Making Whiskey (with Pictures)

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Making Whiskey (with Pictures)
Making Whiskey (with Pictures)

There are many different types of whiskey made all over the world, but the one with an "e" in the name ("whiskey") refers to grain whiskey from North America. In this article, we'll be making grain whiskey, so we'll use the American spelling, including "e," for this recipe. The basic procedure for making whiskey is about the same for all varieties. To make your own whiskey you only need a few tools and ingredients. The whiskey making process is broken down into a number of stages that are carried out over a few weeks. In this article we will create a recipe where we first make corn puree, then we liquefy and distill it, and then we let the whiskey mature. The end result is an authentic whiskey.


  • 4.5 kg whole untreated corn kernels
  • 19 liters of water, and some extra warm water for germination
  • 237g wine yeast (check manufacturer's instructions for specific proportions)
  • Large jute bag
  • Clean pillowcase

Yield: about 7.5 liters of whiskey


Part 1 of 4: Germinating the corn and making the mash

Germinating corn kernels is very easy, you make it wet and then it will germinate. When the corn has germinated, it can be mashed. A mash is a combination of warm water and grain. The enzymes in the mash break down the starch in the grain and create sugar.

Make Whiskey Step 1

Step 1. Start the germination process by submerging the corn in warm water

Place 4.5 kg of untreated corn kernels in a burlap bag and place the bag in a large bucket or container. Soak the burlap bag with warm water. Make sure the corn is completely and evenly submerged.

Why does the corn have to be germinated to make whiskey? Simply put, sprouting means you don't have to add sugar and you get a more authentic whiskey. Germination is also referred to as "malting," where the enzymes in the corn convert the starch into sugar. These sugars become the basis of the alcohol in the whiskey

Make Whiskey Step 2

Step 2. Let the corn germinate for 8-10 days

Place the bag in a warm, dark environment, such as a well-insulated garage or basement. Keep the corn moist for about a week and a half. During germination, the temperature of the maize should remain between 17° and 30°C.

Make Whiskey Step 3

Step 3. Remove the germinated ends of the corn

Wait until it is about 0.6 cm long and then wash the corn in a bucket of clean water. While you do that, remove as many germinated roots as possible by hand. Discard the roots. Save the corn.

Make Whiskey Step 4

Step 4. Crush the corn kernels

Use a hard-ended rod, also known as a 'muddler', or other similar tool, to crush the corn kernels in the primary fermenter. You are done when all the grains are bruised.

  • You can also use a grinder to crush the corn. But you can only do that when the corn has dried completely. Wet corn does not go through the mill well.
  • To dry your corn for use in a grinder: Spread the germinated corn in a thin layer on a clean, straight surface. Place a fan near the corn and turn on the fan. Let the fan dry the corn and stir the corn a few times a day.
Make Whiskey Step 5

Step 5. Add 19 liters of boiling water to the corn puree

Now you are ready to ferment.

Part 2 of 4: Fermenting the mash

During this phase of whiskey making, it is very important to keep all tools clean. Even a small contamination can kill the entire yield. Sterilize the thermometer, container lids, and airlocks you may be using. Always wash your hands thoroughly first.

Make Whiskey Step 6

Step 1. Let the puree cool down to 30º C

Use a thermometer to measure the temperature. The mash should cool, but it should be warm enough for the yeast to work properly.

Make Whiskey Step 7

Step 2. Add the yeast

Put the yeast on top of the mash and put the lid on the fermenter. Hold the bowl at an angle for four to five minutes, moving slowly back and forth. This activates the yeast.

Make Whiskey Step 8

Step 3. Create an air outlet on your fermenter with an air lock

an airlock is an indispensable aid in fermentation. It allows the oxygen to escape, while at the same time preventing air from getting into the mash. If that were to happen, the action of the yeast would be weakened.

You can make an airlock yourself relatively easily, but they are not expensive if you want to buy one. You already have one for a few euros

Make Whiskey Step 9

Step 4. Let the puree ferment in a relatively warm environment

The fermentation process can take 5 to 10 days, depending on the yeast, temperature, and how much grain you use. You can use a hydrometer to find out when the primary fermentation process is complete. If the hydrometer shows the same reading for two to three days, you are ready for distillation.

