3 questions — and answers — about white whiskey

Southern Kitchen

Whiskey is one of the best things to have ever happened to mankind. In warmer months it can play nicely with additions such as mint, thyme, lemon and cherries. During the winter it can stand alone either neat or on ice, preferable in a lovely glass while you’re sitting near the fireplace.

The whiskey gods are so kind that they’ve even bestowed upon us another variation of whiskey for people who are into lighter spirits: white whiskey. This is not an oxymoron.

What is it?

White whiskey, or white dog as it’s affectionately called, is unaged whiskey. Traditionally whiskey is made by fermenting and aging grain mash. Grains such as corn, barley, rye and wheat make up the essential building blocks of all whiskey, even white whiskey.

As part of the aging process, whiskey is often stored in oak barrels, which help to round out sharper notes and add another element of flavor. This is also how whiskey gets its traditional brown color. Considering the aging process for most whiskies can last years, having a product that is almost immediately available to the masses is appealing to upstart distilleries, and that is where white whiskey comes in. 

Is white whiskey just moonshine? 

Yes and no. Moonshine — or white lightening — refers to the illegally produced corn-based spirit that took off during the Prohibition era. Infamous for its roots in parts of Kentucky and Appalachia, moonshine is technically whiskey, but the term really refers to an era in which is was against the law to not only produce but consume alcohol. Some manufacturers of white whiskey deliberately market their spirits as “moonshine” — this is more about branding than ingredients or process.

How should I drink it?

Don’t let the color of white whiskey fool you, it packs a high alcohol content and isn’t for the faint of heart. We like to drink white whiskey in simple cocktails, such as a Kentucky Mule or instead of vodka in this berry- and ginger-filled twist on a boozy Arnold Palmer.