What The Term 'White Dog' Means When It Comes To Whiskey

If you're familiar with the world of whiskey, you might be ready to discuss pot stills and column stills, as well as the difference between whisky and whiskey. However, the term "white dog" may not be on every whiskey lover's radar.

Also known as white lightning or white whiskey, white dog is essentially whiskey that has not been aged. Since it's bottled straight from the still (sometimes diluted with water), it doesn't acquire the added color and flavor that comes from barrel aging. It can be made from various grains like corn and rye, and is often referred to as moonshine.

Sipping or swilling white dog was more common just after Prohibition ended, largely because it could be produced quickly without aging. However, its popularity waned as people began to favor its aged variants. That changed when prominent distillers like Buffalo Trace and Jim Beam, along with smaller craft distillers, started selling it again, leading to a resurgence in white dog's popularity.

White dog vs. aged whiskey

White dog and aged whiskey may be made from the same grains and use the same distilling process, but their flavors are markedly different. White dog lacks the refinement and depth that come from the liquid's interaction with wooden barrels. While aged whiskey can be described as anything from fruity or sweet to smoky and spicy, white dog generally lacks such nuance. Though individual brands may vary in taste, you can expect flavors to predominantly reflect the grain used in production. For instance, Buffalo Trace's version is said to have notes of corn. Flavor profiles of white dog can range from spicy to sweet and often have a characteristic funkiness.

As for alcohol content, both types of whiskey can be quite similar. Many whiskeys register at around 80 proof (40% alcohol), but some can go much higher, reaching 120-130 proof. Popular brands of white dog also fall within this range; for example, Popcorn Sutton produces an 88-proof white whiskey, while Ole Smoky offers one at 128 proof.

Ways to enjoy this nostalgic whiskey

Since there are already numerous clear spirits on the market, and most people agree that the flavor of aged whiskey is superior, why do distillers choose to produce white dog? For some, the answer lies in nostalgia; the spirit gained popularity as a trend a little over a decade ago. For others, it's a matter of revenue. Simply put, aging whiskey takes time — time that many start-up distilleries don't have. While new distillers often produce gin or vodka to generate income as they wait for their whiskey to age, some choose to make and sell white whiskey instead.

If you're interested in trying white dog, you have several options. You can drink it straight or over ice, but many recommend mixing it. For high-proof versions, consider making a party punch. For other types, they can be substituted in classic whiskey cocktails like a white dog sour or a variation of a mint julep. You can also swap it into cocktails where you'd typically use gin or vodka. Furthermore, it serves as an excellent base for infusions, whether you're aiming for sweet or savory flavors.