How Is Scotch Whisky Made

The Key Differences Between Scotch And Whiskey

How Scotch Whisky is Made From Grain to Glass

Now that weve defined the different definitions of scotch and whiskey, lets take a closer look at some of the key differences between these two types of spirits. Now of course in many ways, there are similarities between the two. However, there are also key ways of distinguishing these two terms and how they are related to their respective drinks:

Scotch Vs Bourbon Which One Tastes Better

If youre trying to decide whether to purchase a good Scotch or a good bourbon, there are several things to consider.

While both Scotch and bourbon can have smokey, charred notes, they come about in different ways. For example, Bourbon draws its oaky, vanilla-like flavors from the charred surface of its cask, whereas Scotchs smoke comes largely from peat burned in the barley malting process. This doesnt mean that every Scotch has a peaty flavor, though, and in fact, only two of the five Scotch-producing regions are known for their signature peatiness.

Bourbon tends to have sweeter, more mellow characteristics, with vanilla, oak, caramel, grain, nutmeg, and cinnamon notes.

Scotch has a sharp, distinct flavor thats more of an acquired taste than bourbon. Youll find that blended Scotch is smoother and maltier with a spicy finish. Single malt Scotch tastes oaky and woody, with some peaty and smoky notes mentioned above.

Malted Barley Used In Making Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Malted barley is the source of sugar that the yeast consumes to produce alcohol. It is also one of the key contributors to flavour.

The type of barley used has changed over the years. This change is the result of farming, and developing crops that produce higher yields. In simple terms: more modern crops produce more grains, which means more sugar to create a greater amount of alcohol when fermented.

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A Brief History Of Scotch

The earliest written record of whisky distillation in Scotland dates from 1494, with an entry in the Exchequer Rolls that reads: Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae. Aqua vitae is Latin for water of life, which in Scots Gaelic translates as uisge beatha. At some point, possibly over centuries, uisge became the modern word whisky.

Historically, farmers would distil their surplus grain at the end of the harvest season Friar Johns eight bolls was enough malted barley to produce around 1,500 bottles of potent spirit. By the mid-17th century the popularity of whisky had caught the eye of parliament, who sought to benefit from the booming market and introduced the first taxes on Scotch in 1644.

However, such taxes soon led to a flurry of illicit whisky distilling across Scotland, and smuggling became common practice for the next 150 years. The game of cat and mouse between the excisemen and the secret distillers led to some ingenious strategies, with even honest members of the clergy hiding their Scotch under the pulpit to avoid the taxman.

Defining Scotch Versus Whiskey

5 Recipes to Help You Embrace the Scotch Whisky Cocktail

First, lets define what we mean by scotch and whiskey. Scotch is a type of whiskey that is made exclusively in Scotland from malted barley, water, and yeast. It must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, and also be made in a specific way, using traditional production methods that have been passed down for centuries.

On the other hand, whiskey is a broader umbrella term that encompasses many different types of spirits made from grains such as corn, rye, wheat, or barley. These grains are typically fermented, distilled, and aged in oak barrels to create a variety of different whiskeys. This includes bourbon, which is made from at least fifty one percent corn and aged in new oak barrels. Another example is rye whiskey, which is made from at least fifty one percent rye grain and has a spicy flavor profile.

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This Image Is Part Of What Has Made Whisky So Successful But It Is Also A Hindrance To The Spirit

What I like to do, says Blair Bowman, is cut through the myths. Bowman is a whisky consultant. Someone who, in his own words, is trying to convert people all over the world into whisky fans, one by one. But he has no patience for fusty ideas about how the spirit, which has been distilled since at least the 1400s, should be consumed. The purists cardinal rules over whether or not to add ice, what temperature is ideal and whether one category of whisky is superior to another all can be dispensed with, he says.

You should drink it however you want and not let anyone tell you otherwise, says Bowman, with refreshing nonchalance. One of his own mixtures of choice, for instance, is whisky with ginger beer. A fantastic combination but he still gets asked in bars now and again if it should be allowed.

Few beverages have cultivated the reverence that Scotch whisky has. For some, its the very essence of Scotland distilled, matured and poured into a glass. The drink is rich with history, craftsmanship and culture. Theres truth in that Bowman happily agrees. But theres another side to Scotch.

Its also a booming export product that is taking certain foreign markets by storm. In 2018, Scotch whisky exports were worth £4.7bn in total, up nearly 8% on 2017. More than a billion bottles of Scotch were sent overseas that year. And these considerable sales made up 70% of Scotlands food and drink exports, and 21% of the UKs as a whole.

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Everything You Need To Know About Scotch Whisky

Whether youre a newbie or a spirits expert, here are all the Qs and As you may have about the drink.

If youve ever found yourself bristling when it comes to the confusing terminology regarding Scotch whisky, youre not alone. Thats why we partnered with Johnnie Walker to address the most commonly asked questions about the spirit, from how its made to the best ways to enjoy it, so the next time you pour yourself a dram or mix up a cocktail, you’ll have an insider’s edge for optimal enjoyment.

