A conversation amongst the elements that go into every bottle of Grainhenge Whisky: grain, wood, water and time.
Whiskies are produced from the same raw materials world-wide: grain, yeast, and water. The general process is the same, but there are variations in production: the people, the place, the style of whisky, and the conversation amongst all the elements to create something that can’t easily be explained.
It is the impermanence of time that entices us to discover the unknown possibilities of Canadian-made whisky. A dance between people, places, and elements: our connection to the prairies, the Alberta landscape that surrounds us, and the four pillars of elements that make up the rich textures of ingredients that go into every bottle. We are at a new doorway, and we see this only as the beginning. The first pillar is grain.
It all starts with the land – the Alberta prairies and the raw grains that grow there. Then, there are the people: the farmers, the maltsters, and the craft maltsters. Firstly, the farmers grow the grain to specification. Next, the maltsters (whose expertise is in sourcing, malting, and roasting the barley) create the perfect conditions to convert the grain’s starches into sugars. Lastly, the craft maltsters add their own unique twist to provide different malting techniques that impart a range of flavors.
Next is us– the distillers. We have a major influence on the flavor of the whisky based on the choice of grain and malt we source. We have learned how both perform in the brewhouse, our favourite grains and malts to work with, and all the various ways and considerations when using both to create our mash bills and to make a whisky.
We are set to explore the mystery and boldness of all that Canadian-made whisky can be. As we step forward, the conversation of elements continues to challenge us with the conviction that there is always more to be discovered.
Follow our blog as we feature each of these pillars in more detail: wood, water and time.
Grains & Malting: Q & A with Head Distiller, Garret Haynes
Q: Rahr Malting, where your base malt is sourced, has plants in Alix, Alberta and Shakopee, Minnesota. Do you specify your orders from Rahr Malting in Alix or do you take what is available from Shakopee?
A: All of our barley from Rahr comes from the local facility in Alix, Alberta.
Q: What blends from Rahr of 2-row barley have you currently settled on?
A: Our blend of barley from Rahr has changed throughout the years. Our earliest whiskies are a blend of Copeland and varying amounts of Synergy, more recently, the Copeland has been replaced with Connect.
Q: For the grain, have you specified the general geographical location?
A: For the most part we are filling our grain silo with the same barley that we are using for brewing which is purchased more on specification than location. However we are also working on projects where we are very much concerned with geographical location and soil types.
Q: When sourcing from small local businesses such as Red Shed Malting do you find it harder to be more transparent with your end product?
A: One of the joys of working with small local businesses is that it is even easier to share with our customers what goes into our products. Red Shed and other craft maltsters have great traceability on their products often right down to the field it was harvested from and if you follow along with them on social media you may even see who was driving the tractor. Smaller batches also make it easier for us to specify exactly what we want for an individual project.
Q: How do you keep track of the mix of grains to ensure that a wheat malt or a specialty brewer’s malt does not become mixed in?
A: We are still a small operation. If the malt isn’t coming from our silo, then it is being loaded into the mill by hand from 25kg bags. This is great for controlling exactly what goes into each batch and also for saving money on gym memberships.
Q: How do you highlight the local spirit and still maintain transparency and knowledge?
A: We have always valued transparency and the sharing of knowledge. The story of our beverages is really a story of our community. We put a lot of information on our bottles and are happy to talk about our process and our ingredients with anyone who is interested.
Q: Do you follow how the land use and care impact the grain production yield year to year? If so, how? If not, why not?
A: This is a subject of ongoing interest and exploration for us. We have several projects on the go that look into these sorts of questions and as the spirit produced matures we are hoping to find the answers and also find a way to share the results with you.
Q: Do you grind on-site?
A: Yes, we purchase our malt and grains whole and then mill them on site just prior to thier being used.
Q: What do you do with the leftovers from the grinding and mashing processes?
A: Our spent grains are picked up by local farmers and used as animal feed.