Whisky, Bourbon or Moonshine Recipe (using Malted Barley)

DISCLAIMER: Distillique does not believe in providing and selling recipes, as this goes against the Craft of producing your own products. The recipes we share have been sourced from clients and other sources, and as such, Distillique takes no responsibility and makes no guarantees regarding the quality, accuracy or safety of these recipes. Recipes are used at own risk, and are for the purpose of experimentation, inspiration and guidance.


This recipe is enough to make a 5lt Fermentation at 16% ABV, which should yield (in an Alembic Pot Still) around 1.2lt of final product. For larger fermentations, all ingredients can just be multiplied accordingly.


PLEASE NOTE: This is a VERY simple recipe, and it does not include pH adjustment or clarification techniques. For more information on how to improve your product even further, we recommend you enrol for our W2 – Grain Based Spirits Online Course.




  • Grain Bill: 2 kg of Grain and Malt – crushed or milled (preferably milled - see below for suggested Grain Bills)

  • 6 liters of Water (low or no Chlorine, low Mineral and Metal Content)

  • Sodium Metabisulphite: 100 grams 

  • Yeast (Grain yeast with a minimum ABV Tolerance of 15%): 5 grams 

  • Yeast Nutrients: 2 grams

  • Granulated White Sugar: 1 kg (per 5lt fermentation – you will not use all of it, but that is the maximum you should hopefully need)

  • Distilled Water (available from the local Pharmacy)

  • 20g French Oak Barrel Chips or American Oak Shavings


NOTE: A big deal is made about water quality in Whisky. Most of it is marketing nonsense. But what is important is that you have as little Chlorine as possible as this may either kill the yeast (in large doses) or negatively affect the flavour profile. Similarly, excessive minerals may cause Osmotic Stress that can cause stuck or stalled fermentations, while excessive metals can negatively affect the fermentations.




  • Stainless Steel Bucket or Pot (10lt capacity for every 5lt of fermentation)

  • Thermometer

  • Long handle spoon

  • Straining cloth

  • Colander

  • Kitchen sieve 

  • 2 x Plastic bucket (5lt capacity for every 5lt of fermentation)

  • Funnel 

  • 5 litre fermentation bottle (or larger fermentation bucket or drum depending on scale)

  • Fermentation lock with bung (if available and if suitable depending on size)

  • SG Hydrometer

  • Syphoning tube 

  • Still (ideally Alembic and not Reflux, unless you know how to run your Reflux Still in Zero Reflux or Low Reflux modes)

  • 5 x 25 ml Tot Glasses (per 5lt Fermentation) for Heads

  • 100 ml Measuring Cylinder

  • Alcoholmeter

  • 1 000 ml Measuring Cylinder or Glass Jar(s)

  • 20 x 25 ml Tot Glasses (per 5lt Fermentation for Tails – larger plastic cups would be more practical for larger batches, i.e. 20 x 50 ml for 10lt, 20 x 75 ml for 15lt, 20 x 100 ml for 20lt, etc.)


Bourbon Grain Bill Suggestions (for 5lt fermentations)



Corn (kg)

Rye (kg)

Malted Barley (kg)

Wheat (kg)

Rice (kg)

Oats (kg)


Heaven Hill




Evan Williams




Rebel Yell Wheat




Woodford Reserve




Maker's Mark




Barton 1792




Wild Turkey




Oriental Bourbon




1984 Bourbon




2010 Bourbon





Latest Greatest







Alternatively, for single Malt or Single Grain Whisky, use 1.5 kg of only a single type, i.e. 1.5 kg Corn, 1.5 kg Rye, 1.5 kg Barley (Unmalted), 1.5 kg Wheat, 1.5 kg Rice, 1.5 kg Oats, or 1.5 kg Sorghum, and 500g of Malted Barley.


Cereal Grains like Matabela, Corn Flakes, WeetBix or even Pronutro can also be used, as can any of the Tiger Brands Cereals (Oats, Wheat, etc.) and Polenta (Maize), in the same ratio of 1.5 kg of Cereal to 500g of Malted Barley.




1. Prepare a sterilisation solution. Dissolve 16 grams of Sodium Metabisulphite powder per one litre of water (make about 5 - 6 litres, or more as required based on size of equipment). 

