About Scotch Whisky
The Scotch whisky is a whisky that is produced in Scotland. We can divide Scotch in to five different categories:
- Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- Single Grain Scotch Whisky
- Blended Malt
- Blended Grain
- Blended Scotch Whisky
The most often asked question is what constitutes single malt. A single malt whisky contains whisky from a single distillery. It would not necessarily be whisky from a single cask because to continue providing a consistent flavour profile over the years, whisky from several casks may have to be vatted together. Where whiskies of different ages are used, the age statement of the single malt will be the age of the youngest whisky used (even if it was only a drop). Where no age statement is used, it is likely that some younger whisky will have been used and it may be off-putting to whisky drinkers who avoid whiskies under, say, 10 years old. However, where whiskies have younger malts added to them, they can impart a freshness that is very appealing.
Single Cask Whiskies
A single cask whisky will be exactly that. Whisky from one cask will be bottled (albeit possibly reduced in alcoholic volume) and sold, particularly by independent bottlers. Because each cask of whisky is different – even if the whisky inside came from the same distillation – the resulting whisky will differ, these are really one-off experiences. Cask strength whiskies are those have been bottled unaltered straight from the cask. These will be anywhere from mid-40s to the mid-60s.
Blended Malt whisky
Blended malt whisky - formerly called vatted malt or pure malt is a number of single malts blended together, but without grain whisky being added. They are generally very high quality and relatively inexpensive. As of November 2009, no Scotch whisky could be labelled as a vatted malt or pure malt, with Scotch Whisky Regulations requiring them to be labelled blended malt instead.
Blended Grain Whisky
Blended Grain whisky is very rarely produced. It means a blend of two or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries.
Blended Scotch whisky
Blended Scotch whiskies contain both malt whisky and grain whisky. Producers combine the various malts and grain whiskies to produce a consistent brand style. This type of whisky constitutes nearly 90% of all whiskies produced in Scotland.
Production of Scotch whisky
The ingredients of malt whisky are essentially just barley and water. The source of the water and barley quality has a significant effect on the taste of the final product.
The barley grains are the seeds of the plant and they are steeped in water until they germinate or sprout. At this stage the barley is spread on the floor of a malting house where it continues to develop over the next week or two. The starch in the barley turns to sugar and at the optimum time the growth is stopped by placing the barley in an oven or kiln.
Traditionally the heat for this oven was peat fired and it was from here that malt whisky acquired its peaty, smoky taste. Nowadays more conventional forms of heating are used.To retain the peaty flavours some distilleries are burning peat and blowing the smoke over the grain during the process.
When the barley is dry it is then milled to produce a floury substance known as grist. This grist, which is rich in sugar at this time, is then placed mixed with hot water to create a mash. It is then placed in a large container called a mash tun. The contents of the mash tun are stirredregularly to encourage the release of the sugars. When this process is complete the resulting liquid, now known as wort, is drawn off and transferred to large wooden wash backs. The remaining solids are called draff, which is commonly used as cattle feed. It is in these washbacks that the yeast is added to start the fermentation process during which the sugar in the wort turns to alcohol. Fermentation process takes from two to four days. At this stage the wash smells and tastes similar to beer.
The next step is distillation to the required alcohol content. It takes place in copper pot stills. The character of the final product is influenced by the shape of the stills and the length of the neck. Each distillery uses slightly different shape stills.
Conventionally there are two stills used in this process, thewash still and the spirit still. The wash still is used to produce the first distillation, which is called low wines. Then it is distilled for the second time in the spirit still before being collected as the strong distilled spirit. This spirit is not yet useable, as it is too strong and contains undesirable components. The next part, the called middle cut is diverted into a receiving tank. The final part of the second distillation, called the feints is added to the next batch of low wines so thatnothing is wasted.
When the final spirit has been collected in the receiving tank it is ready to go into barrels for the next stage of the process, which is maturation.
These oak barrels have often been previously used in the production of Bourbon whiskey but also Sherry, Rum and Port casks are also used. All of these impart their own, unique characteristics into the final product. The casks are then moved to a bonded warehouse. By law, Scotch whisky must remain in bond for at least three years. During this period about 2% is lost through evaporation each year so that about 25% of the contents of a barrel stored for 12 years will be lost.
When the malt whisky has been matured for the required it time can be bottled and labelled.Master blender will decide what whiskies are to be included in the final blend. As many as thirty or forty different malt and grain whiskies may be included in the final blend and the blender’s experience is critical in ensuring that your favourite blend retains its consistency over a number of years.