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Review: Mellow Corn Corn Whiskey

What do you think of when you hear the words “corn whiskey”? Perhaps images of backwoods stills and mason jars come to mind. As my recent post of Balcones’ True Blue corn whiskey demonstrates, a lot of micro distilleries are taking on the humble grain and crafting some very interesting products. However, let’s not forget this category has been around for a long time.

Heaven Hill produces more corn whiskey than any other distillery today, including the subject of this review, Mellow Corn. I’ve noticed over the last couple years the distillery’s pushing this flagship corn whiskey over J.W. Corn and Dixie Dew, which are essentially the same products. To me that makes a lot of sense. How many corn whiskeys does a distillery need to sell?

By now you are probably aware that one of the components required for a whiskey to be called “bourbon” is a corn content of at least 51%. Corn whiskey in contrast must contain greater than 80% corn. In addition, and also unlike bourbon, corn whiskey may be aged in used barrels.

Mellow Corn Specs: Mellow Corn is 90% corn with a small percentage of rye and barley making up the remaining 10%. The whiskey’s golden chardonnay color indicates it has been aged in used barrels. We also know it’s been sitting in wood for at least four years. Even though Mellow Corn is bottled in bond at 100 proof, the resulting aging process produces a much lighter style of whiskey with some rustic edges.

Mellow Corn Corn Whiskey, 50% abv (100 Proof), $12/bottle
Color: Gold/Chardonnay
Nose: Bright and brisk – heaps of vanilla taffy, dried banana, sweet corn, and honey.
Palate: A bit of ginger spice and warm spice wrapped around a soft, sweet core of vanilla taffy and banana. Moderate warmth and rustic corn grain edges.
Finish: Longer finish than I expected. Vanilla and bit of white pepper.
Overall: Mellow Corn is not a complex whiskey to say the least, but it’s bright and easy sipping even at 100 proof. Where it gets it right is with balance. It’s not overly sweet, mildly spiced, and with great vanilla and banana fruitiness. I laugh when I read negative comments about Mellow Corn. Mostly because it’s well made, good whiskey. If you put this in the hands of someone like John Glaser of Compass Box Whisky Company overseas, he’d blend this into something marvelous that people would buy for $50. Would I recommend you absolutely go out and buy Mellow Corn? No, I can’t say that I would. However if you are interested in building on your whiskey education, an $11-13 purchase would go a long well to give you an appreciation of the style.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.7 (Good)

31 Comments

  1. Brian says:

    If it’s bottled in bond, doesn’t it have to be aged for at least four years (as opposed to less than four years, as you state here)?

  2. You are right on Brian. Bad editing on my part. Corrected. Thanks for the eagle eye!

  3. sam k says:

    I really appreciate your perspective on this one, Jason, and you are spot on with this being a must-drink for anyone wanting to expand their horizons in American whiskey. I enjoy Mellow corn, even though It’s not on the top of my list, and find it an excellent diversion.

    It’s also another example of the diversity of the Heaven Hill portfolio, and embodies their laudable ongoing commitment to keeping good whiskey affordable in the current climate.

    Isn’t corn whiskey required to be aged only in used barrels? If this whiskey had been aged in new barrels, I think it would have to have been classified as bourbon.

  4. John says:

    Well, Sam pretty much stole all my thunder. But to answer his question, straight corn whiskey can be aged in either used charred oak barrels or new uncharred oak barrels. George Dickel is a good example of a corn whiskey mash bill distillate (84% corn, 8% rye, 8% barley) that is aged in new charred oak barrels to become a bourbon (even if they decide not to call it that).

  5. Jim Listerman says:

    Jason–

    Interesting whiskey. I’ll have to give it a try.
    Personally enjoy George Dickel Cascade Hollow. Surprised George Dickel mashbill has very high percentage corn ( 84% !*! ). Smooth….Very Smooth. Mellow Corn as smooth as Cascade Hollow ? Both in same price range. When I started reading this article I jumped ahead thinking Mellow Corn would be raw fresh from the still rather than aged whiskey ! Believe I recently noticed Mellow Corn on the shelf at Party Source (Newport Kentucky) and thought it was Moonshine. Ooooops.

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    Jason–Could you please confirm George Dickel mashbill. Thank You.

  6. Storcke says:

    Very interesting review, Jason. I saw Mellow Corn on the shelf for the first time a few months ago; it looked interesting, but in my mind I equated it with cheap blended whiskeys and therefore not worth the effort. Needless to say, I know nothing of corn whiskey, but this looks a great place to start learning.

  7. Ben says:

    I can’t get it where I live, so I’ve only ever had it once at a bar in Louisville, but I remember being impressed–I was expecting something moonshiney, but it is actually, as the label says, quite mellow. It’s absolutely something that anyone who is interested in whiskey ought to try at least once.

  8. Bmac says:

    Haven’t seen it here in Texas, which is odd. I would have thouht it would be everywhere here. I have been curious to try it. Maybe someday, some store will take a chancd on it.

  9. Ironfinger says:

    I have a distaste for corn whiskey. It almost turned me off from Bourbon (the corn component now seems overpowering). This pushed me into trying Rye whiskeys, which I really love. I think all whiskey drinkers should experiment with corn whiskey, ryes, and scotch to identify the different grain components of bourbon mashbills and also to identify the barrel component. this helps to appriciate bourbon.

  10. Vince says:

    Jason:
    I agree that people who are interested in American Whiskey should give this a try. However, I find the nose to be very imbalanced with a strong alcohol component to it. The taste is better. As you stated, it is not complex but you do get to experience something that is fairly unique. You also get to taste the “grain” in this whiskey. It is a good example of what grain will “feel” like in younger whiskeys.

  11. MAL says:

    I’ve used this in a few blind tastings. People are really surprised when they find out what it is.

