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The Stages in Producing Scotch Single Malt Whisky
The Barley is steeped in water and then allowed to germinate and release the sugars and starches.
Traditionally this process is then halted by drying the barley over a fire in pagoda-shaped kilns. The barley is now called malted barley.
A Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the creation of one specific malt whisky distillery and has not been mixed with whisky from any other malt distilleries
Made from Malted Barley a malt whisky is a batch production method created in copper stills a session at a time.
The malted barley is then milled to form a grist that is mixed with hot water and fed into a mash tun.
The soluble starch is thus converted into a sugary liquid known as worts, which are drawn off from the mash tun for fermentation.
The cooled worts are then pumped into the large vessels known
as washbacks, to which yeast is added. This quickly ferments the sugars in the worts.
When fermentation is complete, generally in about two days, a weak alcohol solution, similar to beer, is produced, with an alcoholic strength of about 8%.
The wash is then pumped into the wash still, the first of two copper
pot stills employed in the distillation process. The product of the first distillation, low wines, has a low alcohol content (20%).
The low wines then flow into the spirit still for a second distillation. The stillman takes more care of the second distillation as only the heart, or "middle cut", of the spirit flow will be collected as new spirit. This takes place as the spirit flows through a spirit safe,
The first runnings from the still (foreshots) and tails (feints) are returned for re-distillation with the next batch of low wines.
The spirit from this still will have an alcohol content of 70-75%. It is reduced to 63% before being put into the cask.
The newly distilled spirit is filled into oak casks and transferred
to warehouses to mature, thus softening and enhancing the flavour. During this process, as much as 2% of the spirit in the casks evaporates each year: this is known as the angels' share.
To be called Scotch Whisky, spirit must age in oak casks in Scotland for a minimum of three years, however, Scotch Whisky is often matured for longer.
After maturation the whisky is either reduced in strength by the addition of soft water or bottled at cask strength. Once bottled, it will not mature further.