It is interesting to note that if the spirit “whisky” is complex, this is in total contradiction with the number of starting ingredients : 3 ! Barley (or another cereal), yeast and water. That’s all ! We could add barrel aging, which brings all its organoleptic qualities to the future whisky, and for a minimum of 3 years. Only 6 steps for making whisky before finishing in the bottle and in your glass! We explain all that …
1 – Malting
The first step in making a whisky, malting consists of extracting starch, which is a fermentable sugar, from barley. In the past the distilleries also took care of this stage, today they prefer, for reasons of space and competence, to outsource this service to malt houses.
2 – Mashing
This is to grind the malt to make a kind of flour that we will call “grist“. A thick paste is obtained by mixing this grist with hot water. This stage in the manufacture of whisky extracts the sugars for fermentation.
3 – Fermentation
After mashing, we will incorporate yeasts. Yeasts are microscopic single-celled fungi that transform sugar into alcohol. It’s a relatively short step that will take just over 48 hours. We then obtain an acidic beer which we call the “wash“.
4 – Distillation
This is the heart of whisky making. The principle of distillation is that by heating the wash to a certain temperature, we will be able to concentrate and recover the “good” alcohol. This operation is carried out at least 2 times to extract what we will call the distillate.
5 – The cask
Once the distillate is recovered, it is lowered by dilution to 65% alcohol. The liquid is translucent and we don’t have the right to call it whisky yet. The barrel is operated at this stage and the final product will depend heavily on choices such as the type of wood, the volume, whether new or not…
6 – Barrel aging
Once placed in the barrel, aging in the barrel will last 3 years minimum. Many things will also influence the final product such as the cellar temperature, being more or less close to the sea …
We can never repeat it enough, we will have to wait for at least 3 years to call that whisky. Once this time has elapsed, we will be able to perform bottling. It’s just before bottling that we can dilute the whisky again with water. It will be reduced to a lower percentage of alcohol, generally between 40% ABV and 46% ABV. The bottler can decide not to dilute his whisky. He can then indicate “Strengh Cask” on the label. But be carreful … it’s strong !!!
If you are intersted by mixology, then this is it!
If you are intersted by our spirits, then this is it!
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Credit photo : Martin Kníže on Unsplash