Singlemalt

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A description of the process of malt whisky making. This presentation was made after a stay at Springbank Whisky School

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Singlemalt

  1. 1. THE MAKING OF SINGLE MALT WHISKY by Joan Mitjavila
  2. 2. The making of single malt whisky: Basic ingredients <ul><li>Barley: Distilleries usually use barley from East Scotland – Optic, Chariot i Golden Promise are the most common varieties used. </li></ul><ul><li>The type of barley may have an influence on the whisky produced. </li></ul>
  3. 3. The making of single malt whisky: Basic ingredients <ul><li>Water: Each distillery has its own water source. </li></ul><ul><li>Water is present in most of the stages of whisky making. </li></ul>Photo: Water source at Lagavulin
  4. 4. The making of single malt whisky: Malting <ul><li>Barley is taken to the distillery – if it carries the malting process on site . </li></ul><ul><li>Many distilleries buy already malted barley – with some specific characteristics (related to smokiness etc…). </li></ul>Photo: Barley containers at Springbank
  5. 5. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (steeping) <ul><li>The barley is steeped in water and drained several times for a period of 2 or 3 days (the barley contains a 46 – 48% moisture and is ready to germinate) </li></ul>Photo: Steeping floor at Springbank
  6. 6. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (germination) <ul><li>The barley is then taken to the malting floors where it is allowed to germinate for about six days </li></ul><ul><li>The barley is spread forming a layer of 10 to 15 cm deep depending on the time of the year </li></ul>Photo: Malting floors at Springbank
  7. 7. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (germination) <ul><li>During the germination process heat is generated </li></ul><ul><li>The grains are turned and grubbed in order to keep their temperature between 15º and 20 ºC </li></ul>Photo: Turning the barley at Springbank
  8. 8. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (kilning) <ul><li>After the barley has germinated for about six days the process has to be stopped. The objective is to obtain the biggest amount of soluble starches which will be needed later in the wort production. </li></ul>Photo: Germinated barley or green malt Springbank
  9. 9. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (kilning) <ul><li>In order to stop the germination process the barley is transferred to an oven - named “kiln”. The kiln has a mesh floor which allows the smoke or hot air (generated below) to get in. </li></ul>Photo: Transferring the barley into the kiln at Springbank
  10. 10. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (kilning) <ul><li>Hot air or peat fire may be used to dry the green malt </li></ul><ul><li>The drying of the green malt has a very important influence on the whisky taste (in terms of smokiness) </li></ul>Photo: Peat fire at Springbank
  11. 11. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (kilning) <ul><li>Peat is found in wet, marshy areas – it was the traditional fuel used in Scotland or Ireland. </li></ul><ul><li>Peat burns slowly and it produces a lot of smoke with a peculiar, deep smell. </li></ul>Photo: Peat near Bowmore in Islay
  12. 12. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (kilning) <ul><li>At the beginning of the kilning process the temperature mustn’t be to high – otherwise the malt could be stewed. </li></ul><ul><li>If we want to obtain a non-smoky whisky then we should just dry the malt with hot air – usually for about 26h </li></ul>Photo: Fan and kiln at Springbank
  13. 13. The making of single malt whisky: Malting (kilning) <ul><li>If we want to produce a more or less smoky whisky then we may dry the grain with a peat fire (complemented by a period of hot air). In this case the process may last from 36 to 48 hours </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes wet peat is used in order to produce more smoke </li></ul>Photo: Peat at Springbank
  14. 14. The making of single malt whisky: Storing the malt <ul><li>After the kilning process the barley moisture ranges from 4 to 6% </li></ul><ul><li>The malt is left to cool down and is kept in storage bins for at least one month </li></ul>Photo: Malted barley bins at Springbank
  15. 15. The making of single malt whisky: Milling <ul><li>During the milling process the malt is crushed to obtain husk (about 20%), grits (about 70%) and flour (about 10%) </li></ul><ul><li>Malted milled barley is called grist </li></ul>Photo: Mill at Springbank
