Research finds that barley growing conditions affect whiskey characteristics

According to foreign media reports, some wine lovers are able to determine where the grapes used to make wine are grown based on the taste of the wine. A new study shows that, depending on where the barley is grown, a similar thing can be done with whiskey. The most recent research was commissioned by the Waterford Winery in Ireland and led by Dr. Dustin Herb of Oregon State University. It involves planting and harvesting two common commercial barley varieties (Laureate and Olympus) within two years of 2017 and 2018, both of which are located in two environmentally different regions of Ireland.



One of these areas is County Kildare, located inland. The other is County Wexford, located in the coastal area. Other differences between the two counties include their soil types, as well as the temperature range and rainfall during the barley growing season. In the past two years, all barley grains have been harvested, stored, germinated and distilled in a standard way. The result is a variety of whiskey precursor beverages called “new spirits”-in order to be officially classified as whiskey, new spirits must mature in wooden barrels for no less than three years.


The researchers used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze these spirits, and a well-trained sensory panel of six people evaluated them. In both cases, they found that the aroma characteristics of different batches of wine are significantly different due to the “terroir” of barley, which refers to the environmental conditions in which barley grows.


More specifically, spirits from County Kildare tend to have the characteristics of “sweet, cereal/grain, earthy, oily aftertaste, soapy, sour, stale, and musty” while those from Wake The spirits of Sfordshire are more reminiscent of dried fruits and solvents.

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