In order to be called Scotch whisky, Scotch must actually be made in Scotland. Thats right, Scotch whisky originated in Scotland, just as bourbon originated in Kentuckys Bourbon County. Although bourbon can now technically be produced in areas that fall outside of Bourbon County, Scotch still must come from Scotland. Otherwise, its whisky .

The process happens in a space called a malting house . There, grains and yeast are combined with water and germinated. Peat is then burned to dry the grains. This adds a smokiness to the character. The master distiller can choose how much smoke to add or withhold, which is why some Scotch whiskies can present as peaty aka smokey, and some as not peaty at all.

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Ordering Whisky In Scotland

The first rule of ordering whisky in Scotland is to never call it Scotch. It’s whisky when it’s blended and malt when it’s single-malt. When ordering malt, it’s a faux pas to order it on the rocks because ice numbs the tongue and does not let you appreciate the flavor of the whisky. You can drink malt neat or with a drop of water. Ordering it with Coke, of course, is also a terrible idea.

Johnnie Walker Black Label

How Whisky is Made

Scotch whiskies undergo the last step of their journey, lying in wait in oak casks. Spirits must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak prior to release, although many distillers hold them far longer, a designation that is often clarified on the bottles label. Johnnie Walker Black Label, for instance, is aged for a minimum of 12 years.

American and European oaks are both used in maturation, and they impart varying taste profiles due to the different pore sizes and oils of the trees. The toast of the barrel, size of the barrel, and newness of the barrel also impact how much flavor it will impart on the spirit within it. Scotch whiskies that are blended are done so following maturation.

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The Use Of Malted Barley

Scotch manufactures go to great lengths to select the right barley for malting, and then choosing the right method. There are some 5,500 different strains, ranked in categories 1-9. Only the top 3 categories are considered suitable. An additional consideration is whether the barley produces enough alcohol to be considered economically profitable. The varieties used to manufacture Scotch whisky today, in order of popularity, are Belgravia, Concerto, Propino, Quench and Shuffle. Some newer varieties, such as Moonshine, are more popularly used in Bourbon and other whiskies.

How Is Whisky Made

Although this may come as a surprise, Peli actually knows a bit about whisky production. Why is that? You may be wondering. Well, although some of us within the organisation do enjoy an occasional glass of Scotch, this has nothing to do with it. The reason really has to do with the whisky production process, which requires handling highly combustible fluids and vapours, meaning there is a constant threat of explosion in whisky distilleries. In fact, it has been said that the risks associated with storing casks of maturing whisky can be thought of as similar to those of the petrochemical industry. Thus, explosion proof devices are crucial to the production of whisky, such as Peli ATEX lighting systems.

Now that weve qualified ourselves by explaining how Peli Products and the whisky production process are linked, well be covering just that, what whisky is, how whisky is produced and some of the different types of whisky.

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What Makes Scotch A Scotch

Generally speaking, Scotch whisky has strict legal requirements that distillers must meet before their whisky is allowed to be called Scotch. These laws were put in place to maintain the quality and reputation of Scotch. There are laws dictating many aspects of production, export, labeling, geography, and most importantly, distilling.

  • Geographic region: To be considered Scotch, the whisky must be fermented, distilled, and aged in Scotland.
  • Ingredients: The only ingredients allowed in the production of scotch are grains, yeast, water, and caramel coloring.
  • Mash bill: Scotch must be distilled primarily of malted barley. Other cereal grains like corn, rye, and wheat may be added in blended scotch whiskies.
  • Proof: Scotch must be distilled to at least 190 proof , and after aging, must be bottled at no lower than 80 proof .
  • Aging: Scotch must be aged for no less than three years in oak barrels. When a bottle of Scotch displays an age statement, the youngest whisky blended in that bottle must be at least as old as the displayed age statement. It’s common for Scotch whiskies to have age statements of 12 years and higher.

Faq Scotch Vs Whiskey: What Are The Main Differences

The Gordon Highlanders Scotch Whisky Glenfiddich Distillery

Which is better Scotch or whiskey?

Truly this is something that comes down to preferences. That said, typically Scotch will be smoother than other types of whiskey so should be chosen if that is a priority for you.

Is Jack Daniels a Scotch or whiskey?

Jack Daniels is not a type of Scotch whiskey. Instead it is a type of bourbon whiskey.

What makes a whiskey a Scotch?

To be classified as scotch, a whiskey must be produced in Scotland, made from water and malted barley, aged in oak barrels for at least three years, distilled using pot stills, and bottled at a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume .

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How Is Single Malt Scotch Whisky Made

Words by Simon Difford

There are over 100 different single malt whisky distilleries in Scotland, each producing their own distinctively different whiskies. However, broadly speaking they all follow the same ten distinct stages in the production of their malt whisky.

Each of the ten stages of single malt Scotch whisky production are summarised below with links to in-depth explanations and further information.

