The sweetness at the tail end of a honey malt whiskey is alluring in its own right, but any drinker is going to be impressed with the well-rounded flavor. If you've never tried honey malt bourbon, there are a few things you should know first... 

best honey malt bourbon

Whiskey and bourbon lovers know how to spot the subtle changes in a spirit. That's why so many consumers hear about honey malt bourbon and are instantly intrigued. Bourbon and whiskey made with honey malt break the mold, allowing a distiller to give a spirit its own personal touch. For example, Cavehill uses its unique grain mash to achieve a flavor that is all its own. 

What To Expect From Honey Malt Bourbon

First things first: you want to know what to expect from the first sip of a high-quality spirit. One thing you need to know about honey malt bourbon is that it is nothing like using honey to sweeten an existing bourbon. The process is more involved than you might expect, but the results enhance the bourbon in a subtle, sophisticated way. The best honey malt bourbon uses the honey malt delicately.

Next, you need to know how to identify the best honey malt bourbons. You'll first notice the aroma, which has the familiar vanilla scent paired with apples, spice, and of course, honey. When you take a sip and let the flavor wash over your tongue, you'll notice more nuance. For instance, Cavehill, which uses honey malted barley, has notes of orange, mint, and toasted grains. The low barrel-entry proof is one reason you can expect more flavor from this kind of bourbon. You'll get the honey peeking through, but it's not overwhelming.

The best honey malt bourbon options still have that woody and vanilla flavor from the oak barrels, and this adds complexity to the sweet honey notes. A taste test will help you parse out the layers of honey and charred wood from the traditional whiskey and bourbon flavors. You'll see that the honey malted barley does have quite an influence on the spirit.

What the Honey Malt Process Looks Like

If you're curious about what the process of creating this bourbon looks like, it all starts with producing the honey malt itself. Distillers don't use honey malt in every whiskey or bourbon, but it does add a sweet, earthy quality when they do.

First, you need to understand why malt is such an important of the process. Malt is a grain soaked in water and then dried. When a distiller dries the malt with heat, this stops the process of germination and kick-starts the process that turns starches into sugars. You need this sugar to create alcohol through fermentation. Additionally, the nuanced flavor comes from the limited oxygen the malt receives during the sprouting process. The best honey malt bourbon will use this process, which leads to slight tartness that adds complexity to the sweetness of the honey. 

That drying process is also known as kilning, which helps develop the actual malt flavor. Kilning also helps give honey spirits and beer that beautiful golden color. For honey malts, it is after the kilning that honey is added. The timing of this step helps the distiller create a sweeter bourbon.

Once the ingredients, including honey malt, are combined to create a foundation, fermentation begins. Fermentation breaks down the sugars into alcohol before the distillation process and then the aging period. For a spirit like Cavehill Bourbon, the aging process involves toasting and charring the barrels. This allows the ingredients to slowly toast and achieve the perfect flavor you've come to expect.

How the Grain Mash Comes Together

Every bourbon has a different grain mash, with the main requirement for bourbon being that the mash contains at least 51% corn. The grain mash has a major impact on the flavor of a whiskey or bourbon, which is why distilleries spend so much time perfecting their mixes. For instance, take a look at the mash bill for Cavehill Bourbon, which includes 70% corn, 20% malted wheat, 10% malted barley, and 10% honey malted barley. Even though that honey malt barley makes up just a tenth of the grain mash, it makes a huge difference in the flavor of the bourbon.

When you are on the hunt for the best honey malt bourbon, you should check out the grain mash. You can see exactly how much of the grain mash contains honey malted barley so you can anticipate the flavor profile. The more bourbons you try, the more discerning you will be.

How To Enjoy Honey Malt Bourbon

When you taste test honey malt bourbon, approach it just as you would any other bourbon. The best honey malt bourbon can be enjoyed neat, over ice, with water, or in a classic bourbon cocktail. One of the reasons to find a honey malt bourbon you like is to have a sippable drink for any occasion.

How To Choose the Best Honey Malt Bourbon

As you shop for your new favorite spirit, you should keep in mind all the components that make a good bourbon. When you shop for a honey malt bourbon, you want to look at the age. You'll find that the bourbons that have been aged for around 10 years are a solid choice. This helps you find the right combination of flavors that are smooth and just oaky enough. With a honey malt, you'll also get that subtle sweetness.

When it comes to testing honey malt bourbons for flavor, you can expect the standard vanilla, caramel, cherry, and spices. Even with a honey malt bourbon, you can get a hint of spice in the mix. As you'll see, honey malt bourbons and whiskeys are just as diverse as other spirits, with younger honey malt whiskeys being a little sweeter than their older counterparts.

Of course, these are just basic tips to help you become a discerning honey malt bourbon consumer. Ultimately, the best bourbon is the bourbon that you enjoy drinking, but honey malt spirits give you a chance to branch out.

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