Making Scotch malt whisky is very similar to other styles of distillation.

The key part of the process in Scotland is producing your mash from barley for single malt or corn to produce a grain. This is where the main flavours of the whiting or new make spirit will be determined. A Scotch distillery will then place the new spirit into an oak cask, in Scotland for three years or more years before calling it Scotch whisky.

Distilling itself is the method of concentrating the flavours produced in the brewing process. An easy way of thinking about it is that it’s a large version on making an espresso for any coffee fans out there.

The process:

Step 1 – Malting

  • Take barley and add water in a vessel called a steep,
  • The barley starts to grow (germination)
  • Put it on the malting floor
  • Keep turning it with a machine that looks like a lawn mower or use a large rake you drag .
  • Once it hits the sweet spot of sugar release you need to dry it.
  • You could use the oven, but a drying floor is more efficient . Peat smoke adds smokiness.
  • Now it is dry you can mill it down to Grist.

Step 2 – Brewing the Wash

  • Put your grist into a Mash Tun and add hot water to make a big barley porridge mess.
  • Drain the sweet barley water off into the washbacks and sell the Porridge (aka draff) on to a farmer so he can feed the animals.
  • In the washback add yeast and make (minus the hops) beer. This is called wash by the old men at distilleries.

n.b. The minute you start moving you mash into the wash back yeast is added as you want to maximise on the sugars. In normal brewing this isn’t the case.

Step 3 – The Pot Stills:

  • The wash (beer) is put in the pot still and heated up.
  • The alcoholic vapours evaporating from the beer rise up and over the Lyne. The lyne arm angle changes the body.
  • The Spirit is normally distilled 2 or 3 times to make it at an average abv of 65%
  • IMPORTANT!!! This is called new make spirit as it is not whisky as yet

The final stage – Ageing:

  • The new make is filled into oak casks (but not normally by a man in a suit jacket!).
  • The maximum size of a cask is 750ltrs, which is sherry butt or port pipe.
  • Once the new make has been in an oak cask for 3 years it can be called whisky.
  • The longer you store spirit in a cask the more wood flavours are added and the spirit is mellowed.
  • In addition the ABV drops due to evaporation. Wood is like a very hard sponge. This evaporation is called the angels share.
  • As a general rule treat whiskies like people:

Old whiskies are like an old person, kind of dull at first until they start to tell you crazy stories about there life.  However, they can be a little bitter and sometime riddled with health problems.

Younger whiskies can be like a child on e-numbers from cheese or a stroppy teenager.  They overwhelm, but mellow as you kick their ass with water.

Between 16 – 25 is the best time for a whisky, but not for your bank balance!

An eHow Video filmed in America, but showing the principle really well.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Whisky Squad 6 – Brilliant Scotch Whisky Blends

The 2009 Scotch whisky regulations state: The two basic types of Scotch whisky, from which all blends are made,...

Whisky Tasting note for Glenfiddich (Explorers) 15yo – Distillery only

The guys at William Grants PR agency email myself and a bunch of other whisky bloggers nearly three weeks...

Talking Whisky Books with Ian Buxton

Ian has worked in the Scotch whisky and drinks industry for 20 years. He is conference Director of...

Back to the Whisky

This last fortnight has been a whirlwind of drinks related events and a relaxing trip to the Adirondacks in...

Chap Olympiad 2010 – Caskstrength & Bounder Wax

In it's 6th year, The Chap Olympiad is a celebration of bygone lifestyle with some fun games thrown in...

Campfire talk with Jamie from Glenfiddich

Tonight will see Jamie Milne story telling here in london, the address is below the video of Jamie explaining...

Ichiro’s Malt – Double Distilleries

A podcast tasting note of Japanese whisky from Ichiro's Malt range - Double distilleries.

Ardbeg 10yo

I'll always have a fond place on my whisky shelf for Ardbeg and like my parents I'll get my...

With Movember approaching your going to see more of this!

I’m loving the Old Spice ad’s and as one of the key sponsors for this years  campaign I have to...

Islay Malt with the Whisky Squad

It’s that time if the month again where 12-14 people come together and drink whisky and talk stuff, about...