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OSU study finds like wine grapes, whiskey flavor from barley depends on region

Researchers think it will help products be more unique; Bend whiskey-maker welcomes findings

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Bend whiskey-maker is welcoming a new study co-authored by an Oregon State University researcher that found flavor differences in whiskey are influenced by the environment in which the barley used to make it is grown. 

It's similar to the way you can identify wine by the region where the grapes are grown.

"It just brings to the forefront the growers the farmers, the people that are producing that barley," Dustin Herb, an author of the study and a courtesy faculty member in the Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University, said Tuesday.

Herb explained that from bakers to brewers to whiskey companies, this will help in making products more unique: "It allows us to distinguish ourselves in the market, distinguish the small-batch producers in the market, and allow them to capitalize on their own locale."

At Crater Lake Spirits in Bend, CEO Alan Dietrich says he was surprised by the study, saying he would have thought the grain environment would be less important.

"Just because we ferment, we distill, we age, there's a lot that goes into manipulating those grains, and to be able to to pick out the characteristics, of a particular growing season and growing region for that grain," Dietrich said "It was surprising. It was really cool. I'm really glad that they were able to start producing data to those feelings."

Dietrich says he has noticed some environmental aspects of making whiskey are important.

"We noticed years and years ago how important the water was in the finished product we have, in the gin and vodkas in particular," he said. "It cannot be overstated how important water was."

Other factors play a role in Central Oregon as well

"(When) we started making the whiskeys, we noticed really early on that a whiskey aged here in Central Oregon tasted in two years what we would expect a five-year whiskey from Kentucky or Tennessee," Dietrich said.

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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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