  16. 16. <ul><li>The grist is mixed with water in order to extract the maximum amount of fermentable sugars </li></ul><ul><li>The mashing process takes place in a big round stainless steel vessel called mashing tun. </li></ul><ul><li>In most distilleries this is where the whisky making process begins </li></ul>The making of single malt whisky: Mashing Photo: Mashing process at Springbank
  17. 17. The making of single malt whisky: Mashing <ul><li>Mashing has to take place at a temperature of 63 – 65º C. The proportion is four units of water per unit of barley </li></ul><ul><li>Once the mashing tun is filled the process lasts for about 20 minutes and then the water – called wort – is drained and stored </li></ul>Photo: Mashing process at Springbank
  18. 18. The making of single malt whisky: Mashing <ul><li>The mashing process is repeated four times. </li></ul><ul><li>The wort obtained in the first two mashings (first and second waters) will be used in the next process. The third and fourth waters are kept for the next mashing. </li></ul><ul><li>The solid waste, called draff, is used to feed cattle </li></ul>Photo: Mashing tun at Ardbeg
  19. 19. The making of single malt whisky: Mashing <ul><li>El liquid obtained after the mashing process – called wort – has a sweet cereal taste. </li></ul><ul><li>4000 to 5500 litres of wort are obtained for each ton of barley used in the mashing </li></ul>Photo: Wort at Springbank
  20. 20. The making of single malt whisky: Fermentation <ul><li>Wort – cooled down to 16º C – is taken to some big containers, made of wood or stainless steel, called washbacks. </li></ul><ul><li>Each washback may contain about 20.000 litres of wort </li></ul>Photo: Washbacks at Ardbeg
  21. 21. The making of single malt whisky: Fermentation <ul><li>When all the wort is in the washbacks yeast is added - Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (about 75kg) </li></ul><ul><li>During the fermentation process the temperature rises from 16-20º C until 34º C. Higher temperatures should be avoided as they would destroy the yeast cell. </li></ul>Photo: Yeast at Springbank
  22. 22. The making of single malt whisky: Fermentation <ul><li>The fermentation takes places during a minimum of 48 hours, however the process may be longer. At Springbank the process lasts for 70 hours. </li></ul><ul><li>First it consists of an aerobic fermentation (the yeast cells use sugars to grow) and then of an anaerobic one. </li></ul>Photo: Washbacks at Springbank
  23. 23. The making of single malt whisky: Fermentation <ul><li>During the process of anaerobic fermentation CO2, heat and alcohol (from 5 to 10%) are generated by the yeast. </li></ul><ul><li>The liquid produced after the fermentation is called wash </li></ul>Photo: Washbacks at Ardbeg
  24. 24. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>When the wash is ready to be distilled it is pumped to a container, called wash receiver , usually placed next to the stills </li></ul>Photo: Wash receiver at Springbank
  25. 25. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>The stills are different in each distillery and it is said that their shape is important to give an own character to the whisky produced in the distillery. </li></ul><ul><li>Usually the whiskies are distilled two or three times </li></ul>Photo: Stills at Springbank
  26. 26. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>To obtain the distillation copper stills are used. Traditionally they were heated by naked flame usually from the burning of gas or coal. Nowadays they are usually heated by internal steam coils. </li></ul><ul><li>The objective of the distillation is to separate water and alcohol (it boils at about 80º C) </li></ul>Photo: Still at Ardbeg
  27. 27. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>The still where the first distillation takes place is called wash still; it is slightly bigger than the rest of stills. </li></ul>Photo: Stills at Glen Ord
  28. 28. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>The evaporated alcohol passes through the upper part of the still – the swan neck – and enters the condenser where alcoholic vapours will turn into liquid . The liquids remaining at the wash still, called spent lees or pot ale are to be transformed into cattle food. </li></ul><ul><li>The produce from the first distillation is called low wines and it has 20 – 25 % alcohol. </li></ul>Photo: Condensers at Springbank
