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Korn (from German, "grain", Brit. "corn") also known as Kornbrand (English: "grain brandy"), is a German colorless distilled beverage produced from fermented cereal grain seed. In the production of Korn only the cereal grain types rye, wheat, barley, oat and buckwheat are permissible. Most of the production is based on rye or wheat; barley and buckwheat are rarely used. Barley is mainly used to obtain the required malt for the brewing process. Korn differs from vodka in that it is distilled to lower alcoholic proofs and less rigorously filtered, which leaves more of the cereal grain flavor in the finished spirit.
Korn must contain at least a minimum of 32% ABV (64 proof). Above 37.5% ABV (75 proof) it may be named Kornbrand, and the name Doppelkorn, with 38% ABV (76 proof), has been used in the market. A weaker variety of Korn that has less than 30% ABV can be a mixture of fruit flavours (E.g., cherry, apple, pear, plum) and Korn.
Korn is usually consumed neat in shot glasses, but is also popular with a soft drink mixer. In some places, a beer is often ordered together with a Kurzer ("short"), i.e., a shot glass of Korn. This combination is called in German a "Herrengedeck" (English: "Boilermaker") in most parts of Germany.
Korn is believed to have been produced in Germany since the 15th century. The first Korn production ban was imposed in 1545. A decree of the city council of Nordhausen prohibited the use of grain or malt for the production of spirits. Historians believe beer brewers wanted to defend themselves against the competition of Kornbrand producers, which had increased the cost of grain.
The first "purity law" (German Reinheitsgebot) for the distillation of Korn has existed since 1789, prescribed by the city of Nordhausen, and is still produced there to this day. The regulations set by the city of Nordhausen stipulates that at least two thirds of rye or grain and at most one third of barley or malt may be used.
Korn production in Germany
The industrial production of Korn is concentrated in several regions of Germany: Bad Oldesloe in Schleswig-Holstein, Nordhausen in northern Thuringia, Haselünne in the Lower Saxony district of Emsland and Oelde in Westphalia. In Nordhausen, the company Echter Nordhäuser Spirituosen GmbH produces the Korn brand "Echter Nordhäuser" (Original Nordhäuser). In 1799, Otto von Bismarck's father, Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, established a Korn distillery at Schönhausen.
Korn market leaders in Germany are the brands Oldesloer Weizenkorn, followed by Strothmann Weizenkorn and Echter Nordhäuser Korn (2004). For Doppelkorn, Echter Nordhäuser Doppelkorn was the market leader in 2007, followed by Berentzen Doornkaat and Fürst Bismarck Kornbrand.