How much do you know about whiskey flavors – and have you ever thought about making your own?
Whiskey flavors naturally vary depending on what variety you choose. As a connoisseur, you no doubt know a few whiskey tasting notes and flavor profiles. But there’s always more to learn – and the subject gets much more interesting once you’ve decided to design your own signature whiskey essence.
In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about whiskey flavors so you can start making your own infusions. Keep reading before you take that next sip!
Making Whiskey Flavors
You’re probably familiar with liquor infusions, but likely in the form of vodka, not whiskey.
Flavored vodka is nothing new – you can find all kinds of strange flavors in stores, and make even more of them at home. Of course, vodka is the liquor that aims to be the most “taste-free,” so it makes sense to add flavors to this relatively blank slate.
But whiskey already has its own essence, and the flavor profile depends on the type. You need to consider what whiskey you’re working with before you can make your own flavor profiles.
When you add whiskey flavors, you should try to complement the way the whiskey already tastes, not cover it up. For example, American whiskey tends to be a little bit sweet and a little bit smokey, with some warm spices. Your infusion can pick up on some of those whiskey tasting notes, like caramel, vanilla, nuts, autumnal spices, and honey.
You’ll need to be familiar with the type of whiskey you’re working with so you can choose the right flavors to add. A higher-quality whiskey will result in a better finished product.
Here’s a quick look at some common whiskey types you might work with.
Bourbon is generally sweeter than other whiskeys. It has a smooth, rounded mouthfeel and a hefty body. Aged bourbon is even smoother.
Bourbon doesn’t actually have to be made in Kentucky, as many people think, but it does have to be made in the US. However, it also needs to meet the legal distilling requirements to be categorized as bourbon.
Tennessee whiskey is a lot like bourbon – in fact, some people dispute the idea that it’s different at all. The flavor is pretty much the same, but there are a few differences that you’ll notice. Tennessee whiskey tends to be just a bit lighter and less sweet than bourbon and has more savory and herbal notes.
Unlike bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, rye whiskey flavors tend to be spicier, and there is more flavor variety between the different types of rye, too. You’ll want to try a few different varieties before settling on the one that has the right flavor to work with.
How to Make Your Own Whiskey Flavors
Once you’ve settled on the right kind of whiskey to work with, you can get started making your own unique flavor blends. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Container for whiskey aging/flavoring (we recommend a small oak barrel)
- Sharp peeler and knife
- Mesh strainer
- Medium or large coffee filters, unbleached
- A high-quality saucepan or skillet (depending on your infusion ingredients)
There are no rules to making the right whiskey flavors. It’s all about choosing the perfect ingredients to complement your whiskey of choice, and experimentation is encouraged. However, here are some recipes you can use to guide you in your exploration.
Also, keep in mind that the longer you let the infusion sit, the stronger it will be. Taste your infusion throughout the process, and when it tastes the way you want it to, remove the infusing ingredients.
Chocolate Covered Cherry Whiskey
This sweet-but-tart infusion recipe works well on its own or mixed into a dessert drink. You’ll need:
- A quart of bourbon
- A cup of whole cherries
- 1/2 cup cocoa nibs
- A vanilla bean, halved
Keep half the cherries whole, with stems attached. Remove pits and stems from the other half.
In the bottom of your oak barrel, place the cocoa nibs and cherries. Add the bourbon, then the vanilla bean, and place the barrel somewhere cool and dark for about two weeks.
Shake it every couple of days, and taste it at the end of two weeks. Let it sit for up to a month or until you feel that it tastes done.
Take out the cherries and keep them – whiskey-soaked cherries make great garnishes! Strain your bourbon through your mesh strainer first, then through a coffee filter to remove all the ingredients. Keep the cherries in whiskey until you’re ready to use them.
Spice, smoke, and heat pair nicely with many common whiskey flavors. For this recipe, a rye whiskey offers more spice than a bourbon, to begin with, and the infusion helps the rye character really shine.
If you want it less hot, just take the seeds out of the peppers before getting started. You’ll need:
- A quart of rye whiskey
- Two split smoked chipotle peppers
- 1/4 cup honey
- One whole orange rind
- A tablespoon whole cloves
Toast the cloves on medium heat in your skillet. Toss them for about five minutes, or until they become fragrant. Set them aside.
Combine three ounces of whiskey with the honey in a mixing bowl. Place this mixture in a separate saucepan, with the toasted cloves, orange rind, and peppers. Simmer it for five to seven minutes, then let it cool.
Place this mixture in your oak barrel, and top it off with the rest of the whiskey. Shake it to mix it up, and put it somewhere cool and dark for 12 to 48 hours. Shake it and taste it every 12 hours until it’s done.
When it tastes ready, strain it through the mesh strainer, then through a coffee filter, and enjoy.
Which Whiskey Flavors Will You Make?
Now that you have these methods to work with, the world of whiskey flavors is your oyster. You can experiment with all kinds of different blends, depending on what you like and what sounds good.
Want to take your whiskey DIY a step further? Find out how to make your own whiskey here!