Scotch whiskey are a distinctive product of Scotland manufactured in Scotland, in compliance with the laws of Great Britain that regulate the manufacture of Scotch whiskey. As in Canada, there are no government limitations placed on production and maturation techniques.
Although unblended scotches are on the market, the overwhelming majority of Scotches are blends of malt whiskey and grain whiskey. Among malt whiskey there are four distinct types from different parts of Scotland. In the north are the famous Scotch Highlands and the home of the Highland malts. To the south, we find the Lowland malt distilleries. Malts also come from the Island of Islay and from Campbeltown, in the Firth of Clyde. Grain whiskeys are distilled in patent stills, and in much the same way as American grain neutral spirits. Corn and barely are the grains used the Scotch grain whiskey, however is a flavored spirit and reaches maturation after four or five years.
Production of malt whose inn Scotland starts with the selections of the barley. After the barley is cleaned, it is steeped in warm water for about 60 hours. The soaked barley is then spread out on the malting floor and after 10 to 12 days it begins to sprout.
When sprouting starts, the malt barley is removed to the drying kiln and spread out on huge screens below and peat fires are started. The heat and smoke from the burning peat pass through the screen and dry the malt amidst the aroma of the peat. The aroma is imparted to the barley during this drying stage, and it is here that Scotch whiskey acquires its characteristics smoky flavor.
After the malt is dried it is stored in hoppers for several weeks. The malt is next cleaned, weighed and put through a grinding mill where heavy rollers reduce it to a meal. It then goes to a mash tun where water, heated to146*f is added. Rotating arms keep the mixture swirling. When the mixing action is complete, the grain sugar has been dissolved into liquid called wort. The next step involves cooling the mass, after which it is pumped into large wooden tuns, or fermenting backs. Yeast is added and actual fermentation takes place.
On completion of this phase, the resulting liquid takes of name wash beer.
There is a distinct difference in the Scotch distilling process as compared to accepted American methods. In this country, the continues still is in common use, whereas Scotch malt distillers use the ancient pot still- a huge copper pot with a closed top shaped like an inverted funnel. Its sprout is bent into a right angle and tapers off in cooling coil .
Skill blenders with all of Scotland at their disposal, enter the picture, blending together as many as 30 different malt whiskeys with grain whiskeys, to produce the product that is popular throughout the world.
Most Scotch brands are blends of grain whiskeys and malt whiskeys produced by over 100 distilleries. There are four distinct types, from different parts off Scotland malted barley, dried over peat fires, is the only grain in the malt whiskey mash. After the malt whiskeys are distilled by means of a process quite different from American methods- they are aged in sherry casks or uncharred oak barrels.
The grain whiskey are produced from corn and barley malt in a manner similar to the production techniques used in the U.S. and Canada, and are generally aged in mature oak casks not unlike American and Canadian barrels. Malt whiskeys remain in their casks for more than five years, and aging periods of twelve to twenty years are not uncommon. Most grain whiskeys are judged to have reached maturation at the end of five or six years. When fully matured, as many twenty years- and sometimes more- different malt and grain whiskeys are married to produce the brands that are known in this country.
It is during the aging years that Scotch extracts color from oak casks plus the smoothness and mellowness characteristic of the product. Fully blended Scotch is laid away in casks of marrying for periods of five to 12 or even 20 years. Although the law stipulates an aging period of at least thee years for Scotch whiskey, and none can enter the U.S. under four years of age unless so labeled.
There are many reason why Scotch from one area of Scotland differs from Scotches of other areas. Local conditioned- water, peat, climate and traditional distilling practices of individual distilleries- are all contributing factors to fully understands the Scotch picture, its important to remember that there are many distilleries each one turning out whiskey having unique characteristics by combining the loud malt whiskeys with grain whiskeys, the blenders obtain the individuality of a character and quality that distinguishes their brands. Two or more pot still are used in the Scotch distilling process. The first pot still carries the name “wash still”. The liquid wash is pumped into the wash still and heat is applied. When the temperature of liquid wash rises to the boiling point of alcohol, an alcohol vapor begins rise from the liquid; this vapor passes through the funnel-like cover of still and continues on through the coiling coil where it is promptly condensed to a liquid.
The next step entails pumping the “feints” into a second pot still, somewhat smaller than the wash still, and the whole process is repeated During the process, to complicate matters, there are various undesirable acids and aldehydes that have a boiling point lower than alcohol. To catch theses undesirables , each still has a glass box situated beyond the condenser, through which the distilled liquid passes before it can enter the whiskey receiver. In this box there are devices that test the proof of the spirits and valves that can divert the flow of the distillate into either the whiskey receiver or back to the feint receiver. From the whiskey receiver , the new whiskey is pumped into a vat, leveled off to about 120 imperial proof and then transferred into casks for the aging period.
Single malt may be in the threshold of a consumer explosion. Although the business today is still relatively small , there is no questioning that world demand for top quality straight malts has been growing at a phenomenal rate.
Malt whiskey is distilled only pot stills from malted barley. These whiskey were what Scotch market was all about until late 19th century. At this point malt whiskey was a blended with grain whiskey, while the father and heart of all Scotches, was used mainly to flavor Scotch. A resolute few in Scotland and England, however, continued to enjoy it uncompromised or unblended.