision / taste to see how the grain bill, yeast, fermentation, and distilling method contribute to the flavor. Jeff Rasmussen, a member of our sales team and someone I would call a quite the whiskey connoisseur, always says, “You can give 10 distillers the same still and the same mash, and you’ll probably get 10 different spirits but some may be very similar. If you go a step or two further and give 10 distillers the same ingredients and still, and then let them do the mashing, fermentation, and distillation, you’ll most likely get 10 distinct spirits.” Producing a white whiskey can be a great thing for startup distilleries, as you’ll have whiskey to sell right away while you and your customers await a barrel-aged spirit. Including your customers in your production process will help them understand just as well as we do what it takes to create a fine spirit. 

Aged Whiskey: The Good Stuff

Though barrels require lots of space and attention, it is a worthwhile process and our appreciation for a balanced, well-matured whiskey is uncanny. When done well, the essence of the spirit isn’t covered or lost but enhanced or accentuated. The majority of the complexity within the spirit comes from the barrel in which it is aged. Most whiskey is typically aged for 2-6 years — any longer may not be ideal, as time is money. This is the only drawback of producing bourbon or rye, for example. The aging process can be a real party pooper sometimes, especially for those of you out there who are just as impatient as we are when it comes to trying out new spirits. However, for the distiller, it commands a higher price point — which is obviously ideal. We all want to be running a million-dollar distillery, am I right? 

Feel free to check out our blog articles: What Equipment Do You Need to Make Whiskey Commercially?, What Type of Still Is Best for Whiskey?, and Triple Distilled Whiskey Techniques to read up on whiskey production.

Our business owner Larry Taylor wasn’t much of a whiskey drinker when he was first introduced to the wonderful world of distillation. His appreciation for the spirit has grown tremendously as StillDragon (SD) has become a bigger, more prevalent entity in the craft distilling community. Our customers have been able to create some amazing whiskeys with our distillation equipment, and it is quite a fun experience to be able to taste something that you were a part of — though our role as a commercial distilling equipment provider may just be a small piece of the puzzle. Most of our team at SD headquarters prefers whiskey over any other spirit. The whiskey pallet is just unbeatable: the vast range of flavorful notes that can be established in a beautifully aged whiskey are delectable. I mean, is there anything better than a single malt whiskey? Appreciating whiskey definitely comes with time, but tasting a white whiskey can more than likely make it a little easier. 

Interested in distilling whiskey? Send us an email at info@stilldragon.com or give us a call here at headquarters at (561) 903-4689.