How Is Scotch Whiskey Made?

Scotch WhiskyWhat makes Scotch Malt unique in aroma and taste? The taste surrounded in mystery and the process in literature described as “Wild weird alchemy”. This article outlines the key processes of the Scotch whiskey production processes. Traditional simple batch processes create the scotch whisky (malted) quite simply. From the natural raw materials malted barley, wheat and yeast the end product scotch whisky (malt) is presented.


The first stage in the process of making scotch whisky is described as Malting. In the fields the barley is harvested and then taken to the maltings. At the maltings the harvested barley is steeped in water, later spread over the malting floors (in the industrial process it is contained in large drums) to germinate. To prevent heat building up it is turned regularly. The kiln is used to dry the germinated barley after a week. Often one will find that peat is added to the fire as from the smoke the flavour emerges. On the island of Islay this is a common practice.


Traditionally the dried malt is transformed into coarse flour or grist through grinding and is mixed later with hot water in a large container called the mash tun. Soft water from Scotland is used as part of the process which improve the quality rating of the product. From the mash that is stirred in the mash tun it then transforms the starch within the barley into wort which is described to be a “sugary liquid”. The draff being the spent grains are processed into cattle feed. This is a key process in developing scotch whisky.

3. Fermentation

Yeast is added to the wort that is cooled and drawn into wash backs. Fermentation then begins as the living yeast feeds on the sugars. What is produced from this is raw alcohol, similar in taste and smell to sour beer. Congeners which form the distinct taste of the scotch whisky is produced. Technically the term wash is used to describe alcohol mixed with congeners. After 2 days the fermentation slows and the wash contains 6-8% alcohol in volume.

4. Distillation

The process gets under way at this stage known as distillation. The size of the pot will vary at each distillery and is important in the eventual character of the scotch whisky. The pots are structured to resemble a swan necked shape, made of copper metal.
Distilled twice the scotch whiskey malt follows key stages, the first process of distillation taking place in a large wash still, the second in a low wine or spirit still. During the distillation process the stills are heated to a temperature that is below the boiling point of water. What then happens is the water, alcohol and compounds vaporize which pass over the still’s neck. Cold running water is essential for the copper coil as the vapour is drawn into the liquid. The wash still, distillate still referred to as low wines. The second distillation is the flow of the spirit. The stillman increases control in the second distillation as only the “heart of the run” or “middle cut”. The spirit flow will be collected as new spirit. As the spirit flows through a spirit safe, the stillman is evaluating and measuring it. The still (foreshots) and tails (feints) return for redistillation within the next set o wines. The “middle cut” is collected by the stillman, only when a high standard is reached. Scotch whisky production is a monitored activity, adhering to standards of excellence for the production of scotch whisky is important.

5. The Making Of Grain Whiskey

Malted barley and either maize or wheat are the essential ingredients that Scotch whiskey/grain is made of. Non-malted cereals contain starch which is released by pre-cooking. Later this is converted into fermentable sugars. Scotch whisky/malt production involves mashing and fermentation.

A Coffey or Patent Still is used for distilling the wash. The inventor Aeneas Coffey designed the product. A coffey in appearance has two tall columns – a rectifier and an analyser. Steam is produced as the cold wash is pumped in at the top of the rectifier. Cooling of the alcohol follows which condenses and flows away as Scotch whisky grain spirit. Being lighter in character the distilled grain needs less time to mature. Most of the matured grain Scottish whisky is used for blending.

6. The Maturation Process

The Scotch whisky, the grain and malt substance is poured into oak barrels for the maturation process. The new spirit will gain character, as the flavor and color from the oak barrels help subtly to enhance the whiskey’s features. The barrels most likely have been used to store other drinks. The popular drinks being Fino, a variety of sherries and bourbon.

Scotch Whisky legally is refined in Scotland and left for a a minimum of 3 years before it can be called “Scotch Whisky”. Most Scotch Whisky matures for a long time. A twenty five year duration is not uncommon. This is a part of the process. The prolonged period enables the micro climate around each distillery to work it’s magic on the meeting of the porous wood and the scotch whisky. The individual and distinctive character of each Scottish whisky is created.