Try to maintain a constant temperature of 25°C during fermentation. Again, you need enough heat to activate the yeast so that the starch can be consumed

Make Whiskey Step 10

Step 5. When the puree has fermented, you can drain the puree using a clean pillowcase and then put the liquid in a still

You can also use a siphon to separate the moisture from the solid. Try to keep the solids away from the still as much as possible when moving the mash.

Part 3 of 4: Distillation

When the puree is split, we are left with wort, a clear liquid. The wort now has an alcohol percentage of about 15%. If we start distilling the wort, the alcohol percentage increases. Distilling works best if you use an alembic as a still. If you are very handy and have a lot of time you can make one yourself.

Make Whiskey Step 11

Step 1. Slowly heat the wort in the alembic until it boils

With whiskey, the distillation process should not be induced too quickly, use medium heat, 30-60 minutes, until it begins to boil. If you heat the wort too quickly, the wort will burn and the taste will deteriorate. The temperature at which the alcohol is distilled will be between 78° and 100° C.

Why this temperature? Alcohol and water have different evaporation points. Alcohol evaporates from 78°C, and water from 100°C. So if you keep the temperature between these two values, the vaporized liquid in the alembic will be alcohol, not water

Make Whiskey Step 12

Step 2. Turn on the condenser when the wort reaches a temperature of 50º - 60º C

The condenser condenses the evaporated alcohol and quickly cools it back so that it becomes a liquid again. Gradually the liquid will come out of the condenser.

Make Whiskey Step 13

Step 3. Discard the first bit of liquid

The liquid that comes out first contains a mixture of volatile substances that evaporate from the wort, this should not be consumed. This includes methanol, which can be fatal if consumed in large quantities. Fortunately, the harmful substances come out first. If you have used 19 liters of water, you should throw away at least the first 50-100 ml of condensed liquid.

Make Whiskey Step 14

Step 4. Collect the liquid in 500 ml quantities

After the harmful substances have been collected and thrown away, you can collect the good stuff. When the thermometer reads 80º - 85º C, you can finally catch up on what it was all about.

Make Whiskey Step 15

Step 5. Throw out the last bit

Continue to collect the liquid until the thermometer on the condenser reads 96º C. From that point on, only so-called fusel oils come out of the condenser, and you can throw that away.

Make Whiskey Step 16

Step 6. Turn off the heat source and let the alembic cool down completely

Allow the collected liquid to cool as well.

Part 4 of 4: Diluting and maturing the whiskey

The whiskey you have now collected has a very high alcohol percentage. To make it look like store bought whiskey, the whiskey needs to be matured and diluted to 40-50% alcohol.

Make Whiskey Step 17

Step 1. Use a hydrometer to determine the alcohol percentage of the liquid

You need to know how strong the liquid is, both before maturing and to have an indication of how well the distillation has gone.

Make Whiskey Step 18

Step 2. Let the whiskey mature

If you decide to age the whiskey, you should put it in a barrel if the alcohol percentage is between 58% and 70%. By maturing whiskey, the taste becomes softer and it acquires the typical whiskey taste. Ripening stops after bottling.

  • Whiskey is normally aged in oak barrels. The barrels can be gently roasted first, or you can take over a barrel from another distiller that has matured another drink in the barrel.
  • If you want the taste of oak, but don't want to invest in an oak barrel, you can choose to add burnt wood chips to the whiskey. Burn the oak wood chips in the oven at 95ºC, about an hour, so that they are aromatic but not charred. remove the wood chips and let them cool. Add them to the whiskey and let it rest for 5-15 days, depending on your taste. Then pour the whiskey through a cheesecloth or a clean pillowcase to remove the wood chips.
Make Whiskey Step 19

Step 3. Dilute the whiskey

After the whiskey has matured, it must be diluted before you can drink and bottle it. Now the whiskey probably has an alcohol percentage of 60-80%, and that is not nice. In order to drink it properly, it must be diluted until it has reached an alcohol content of about 40-45%.

Make Whiskey Step 20

Step 4. Bottle the whiskey and enjoy

Bottle the whiskey and put a nice label on it, write on it when it is bottled. And drink in moderation.


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