Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a combination of natural local water sources and malted barley at a single distillery.
Barley is first steeped in water and then spread out on malting floors to germinate. It is turned regularly to prevent any build up of heat. Traditionally, this was done by tossing the barley into the air with wooden shovels in a malt barn adjacent to the kiln.
During this process enzymes are activated which convert the starch into sugar when the next step, mashing, takes place. After 6 to 7 days of germination the barley, now called green malt, goes to the kiln for drying. This halts the germination. The heat is kept below 70°C so that the enzymes are not destroyed. Peat may be added to the fire to impart flavour from the smoke.
The now grounded down malt, which is called ‘grist’ is added to warm water to begin the extraction of the soluble sugars. The water is normally from a pure, local source, which is why it is common for a distillery to have their own spring on their grounds.
The character of this water influences the final spirit as it contains minerals from passing over or through granite, peat or other rocks. The liquid combination of malt and water is called the ‘mash’. It is put into a large vessel called a ‘mash tun’ (right) and stirred for several hours.
The sugars in the malt dissolve and these are drawn off through the bottom of the mash tun. The resulting liquid is called ‘wort’.
The wort is cooled to 20°C and pumped into large tanks called washbacks. This is where the yeast is added and the fermentation process begins.
The yeast turns the sugars into alcohol. As with the barley and water, the distiller will carefully select the strain of yeast that they use.
Fermentation normally takes around 48 hours to run its natural course. However, some distilleries will let it go on longer to create further characteristics. The liquid at this stage is called ‘wash’ and is only between 5 – 10% in alcohol content.
Distillation occurs when the alcohol created during fermentation process is removed from the wash and is passed through Copper Stills. It will go on to form a concentrated liquid that will mature into Scotch Whisky.
In a mysterious way, the shape of the Pot Still affects the character of whisky. Each distillery keeps its stills exactly the same over the years.
During distillation, a Still is heated to just below the boiling point of water. The alcohol and other compounds vaporise and pass over the neck of the still into either a condenser or a worm (a large copper coil immersed in cold running water where the vapour is condensed into a liquid).
This is when our customers are able to purchase Newly Fill Whisky Casks. The liquor is put into oak casks and stored. The most common types of oak casks are those that have previously been used in the bourbon, sherry or wine industries. The spirit must mature in casks for a minimum of three years before it is legally deemed Scotch.
During maturation the flavours of the spirit combine with natural compounds in the wood cask which gives the whisky a unique flavour and aroma. During each year of maturation around 1-2% of the spirit is lost through natural evaporation which is referred to as the ‘angel’s share’ and explains why older whiskies are less readily available and more expensive to buy. There is simply less whisky in the cask to bottle.
During each year of maturation around 1-2% of the spirit is lost through natural evaporation which is referred to as the ‘angel’s share’ and explains why older whiskies are less readily available and more expensive to buy. There is simply less whisky in the cask to bottle.