2. Sterilise all your equipment and set aside.

3. Add 6lt of Water to the Pot or Bucket and heat it to 60 degrees Celsius. As soon as the water is at temperature, add in the 2 kg of Grain and Malt. The temperature will drop, but bring it back to 60 degrees while stirring to prevent grain from burning to the bottom. Simmer the grain for about 30 minutes (crushed grain – milled grain will only need 5 to 10 minutes), stirring continuously.


4. After 30 minutes, raise the temperature to 70 degrees (while stirring) and simmer again for 30 minutes at 70 degrees. Remember to stir the whole time to avoid burning. After 30 minutes, raise the temperature to 80 degrees (while stirring) and simmer a final time for 30 minutes. Watch out if it starts to spit – it may be sticky and will burn your hands.


5. After the final 30 minutes, cool the mash to 40 degrees by stirring vigorously, or running cold water along the outside of the bucket or pot while stirring.

6. Cool the mash to 40 degrees to filter. Place your sieve over a clean plastic bucket, and line it with your straining cloth. Put the colander on top. Pour the mash into the colander – about 1 lt at a time – and squeeze with your hands to remove as much liquid as possible. Place this spent grain in a separate plastic bucket. Once all the mash has been put through, remove the colander. Some grain will have fell through unto the straining cloth. Gather the edges and twist to wring out as much of the liquid as possible. Repeat this with the spent grain in the plastic bucket until all the liquid has been extracted.


7. Using your SG Hydrometer, take a sample of your wort in the 100 ml Measuring Cylinder and measure the Brix Percentage (percentage sugar). Take this measurement, multiply it by the volume of juice in litres, and by 10 (S = Bx x V x 10) that is the amount of grams of sugar in the juice.


8. To reach 16% alcohol in your fermentation, you need 1 360 g of sugar per 5 lt fermentation. If you have less than 1 360 g, add the difference in granulated sugar, and stir vigour sly to dissolve it.

9. Pour the wort with the dissolved sugar into your fermentation vessel, and add the pulp and skins (but not the pips). 

10. Add the nutrients and yeast and shake well. 

11. Close your container and fit the fermentation lock (bubbler). Remove the red cap on the bubbler and fill the bubbler with water to the indicated mark. Replace the red cap onto the bubbler. If you do not have a bubbler, make a small hole inside the lid of the bottle to allow the CO2 formed during fermentation to escape. Some people make a slightly bigger hole and attach a clear plastic tube which they run into a bottle of water. It does not really matter what method you choose, as long as the CO2 is allowed to escape, and no bugs are allowed into the fermentation.


12. Place the fermentation bottle in a comfortable (21-25 °C) room, out of direct sunlight. The darker, the better – especially if the fermentation bottle is clear plastic.

Your fermentation will start in the next two days. You would notice bubbles of CO2 gas escaping from the “bubbler” if you have one, or through the plastic tube in the water, these are signs that the fermentation is working. If you only have a hole in the lid, place a balloon over the hole and see if it inflates.

13. Allow the wort to ferment for at least 8 - 10 days. 

14. After the fermentation is completed (no more bubbles), take a sample without disturbing the bottle by putting your siphoning tube into the fermentation, place your finger over the top, and take out a sample. Pour the sample into your measuring cylinder and measure the sugar content again with the SG Hydrometer. It should read 0 Brix. If not, then something went wrong and the fermentation is not dry. You can try to troubleshoot the fermentation by referring to our article on Stuck or Stalled Fermentations, or if the Brix Level is Low enough, decided to Distill it. Ideally though you should only distill the fermentation if it is completely dry (all sugar fermented).


15. Rack your Fermentation:


a)       If the fermentation is done, place the fermentation vessel in a Fridge for 48 hours (if possible). The cold will cause all the dead yeast and sediment to settle to the bottom. This is called “Cold Crashing”.

b)      Remove the fermentation cap (with bubbler) and insert the siphoning tube gently into the beer without it touching or disturbing the sediment at the bottom of the fermentation. 

c)       Suck on the open end of the tube until the beer almost reaches your mouth. Then pinch the tube closed and lower it into a clean bottle (lower than the fermentation bottle) to start the syphon. 

d)      Keep on siphoning until the beer level in the fermentation bottle almost reaches the sediment at the bottom of the fermentation bottle. The syphoned beer will now be much clearer. 

e)      All skins and solids must also be left behind. Do not be greedy and try to get every last drop of liquid out – you will end up with sediment in the beer, and this will cause Yeast Bite or Yeast Burn in the final distillate. If you do feel there is too much liquid left, then pour it through the straining cloth and sieve, rack the liquid recovered, and repeat the siphoning process.


