Durum Wheat in Whiskey, It’s Not Just for Pasta Anymore

By Christopher Costantino / Photography By Carole Topalian | December 01, 2015
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Most Desert Durum wheat grown in Arizona finds its way into Italian pasta; however, Tempe-based AZ Distilling Company has recently sourced grain harvested near Casa Grande for distilling into a unique Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey.

Whiskey, which is made all over the world, is a spirit distilled from fermented grain mash and aged in oak barrels. Whiskeys are primarily distinguished from one another by the type of grain utilized. Grain varieties include corn, rye, wheat and barley. Most whiskey in this country is made primarily from rye. Bourbon, on the other hand, must have at least 51% corn content. There are only a couple distilleries in the U.S. that mass-produce wheat whiskey.

Ten years ago, most of the whiskey in the U.S. was produced by a few big companies in Kentucky or other Southern states. Now micro-distilleries are on the rise throughout the country.

Some micro-distilleries have attracted attention by experimenting with unique techniques and flavors. AZ Distilling Company is one such distillery with its Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey. No other distillery—micro or otherwise—has distilled durum wheat, let alone Desert Durum wheat.

Master distiller Jason Grossmiller says “we wanted to highlight the Arizona agricultural community and looked for a grain that was grown in Arizona. When we distilled the first batch using the Desert Durum wheat, the flavor was way different from what we expected.” Unlike other wheat whiskeys, the Desert Durum grain gives the whiskey a unique taste of dark fig, caramel and molasses, almost like a rum. Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey is exceptionally spicy with flavors of black peppercorn, allspice, cinnamon stick, cardamom, cayenne pepper and cedar.

AZ Distilling Company ages the whiskey in 10-gallon American white oak barrels, much smaller than the industry standard of 53 gallons. And the product is aged in an entirely different environment than other whiskeys. Jason feels that the dry desert heat helps to open up the flavor and accelerates the aging process. Jason calls the Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey “our baby” and one that the partners agree will eventually be the star of their product line.

They have already garnered accolades. The whiskey won a silver medal in March of this year at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. 

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