The whiskey industry is dominated by whiskey styles with recipes that contain corn as the primary grain. However, little research has been conducted to investigate whiskey specific distinctions arising from different corn varieties and growing environments (i.e. terroir). Further, no studies have investigated the aroma or flavor impacts of different varieties and terroirs. Here, three different commodity yellow dent hybrid corn varieties were grown on different farms in Texas, spanning from the Texas Panhandle to the Mexico-United States border. Using novel small-batch mashing techniques, a newly developed new-make (i.e. unaged whiskey,immediate by-product of distillation) bourbon sensory lexicon, a trained sensory panel, high-performance liquid chromatography, and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry/olfactometry (GC-MS/O), we report for the first time a method for evaluating sample effects on alcohol yield and flavor in new-make bourbon whiskey. We discover that variety, terroir and their interactions, previously ignored, can substantially affect valuable sensory aspects of whiskey, suggesting the importance of scientifically evaluating corn genetics and agronomy for developing better whiskey. Excitingly, our data suggest milled corn with higher levels of benzadehyde, readily measured by GC-MS/O, correlates with improved sensory aspects of distillate, which must be expensively evaluated using a trained human sensory panel.
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