Have you ever wondered how your favourite whisky is produced? Here is a quick whiskey distilling 101 guide for your convenience -
Malting: For the production of Scotch whisky, the process always starts with malting the barley by soaking it in water, after which it is spread across a flat surface to germinate until the shoots are about 25mm long. The barley seedlings are dried to stop the germinating process.
Mashing: This process starts the conversion of starch within the barley into sugars, which will create the alcohol once it is mixed with yeast. The starch is converted to sugar, which is mixed with pure water and cooked to produce a mash.
Fermentation: By adding yeast to the mash, the sugar is converted to alcohol. This process can take up to 96 hours, with different fermentation times and yeast strains creating a spectrum of diverse flavours. The resulting beer-like liquid contains around 10% ABV before it goes into the pot still.
Distilling: During distilling the alcohol always vaporises first, leaving the water, the grain particles and congeners. The vaporised alcohol is cooled and condensed, forming clear, distilled spirits.
Maturation: Whisky is aged for different lengths of time in different types of wood, charred or uncharred ex-whisky, ex-sherry, ex-bourbon or ex-rum barrels. Bourbon, rye and other types of American whiskey have to be aged in new charred oak barrels, while for other countries’ styles the type of oak and its previous use are generally left up to the producer. By law, Scotch whisky, including blended whisky, must mature in a cask for at least 3 years and one day. Single malt whisky is usually matured for 10 or more years. You rarely find younger single malts. Excellent single malt whiskies are matured for 12 to 21 years.
Bottling: Once matured, whisky is bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV. The whisky may be chill-filtered or filtered in another way to prevent it from becoming cloudy when cold water or ice is added. For most large whisky brands, a bottling run combines a number of barrels—anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds—from the distillery’s warehouses. When only one barrel is bottled at a time, it’s labeled as single cask or single barrel.
Whisky may be bottled as single malt whisky, or blended. Single malt whisky is produced and bottled in a single distillery, whereas blended (as the name suggests), is a blend of two or more malt and grain whiskies.