The Angels Share During Maturation

Usually, the Whisky is filled into the cask with an alcohol content of 63.5%. Over the years some of the cask content evaporates through the cask walls. Alcohol is more volatile than water so it evaporates more quickly. The alcohol content of the Whisky decreases by 0.2% to 0.6% annually. The Scots call this evaporated alcohol the Angelâs Share. The fluid level decreases by 2% each year. It is measured with a square wooden ruler that has four scales on each of its four sides corresponding to the various cask sizes. The scales indicate the target level for each year. With this method, even the smallest leaks can be detected. Experienced controllers tap on the cask ends with a long-handled wooden hammer and deduce the fluid level by the resulting sound. Due to the evaporation and the absorption of flavours from the cask wood, the Whisky becomes mellower each year. Samples are taken regularly from each cask to find out when the Whisky has reached its prime. The size of the cask is important, too. Larger casks have a smaller surface in proportion to the content, and fewer flavours can be extracted from the wood. Therefore Whisky in large casks must be stored longer in order to reach the same level of maturation!

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What Happens During Ageing

Sherry or bourbon is aged in the cask for 2-3 years, during which time the young oak wood imparts significant flavour to the new distillate of whisky or wine. There is a difference, of course the average sherry is 17.5% alcohol by volume while the average bourbon can be up to 62.5% ABV. This means that sherry casks survive with more life for the next phase of their life.

Whisky distillers will buy the aged casks once the sherry or bourbon are taken out. Their first task is to rejuvenate the wood scraping the inside surface and charring once again. From this point forward, the length of time that a cask lasts is dependent on how hard it has been used prior to reaching the Scotch distiller by definition, a sherry cask can be used for at least one more fill than bourbon casks, which means that they last a decade or longer.

In the first years after the new whisky is added to a , there is additive maturation which means that the cask flavours impose themselves on the distillate. There is a general woodsy tone, but the overtones are vanilla , caramel and oak. How much flavour is added depends on how old the cask being used is in other words, whether its a 1st, 2nd or 3rd fill cask.

The above effects do differ based not only on the age of the cask, but whether bourbon or sherry casks are used. In general, bourbon casks retain more vanilla, woody and peaty flavours while sherry casks tend to impart more fruity, citrusy or grassy flavours.

The Legal Definition Of Scotch Whisky

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By the mandate of the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, Scotch whisky must be produced in a distillery at Scotland as follows:

  • With principal ingredients being water and malted barley
  • Processed at the distillery into a mash
  • Converted to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems
  • Fermented only by adding yeast and
  • Distilled at a strength of less than 94.8% alcohol by volume or US 190 Proof.

Upon production, the distilled liquor must further be:

  • Aged in oak casks for no less than three years at an excise warehouse in Scotland
  • Retains the colour, aroma and taste
  • Contains no added substances, other than water and caramel colouring and
  • Contains a minimum alcoholic strength of 40% ABV .

As one can see, there are fairly stringent guidelines for a marketed drink to qualify as Scotch whisky. However, the production of a great Scotch goes far beyond these guidelines. Single Malt Scotches will use other grain cereals sparingly. The type of malting, distillation process, the choice to filter or not, specifics of ageing all play a significant role in the finished product. Thats how you get the range from smoky, peaty, heavy scotches to the brighter ones with fruity, grassy aftertastes.

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Malting Mashing And Fermentation

The first step in the whisky-making process is the choice of barley as mentioned above. Once the barleys are brought in, they are malted by steeping the barley in water and spreading them across a malting floor, allowing the barley to germinate. The barley literally sprouts, thinking it is time to burst into plant form causing the starch inside the barley to turn into sugars. Master distillers differentiate their products through a number of tweaks to this simple process, by choosing a specific type of barley, deciding whether its spread in two or six rows, the length of time it is allowed to germinate, etc. Other touches are often added. For example, the barley could be dried over peat, imparting a smoky flavour.

Once dried, the malt is ground into a coarse flour called grist, then mixed with hot spring water in a large vessel called the mash tun. The sugars from the malt dissolve in the tun, producing a sweet wort.

The Different Types Of Scotch Whisky And What Are They Made Of

Single Malt Scotch and Blended Scocth Whisky are the two main varities of this spirit, being that blended whiskies account for 90% of all scotch marketed each year.

However, these are not the only two types of Scotch. There are 5 different types of this spirit and they differ, essencially on what Scotch whisky is made of. These are the one to recognize:

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

A single malt Scotch whisky must be produced from a malted barley mash at a single distillery. The whisky must be made using a pot still distillation procedure to be classified as a single malt.

In order to be considered a Single Malt Scotch, it must be made in Scotland and aged in wood barrels for a minimum of at least three years. However, most single malts are aged for a more extended period of time.

Single Grain Scotch Whisky

Single grain whisky is manufactured by a single distillery using a variety of grains such as wheat, rye, or maize. To be considered a Scotch, as said before in this article, only whole grains must be added to the malted barley.

Blended Scotch Whisky

Blended Scotch whisky is the mixture of more than two expressions of single malt whisky and grain whisky, all from different distilleries. The whiskies must also be matured in oak barrels for at least three years. In addition, any numerical age statement on a bottle of a blended Scotch whisky must represent the age of the youngest whisky used in the blend.

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

Blended Grain Scotch Whisky

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