What is whiskey?
Whiskey is a spirit distilled from grain by the pot-still or patent-still method. The grain used may be barley, maize, rye, wheat, or a mixture of grain in varying proportions, according to the regulations that monitor the grain and its proportion and various processes in the production of whiskey.
The mixture may contain malted grain, unmalted grain, or both. The distilled drink is then aged in wooden barrels, especially those made of oak.
The wood aging smooths the harshness of the raw spirit and contributes flavor and color to the spirit. The minimum period of aging is two years, but some are kept for longer, depending on the type of whiskey.
Whiskey Production Process
The initial stages of making whiskey are similar to the production of beer except for the addition of hops. The fermented liquid is then distilled in a pot still or patent still.
The most important point to remember is that the type of cereal or combination of cereals, distillation method, type of wood used for aging, period of aging, and blending process used in the production vary according to the style of whiskey being produced.
Production Process of Scotch Whiskey
Scotch whiskey is regarded as the world’s finest whiskey. This art of the whiskey-making process was introduced in Scotland by Irish monks who settled in western Scotland. The Scots developed a taste for the drink, and soon it became very popular.
The production, sale, and transportation of alcohol in the USA were completely banned by the government during the prohibition period from 1920 to 1933 due to the pressure from the temperance movement by the religious denominations and the political reformers.
Production Process of Malt Whiskey
Barley is malted by soaking it in water for about two days and then spreading it on the floor for germination. During the germination process, the enzyme diastase converts the barley starch into soluble sugar. The germination barley is now termed green malt.
The smoke of peat contributes a unique character and flavor to the whiskey. The dried malt is then crushed to facilitate the extraction of sugar.
The crushed malt is placed in the mash tub with boiling water and brewed to extract sugar. This liquid is now termed wort. The wort is then cooled and transferred to a wooden or steel fermenting vessel, where the cultured yeast is introduced.
Yeast acts on sugar and converts it to alcohol. The spirit obtained by this method has a good flavor and body derived from the congeners.
The spirit is then reduced to 63.5 percent and aged in oak casks. The casks are often used for maturing sherry or bourbon. The minimum legal period for maturing is three years. After the completion of the required period of aging, they may be bottled and sold as a single malt.
Production Process of Grain Whiskey
Grain whiskey is made from a mash consisting of wheat or maize and a small quantity of malted barley.
The unmalted cereals are milled and then steam-cooked to release the starch into a slurry solution. It is then placed in the mash tun, and the malted barley is added with hot water.
The mixture is mashed and brewed to make wort. Wort is then transferred to a cooler to bring down the temperature. It is then directed to fermenting containers, where the yeast is introduced for fermentation.
Yeast acts on sugar and converts it to alcohol, resulting in crude alcohol of low strength, called alcoholic wash.
The alcoholic wash is then distilled in a patent still, also called a continuous still. This process of distillation removes much of the congeners, making the spirit very light and mild compared to malt whiskey.
It is then aged in oak casks for a minimum period of three years. Grain whiskey matures more rapidly compared to malt whiskey as it is light-bodied.
Many grain whiskeys are matured as long as malt whiskeys take 15 to 21 years to be used. The majority of the grain whiskey is used for making blended Scotch whiskey.