Grain Malt Whisky
only uses barley. Strangely the barley does not necessarily have to
be from Scotland
need a lot of water, and often there is not enough, and they have to stop
working. Water is used for the production of wort, the wash, as a coolant
and to dilute the product before bottling.
germination, the grain is traditionally dried over a peat fire. The
heat and smoke from the peat fire rises up through holes in the drying floor.
After being dried in this way, the grain is called "malt"
and is ready to be ground in a mill (after which it is called grist).
Yeast The grist
it is mixed with water and yeast in the washback. The liquid is called wash
at this stage and is basically a kind of beer, albeit a very strong one (up
till now, the production is very similar to that of normal beer).
Wood The casks
that the whisky matures in for many years are very important. Sometimes used
bourbon or sherry casks are employed for ageing because they impart their
own special flavour to the whisky. For scotch malt whisky, nothing else but
oak casks will do.
The grain is left in water to germinate
It is dried over peat fires to make the malt
The malt is milled to make grist
The grist is mixed with hot water, cooled and filtered to
Yeast is added to the wort to make the wash
The wash is distilled twice in potstills
The final distillate, the raw malt whisky, is colourless
and high in alcohol.
Whisky is usually about 70% alcohol by volume when distilled
The raw whisky is filled into oak casks and aged. This mellows
the malt and gives it colour
Before bottling it is diluted to around 40%
It only be legally described as Scotch whisky if it has matured
in an oak cask in Scotland for a minimum of three years.
Originally Scotch was aged in used Bourbon or Sherry casks,
companies are now experimenting with whiskies aged in oak casks that have
previously held Port, Brandy and Rum.
Sometimes whiskies are filled in one type of cask, e.g. Bourbon,
and then "finished" for their last few months or so of maturation
in another, e.g. Sherry.
The age of a whisky, if given on a bottle, must be that of
the youngest whisky contained in that particular bottling
A whisky matures and changes in cask, the spirit leeching
out tannins and other flavours from the oak cask, and absorbing notes from
the air passing through the porous wood
The location at which the cask is keep during maturation
also effects the finished whisky. A cask of Islay malt, maturing in a warehouse
next to the Atlantic Ocean, for example, will give a very different whisky
to a similar cask maturing in a cask Edinburgh.
The longer a whisky remains in cask, the more flavour it
will acquire and the less spirit will remain. A 21-year-old whisky, for example,
will therefore usually have more complex flavours than a 12-year old whisky.
It will certainly be more expensive.
Some whiskies a mature more quickly than others, Lowland
whiskies generally being the quickest maturing, while others age such as the
Speyside malts require more ageing.