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Do the Math: Dialing in the Right Mash Bill for Your Whiskey

Unless you’re working with a single-grain mash bill, writing a whiskey recipe can be a daunting mental exercise worthy of trip to the therapist. From a master distiller, here are some tips to guide you through the process.

Matt Strickland Jun 7, 2024 - 12 min read

Do the Math: Dialing in the Right Mash Bill for Your Whiskey Primary Image

Photo: Jamie Bogner/Craft Spirits & Distilling

Planning a whiskey mash can be a formidable task.

First, you need to decide on the style and desired flavor profile. Then—with pencil to paper and a good eraser—you scuttle through countless variations of recipe percentages. That’s all before you even make the first batch, which will take months or years before you figure out whether the recipe is any good.

It is a precarious position for any distiller. But have heart! It’s all in the name of your craft. Your art! Surely, it’ll all be okay … right?! (On second thought, maybe 0.7 percent more rye would be better, and let’s add a little wheat in there for good measure, and what about that heirloom corn grown by that farmer down the road …)

Sorry, I can’t help you with any of those details. What I can do is help you understand the underlying calculations to help you decide how much grain you’re going to need—bean-counter stuff. This is important if you plan to make any money. In fact, even if your recipe is 100 percent malt or rye or corn or whatever, these calculations will help you dial in your efficiencies, so that you’re maximizing your production time and producing the best spirit possible. Even the bean counters will be happy about that.

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Matt Strickland is an active teacher in the distilled-spirits industry, sitting on the faculty of The Distilled Spirits Epicenter and The Siebel Institute. He is an active writer, producing numerous technical scripts for industry publications. He has written two books for distillers, “Cask Management for Distillers” (White Mule Press, 2020) and “Batch Distillation: Science and Practice” (White Mule Press, 2021). Currently Matt is the Master Distiller for Iron City Distilling in Creighton, Pennsylvania, where he focuses on historically accurate rye whiskey production.