Apr 052010
 

The production of Scotch whisky takes time, a lot of time.  It is a tedious process that can take years.  However when it is done correctly, the product is one worth waiting for.

Barley is placed in deep tanks of water for approximately three days. As the moisture increases it promotes the germination process. After the germination process, the barley is then moved to the malting segment of the distillery where it will go into drums sometimes known as the malting floor.

The entire purpose of the germination process is to convert the starch in the grains into fermentable sugars. This will feed the yeast in the fermentation stage. Turning the barley frequently ensures the temperature will remain consistent. Sheils, another name for a wooden shovel, are used to turn the grains, on a traditional malting floor. The grains will die if the temperature reaches above 22 degrees, and will the stop the entire process as the starch will not be converted to sugar.

The grain is then kilned as to halt the continuation of sugar consumption the kiln will dry up any moister. Generally a kiln is a building standing two stories in height with the top perforated to allow all heat to leave. The lower floor contains peat bricks that are heated. During this process the grain is dried and takes on that peat like reek. The pagoda style roof on a distillery is the most noticeable characteristic. The malt must not be heated above 70 degrees or it will surely be damaged and unusable.

Most of the distilleries in this day and age buy all their malt from a centralized malting company. However there are still a select few that remain traditional and do it all themselves.

The grain is milled into grist and combined with water in mash tubs to be heated to sixty degrees. During the mashing period the water is changed at least four times to remove sediment. The bi-product of this mashing is called wort. The wort must be cooled prior to mixing with yeast in what is called a wash back. This large container is never filled to the top as the wort froths a lot due to carbon dioxide. After two or three days all the yeast is killed by the alcohol.  The end product of this cycle is called wash. It contains an alcohol percent of five to 8 percent.

The stills in which the wash is placed are made of copper and are regulated to a certain shape allowing for proper distillation to occur. The still method is usually ran twice yet some companies do three or more.

After all this is complete the brew is then placed in casks made of usually oak, for a period of eight to twelve years minimum.