Mashing The 'mashing' process takes place in a vessel known as a 'mash tun' and uses heat in the form of hot water to induce natural enzymes Amylase to breakdown starch in the grain into fermentable sugars. The sugars and enzymes are then washed from the spent grist using more hot water and filtered out through the sieve-like base of the mashtun to produce a beige-coloured sugary liquid called wort. Water Along with barley and yeast, water is one of three key ingredients that make Scotch single malt whisky.
What's termed 'production water' is used in the mash tun to make the wort, which goes through to the fermentation stage and eventually ends up in the stills. They often come from different sources and each type of water effects whisky production. More about water in whisky production Fermentation During fermentation yeast converts the fermentable sugars in the wort into alcohol to produce a beer-like liquid called wash.
Fermentation is the stage during the whisky making process when alcohol is produced. The distillation process which follows merely concentrates that alcohol. The speed at which the fermentation takes place greatly affects the flavour of the wash and so the finished whisky. More about fermentation and washbacks Distillation Scotch malt whisky is usually distilled twice, and occasionally three times, using batch distillation in copper pot stills.
During the last distillation compounds with the lowest boiling points, called foreshots or heads , boil first. Then comes the heart middle cut , then the feints tails leaving liquid called spent lees in the still. It's the heart that is collected and aged to become whisky. Maturation The clear 'new make spirit' to emerge from distillation must be matured for at least 3 years in oak casks with a maximum volume of litres in a Scottish bonded warehouse before it can be called Scotch whisky.
During this aging period it undergoes profound changes to emerge as an amber whisky. These changes are influenced by the type of oak, previous cask contents and numerous other variables. More about ageing whisky A full discussion of these variables is beyond the scope of this article, but they include climate variations, where a barrel ages within its warehouse, and even variables in the quality of the oak used to make the barrels.
Because so many variables influence the character of a barrel of whisky, nearly all whiskies on the market today are made by mixing barrels together to achieve a product that's consistent from one release to the next. A master blender at the distillery tastes through the barrels that are ready for release and mixes them to create a product consistent with the brand's flavor profile.
Not every barrel produced at, say, Springbank or Glenmorangie will exactly fit the house style that consumers expect. To achieve that house style, then, requires a blend of whiskies from many barrels. Single Barrel Scotch A single-barrel scotch is the product of a single barrel of whisky, unmixed with whisky from other sources. Because the flavor, aroma, color, and other characteristics vary from barrel to barrel, each barrel release is a unique product.
Single-barrel releases are therefore inconsistent from one release to the next. Not many of these exist in the scotch universe they're much more common in American whiskeys , but Balvenie has a couple of them available. Other Blends So we've established that single malts are usually produced by blending whiskies from different barrels produced within a single distillery. What about all these other blends we hear about?
There are three types you'll encounter: Blended malt scotch whisky: Formerly called vatted malts, these are a blend of single malts from two or more distilleries. Companies such as Compass Box purchase whiskies and blend them to create new products with certain characteristics. Peat Monster, for example, is a Compass Box whisky that emphasizes the rich, smoky flavor of peat. Blended grain scotch whisky: A blend of single grains from two or more distilleries. Single grains are usually known for being light and mild, but some distilleries produce exceptional grain whiskies.
Compass Box's Hedonism is a fine example of a blended grain scotch. A blended scotch is a mix of both malt whiskies and grain whiskies, sourced from several different distilleries.