  12. Chris says:

    I saw this in the background of some of your video reviews, and wondered when you would get to it. I love high corn mashbills like Dickel, so I’m going to try this. Dickel is definitely 84/8/8; the distillery tour guide repeated that several times when I went. The closest to it is Evan Williams/HH, which is (I think) 78% corn, and which tastes quite similar.

  13. John says:

    Ralfy Mitchell just reviewed an Irish Straight Corn Whiskey! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGtBDa2Wy-I

  14. Storcke says:

    Jason, you piqued my interest in corn whiskey so much that I couldn’t wait to get over to Georgia to get some Mellow Corn, so I went to my local Alabama ABC store–they don’t have MC, but they do sell Dixie Dew and Georgia Moon. Neither has an age statement of any kind, so I chose the DD because it is 100 proof and darker than many bourbons (new barrels?). Despite its swarthy complexion, the DD tastes very young and raw, much like a Canadian whiskey without the rye component. It has very little nose beyond a tinge of banana peel. Still, it is a reasonably enjoyable pour due to the warm oily mouth feel and a hint of banana and vanilla from mid-taste onward. In the end, disappointing, but makes me want the MC even more.

  15. DBMaster says:

    Bmac, I have searched high and low for some of the corn whiskies I have read about online; Mellow Corn, JW Corn, Glen Thunder, etc. I have not found any. There are a number of white corn whiskies like Prichard’s, Ole Smoky, and Platte Valley (slightly less than white) available, but it disappoints me that we can’t get the others. And, Texas is one of those “great” states that doesn’t allow mail ordering of liquor. I bought a bottle of Hirsch corn whiskey at Spec’s in Dallas, but it was – IMO – too expensive for this category ($30) and not significantly tastier than Platte Valley. If you happen to find a chain store that carries it let me know. I am in the DFW area.

  16. Jim Listerman – these smart folks nailed it. 84% Corn. Cheers!

  17. Yes indeed Sam, that is correct!

    Cheers!

    Jason

  18. Chris says:

    I recently attended an annual whiskey tasting/seminar here in Massachusetts that I have been going to for many years. Each year there is a rise in certain whiskies, rye was the push the last few years, which I enjoy very much. This year the push was in corn and other white whiskies. As an open minded bourbon drinker It is nice to see a website with reviews that cover different types of American whiskies. Great job and I look forward to more of these reviews.

  19. Jim Listerman says:

    Jason–

    Appreciate your confirmation……

    Dickel 84 / 8 / 8 mashbill

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  20. Iskch1 says:

    I will have to try this just for the heck.
    To DBMaster: there is plenty of Mellow Corn in OKIE land. You don’t have to travel too far north to find it. Its about $ 9.00 a bottle.

  21. Ethan Smith says:

    This is one of my favorites, but the problem is I can’t get it in PA nor anywhere else close by. So the bottles I have I’ve got to make last a long time. This is a great summer time whiskey to sip in the evenings when you’re looking for something light. It’s the American whiskey equivalent to Genesee Cream Ale- Cheap, sweet, and light.

  22. Storcke says:

    Finally able to get my hands on some MC, and did a side-by-side with Dixie Dew, which really wasn’t necessary–the MC is SO much fuller, richer, more flavorful. A really nice choice for an occasional casual pour. Once again thanks, Jason, this time for teaching me about, and getting me interested in, corn whiskey.
    Incidentally, try some Dickel 12 right after the MC: the toasted corn flavor of the Dickel becomes almost overwhelming.

  23. Nick says:

    Trying desperately to see what there is to like about his bottle. Wow it’s bad. What a turd. Flatter than a pancake. Yuk.

  24. Storcke says:

    I have to agree, Ethan. Mellow Corn is just fun. The bright corn flavor is so bright, and the silky feel is so silky, that you almost forget it’s half alcohol. It’s sort of like a 100-proof soft drink.

  25. Rob says:

    I stumbled upon this and really enjoy it. I agree that is not complex, but it is tasty. I originally bought it as a neat retro addition to my back bar, but I’ve found that when I open the bottle, it becomes my sipping whiskey until it’s gone. Even at 100 proof, I like it neat. Finally, it’s not sold everywhere and seems like my go to store only has it sporadically.

  26. Storcke says:

    Btw, does that George Dickel mashbill apply to GD8 as well?

  27. I have 3 unopened bottles of old whiskey :1) Cream of Kentucky Special Corn Whiskey , 2) Old Fitz & 3) Caiverret ?

    Can you tell me anything about them ?

    Thanks

    Mike

  28. Gary says:

    Wow! Found myself in Pop’s Wines & Spirits on Long Island’s South Shore & bought a bottle for only $7. I’m lovin’ this! Glad to have learned a bit more about it here.

  29. DBMaster says:

    Now available in this area – DFW. Picked up a bottle at Goody-Goody last night for $10.99. Nice, simple change of pace. I’ve been exploring mezcals, gins, and rhum agricoles lately.

  30. Benjie says:

    Lots of Texans seem to be lamenting their difficulty in obtaining this. Spec’s website claims they carry it at their flagship store on Smith street in downtown Houston. I will be checking there when I’m in Houston in a few days. I REALLY hope they have it because I have some very high hopes. They also claim to carry more than one variety of Willet, so that’d better be true too.

  31. Evan says:

    Boy this stuff is a tasty treat.
    I love that, in the midst of this terrible fad of people folks selling (and apparently buying) overpriced, unaged whiskey, either from micros or folks putting in a mason jar with fruit, here stands this humble bottle of aged, bonded, straight corn whiskey for $9-10.
    Bravo Heaven Hill.

    It doesn’t hurt that it’s got the most awesome, ugly bottle this side of OGD.

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