16. Prepare your still. You are about to distill a flavourful product, so the slightest contamination of previous runs will spoil it. Refer to our Article on Cleaning your Still for tips on how to clean it properly.    


17. Add your beer to your still – do not overfill it, but leave at least 10% headspace to avoid foaming during the distillation process.


18. Apply heat to your still – slowly. Do not rush it. If you add heat too fast it will boil too vigorously. You will also get smearing of flavour compounds. Refer to our Article on the Effect of Boiling Rate on Fractions for more information.


19. Take off your heads – minimum 5 ml per litre – in your first Tot Glasses. For a 5lt Fermentation 25 ml should be enough, but take off at least 5 times that amount – 125 ml spread over 5 tot glasses. Do not assume all of it is bad though. Starting at the last tot, use sensory evaluation to decide which of the tots are bad and which are good. Keep the good, discard the bad, but the first tot must definitely be discarded.


20. Take off your hearts – about 80 to 100 ml at a time. Do not let everything run into one container. You never know when your tails might start, or flavours might change. You don’t want to contaminate the good with the bad, so take it off in increments, and only add into the 1 lt measuring cylinder(s) or jars or bulk container if you are sure you are happy with the quality. If the quality is okay, but different, rather keep it separate.


21. Once you have removed about 550 ml of Hearts per 5 lt Fermentation, switch over to your Tails Tot Glasses or Cups. Fill them in the same way you filled the Heads Tot Glasses. Once you have filled them all, turn off your still.


22. Evaluate your tail fractions by smell and taste. If it is good, add it to the Hearts. If it is bad, do not. Do not worry about alcohol percentage now – if it tastes watered down, that is fine. We are after flavour, aroma and mouth feel, not alcohol.


23. Once you have added in the tail fractions you like, measure the alcohol percentage and volume of your entire mix. Do the following calculation: V x MAlc% / 0.43 = WTA, where V is the Volume in litres or millilitres, MAlc% is the measured alcohol percentage in decimal form (so 65% becomes 0.65) and WTA is the water to add in litres or millilitres. This is a very rough calculation. For more accurate Calculations, refer to our Article on Dilution Calculations.


24. Add the calculated water amount using the Distilled Water. Make sure the water and alcohol are both approximately the same temperature. If you wanted to make Moonshine – your product is now done, and you can proceed to step 25. If you want Whisky or Bourbon, go to the next step.


25. Place the diluted product in a bottle and add the American Oak Shavings or French Oak Chips. Seal the bottle and leave it for 5 to 10 days, shaking the bottle a couple of times per day. After 5 days, start checking the smell and taste. Evaluate the level of Wood and Sherry Notes if using French Oak Chips, or the Wood, Vanilla and Caramel Notes if using American Oak Shavings. Once you are happy with the level of woodiness, pour it through a couple of Coffee Filters to filter out the wood and dust. Remember not to try and copy the colour of a commercial product – those colours are normally artificial.


NOTE: Step 22 and 24 can be swapped if you are in a hurry. Placing the Chips in undiluted alcohol will cause it to extract flavour, aroma, and colour faster, but it is more difficult to get the right balance again after dilution, as you will dilute the taste as well.


26. If you want the product smoother, add some Invert Sugar to it – 5 to 15 grams per litre of product. A light honey will also work. Add small quantities at a time, dissolve fully, and then taste before adding more. You can always add more. You cannot take out.


27. Pour a double, no ice, no water, at room temperature. Sit back, smell it, sip it, keep it in your mouth, roll it around, swallow, breathe slowly and deeply through a slightly open mouth, and enjoy what you have made.


NOTE: This is only a basic recipe. Producing proper Whisky, Bourbon or Moonshine has much more detailed steps not discussed or mentioned in the above recipe. If you would like to learn more on processing fruit, important analysis and additions, proper fruit fermentations and distillation, and even enhancing the spirit further before bottling, you can join our Grain Based Spirit Online Course.


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