Oh, you could try and buy some heather from a local garden centre then dry and smoke it with your wood chips. It might add a slightly herbal flavour to the final product. I wouldn’t think you’d want (or need) much.
I bought one of those age your own whiskey kits a couple years ago. White dog tastes like ass, but a few months in a mini-barrel and it becomes very delicious. Corn whiskey tastes a bit different than neutral vodka, so that obviously contributes to the final flavor, but it’d be interesting to see what a barrel-aged neutral spirit tastes like.
On a side note, before putting the whiskey in the barrel, you’re supposed to soak the barrel with water for a couple days (probably to reduce the amount of angel’s share). I tried the barrel-aged water, and it wasn’t that bad. Sort of tasted like bourbon with the alcohol removed.
Question from the non-drinking crowd (all several of us). Is it the flavor that makes it whiskey, or the process? In other words, if he uses fresh oak chips, could he create a completely different drink?
Generally, it’s the process. For the most part, whiskey is made from grains (malt), and then aged for awhile in wood barrels.
However, most domestic whiskey made in India is actually more like rum, i.e. made from molasses, sugarcane, etc. But it’s called whiskey there and meant to taste like western whiskey, so maybe it is indeed the flavor that makes it whiskey.
It’s a good philosophical question. Of note, such rum-like whiskey from India usually can’t be sold as whiskey in Europe/USA since it doesn’t qualify as their definitions of whiskey.
In The Great Escape Paul Brickhill wrote that some Polish camp inmate, who had been a chemist, had a procedure by which he turned the distilled “raisin hooch”* into an imitation whiskey, but he didn’t know the details. All he knew was that the guy added some powder and a viscous liquid and the result was “a passable imitation of whiskey, if you couldn’t remember what whiskey tasted like.”
*the stuff that they showed Steve McQueen and company distilling out of potatoes in the movie. Brickhill never mentions any potato-based liquor – I suspect that , given the poor rations, they’d rather eat the potatoes. The inmates of Stalag Luft Drei made their illicit liquor from Red Cross-parcel raisins, and “the fastidious double-distilled it” into spirits.