2% of the Scotch whisky in each cask evaporates and is lost. Commonly known as the “angels’ share“, which means that the air around the distilleries is nice and healthy!

One should note unlike wine, scotch whisky does not mature further once it is in the bottle. If someone you know receives a gift of a 25 year old malt scotch whisky an option is to drink it rather than store it in your drinks cabinet.

Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch7. The Art Of Blending

The Single Malts is popular around the world, partly because the consumer is aware that over 90% of Scotch whisky sold worldwide is in blended form. Andrew Usher invented the blending process in 1853 and at the beginning of the 20th Century the blended whisky formula was introduced with success.A complex task of creating a combination of Single Malt grain whiskies to make a blended whisky is left to the Master Blender.

The Art of Blending has been described in several ways. Likened to painting a picture, holding a dinner party to conducting an orchestra. Essentially the Blender is bringing  together different components and creating a harmonious system.

“Nosing” is the technique the blender uses. This is done in a shaped glass similar to a tulip, designed to enhance further the aroma of the whisky blend. Bringing together 40 or 50 different whiskies- from the Highland and Speyside scotch whisky malts to the unique flavoured peaty Island scotch whisky malts, and the softer and lighter Lowland scotch whisky malts. Malt with no grain whisky included, is known as vatted malts. These vatted malts are usually combined with grain whiskies – typically 60-80% grain whiskies to 20-40% malt whiskies, and are then left to combine in casks for a further 6 to 8 months to make blended whisky.

The Scotch whisky product is quite a rare creation. It has been likened to “perfection in a glass”. Scotch Whisky tasting activities for is run at selected venues in Scotland and also in London primarily. One has the opportunity to taste the finest whiskey that is available and promoted by the Scottish Whiskey Society. Most of the tastings require you to get membership online to the Society and purchase a ticket for the scotch whisky tasting.There are many Scotch whisky stores online where one can take a virtual tour of a scotch whisky distillery and look at the products that are available. For scotch whiskey the emphasis seems to be on the aroma and the distinct characteristics it’s unique and natural scotch whiskey flavor. New scotch whisky products are promoted online. As the scotch whiskey product is popular you will find a varied selection of scotch whisky products to choose from. The Scotch Whisky Association have an environmental strategy that they work with renewable goals being the focus. League tables currently state Scotch whisky Johnnie Walker has been named the world’s leading alcoholic drink. Nearly 10,000 brands of spirits and wines were researched to draw up a list of the 100 most powerful. The growth of Scotch whisky is mostly down to the rising middle classes.

There is no right or wrong way to drink Scotch whisky, personal taste is a factor. Those who drink Scotch Whisky neat say they don’t want to spoil the taste.  Some have reported back that adding a touch of water, particularly if it is pure, soft spring water, (ideally the same spring water used in the making of the particular scotch whisky!) serves to enhance the distinctive aroma and flavor of a scotch whisky. It is usually possible to distinguish in which region of Scotland a particular whisky was made. Cooking with scotch whisky is also popular. Recipes which contain scotch whisky include Atholl Brose Pudding, Orange Whisky Butter, Orange Whisky Cream, Scottish Whisky Fruit Cake and a few others.

The Scotch Whisky product is protected by the Scotch Whisky Association. To promote Scotch Whisky as a quality product made from natural raw materials is a primary aim of the organization. Scotland is the home of Scotch Whisky. Scotland has a significant number of scotch distilleries in the world. The process of making malt scotch whisky is interesting as outlined in this article. The two main products produced at the distillery are Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Blended Malt Scotch Whisky. One can find quite a few scotch whisky locations in Scotland. Scotch malt whisky as an alcohol product has an economic role to play in Scotland. The scotch whisky should be enjoyed in a responsible manner. The Scotch Whisky Association is involved in policy developments regarding the product. Political and media interest surround the product Scotch Whisky. The Scotch Whisky Association last year celebrated it’s centenary. if one looks at the history of the development of scotch whisky because of rising taxes for social reforms the association historically came into being specifically representing scotch whisky.