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The Whisky making process

For hundreds of years the malt whisky industry has grown and matured; steeped in mystery and tradition. Few products other than Scotch Whisky can claim such a devout following, enjoyed throughout the world.

Our whisky making process is touched by angels

There are two classifications of Scotch Whisky.

  • Malt whisky made through the Pot Still Process, using malted barley together with water and yeast.
  • Gain Whisky made by the Patent Still using mainly maize, wheat and occasionally malted barley.

There are six main stages to the Pot Still process, starting with malting, milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturing.

  • Malting for malt whisky only occurs after the barley has been cleaned and soaked for three days in large water tanks. This allows the seed to germinate once spread on a concrete floor and turned regularly to manage the germination process. This is the foundation to allow the green malt to dry before infusing it with peat to give it a smoky character. Malting for Grain Whisky only occurs after the wheat and maize has been cooked, instead of being allowed to soak before starting the mashing process.
  • Milling is the process of crushing the dried malt into course flower, taking out any foreign items in the form of grit. This process is skipped by the Grain Whisky that goes direct to the mashing process from having been malted.
  • Mashing is where hot water is added to either the milled barley or malted grain to produce a liquid known as wort containing the sugars for the converted starch. The residue solids that remain after the masher has converted the starch into sugars is drawn off and given as feed to cattle. The wort is transferred to large cooling vessels
  • Fermentation starts once the wort is cooled within the large vessels called wash buckets and yeast added. The living yeast converts the sugar in the wart into alcohol of approximately 8% this liquid is known as wash.
  • Distillation of the wash is carried out twice in large copper pots stills. The first process is to separate the alcohol from the wash by heating the liquid as alcohol has a low point of vaporisation and condenses back into alcohol when in contact with a cool surface. This product is known as low wines as it still contains some impurities. The residue of the fermentation liquid can be used as fertiliser. The low wine is distilled a second time in a separate spirit still, which increases the strength of alcohol to about 70% ABV. At this point the Still man selects the heat of the run avoiding the potential start and end that contain greater impurities. The mid cut is also known as the heart run is collected by a spirit receiver and siphoned off into casks for maturation. Grain whisky on the other hand is a continuous process whereby the alcohol reaches a maximum of 95% ABV before being reduced down for maturation. There is no mid cut to a Grain whisky as it is a continuous process.
  • Maturation depends on many factors.
Windmills are still used to mill the grain for our whisky
  1. Location of the whisky if it is stored high up in the bonded warehouse will have greater character as the cask is more susceptible to changes in temperate. Therefore the loss of angel dust will be higher.
  2. The age of the cask is important, some casks can be used two or three times. The more often a cask has been used the less quickly the alcohol matures therefore a 12 year old whisky may be no better than that of 6 year old whisky. For this reason some whiskies are blended and no age given other than old and rare.
  3. The area where the whisky is stored plays an important part as air circulates around the barrels allowing them to breathe, therefore picking up on saltiness from the sea, or highland heather if stored for a long enough period.
  4. Period of maturation is the most understood, as the longer a cask stands the more the character of the whisky becomes known from the cask and the location where it is stored.
  5. In many cases the casks do get moved several times whilst in storage to take out other casks for bottling and to allow them to mature evenly. There are lines of saturation that can be seen when a cask is serviced. If the line of saturation is too close to the outer edge of the cask it becomes rejected, as the goodness has already been drawn out of the wood.

With strictly limited supply, outstanding quality and growing world-wide demand we invite you to visit our shop at Gaelic Pure Scotch Whisky and trace your chosen purchase on our authenticity page.

Tak a wee dram afore ye go