  29. 29. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>Els low wines will go through a second – and sometimes a third – distillation which takes place at the spirit stills. </li></ul><ul><li>In this second distillation the stillman must retain the middle cut . He has to discard the heads, which contain too much high volatility alcohol (80%), and the tails which contain heavy elements that might unbalance the whisky. </li></ul>Photo: Stills at Laphroaig
  30. 30. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>The condensers are connected to a kind of box called spirit safe which allows the stillman to control the process . </li></ul><ul><li>The stillman retains the middle cut when the alcohol degree drops at a given temperature. </li></ul>Photo: Spirit safe at Laphroaig
  31. 31. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>The stillman uses thermometers and hydrometers to determine the alcohol purity. </li></ul><ul><li>Part of the heads and les tails go back to the low wines container to be used in the next distillation </li></ul>Photo: Spirit safe a Springbank
  32. 32. The making of single malt whisky: Distillation <ul><li>The distilled liquid, new spirit, is taken to a big container called “spirit receiver” </li></ul><ul><li>The new spirit is colourless and has an alcohol degree from 60 % to 78 %, depending on the type of distillation, the average being 70 % </li></ul>Photo: Spirit receiver at Springbank
  33. 33. The making of single malt whisky: Storing <ul><li>Usually the new spirit is reduced to a strength of 63,5% - using water – before being casked. </li></ul>Photo: Casks ready to be filled at Springbank
  34. 34. The making of single malt whisky: Storing <ul><li>Afterwards the new spirit is put in the cask </li></ul><ul><li>The label “Scotch Whisky” can only be used when the spirit has been in a cask (smaller than 700 litre capacity) for at least 3 years in Scotland </li></ul>Photo: Cask filling at Springbank
  35. 35. The making of single malt whisky: Maturation <ul><li>The casks have a key role in the maturation process. Usually ex-sherry or bourbon casks are used – both of them made of oak. </li></ul><ul><li>The casks have a capacity of 200 (barrel), 250 (hogshead) or 500 (butt) litres. They may be used once or several times. The fact of being a first fill or a refill has a big influence on the whisky produced. </li></ul>Photo: Bourbon cask at Springbank
  36. 36. The making of single malt whisky: Maturation <ul><li>The casks are kept in warehouses – usually next to the distillery. The maturation process tends to range from 10 a 20 years </li></ul><ul><li>Every year 2% of the cask content is lost through evaporation </li></ul>Photo: Cask storing at Springbank
  37. 37. The making of single malt whisky: Maturation <ul><li>Sometimes more than one cask is used in the maturation process. </li></ul><ul><li>Recently cask from different origins have been used (rhum, madeira casks etc…) to add other flavours to whisky </li></ul>Photo: A warehouse at Springbank
  38. 38. The making of single malt whisky: Maturation <ul><li>The cask has a key influence on the colour, the aroma and the taste of the whisky </li></ul><ul><li>The environment where the whisky maturation takes place is also important as the spirit will be influenced by external elements as humidity, heat, climate… </li></ul>Photo: Lagavulin distillery and its surroundings
  39. 39. The making of single malt whisky: Bottling <ul><li>Whisky may be bottled straight from the cask – then it will be called single cask whisky . </li></ul><ul><li>However the main brands aim to obtain more standardised products (12, 15 year old malts etc...). </li></ul>Photo: Casks at Bunnahabhain
  40. 40. The making of single malt whisky: Bottling <ul><li>If the bottler wishes to obtain a standard, consistent whisky several casks are vatted in a big container. </li></ul><ul><li>The vatted whisky is allowed to “marry” for some time and then is taken back to the casks for six months. </li></ul>Photo: Vatting container at Springbank
  41. 41. The making of single malt whisky: Bottling <ul><li>If a whisky is labelled 12 years old single malt it contains whisky which is 12 years or older. </li></ul><ul><li>Some whiskies age perfectly well while others may decay with time – becoming too woody. The distillery owners should know what to bottle and when to do it </li></ul>Photo: Whisky sampling at Springbank
  42. 42. The making of single malt whisky: Bottling <ul><li>Often water is added to the whisky to reduce its alcohol degree to the desired percentage – usually 40 o 43 %. </li></ul><ul><li>If no water is added then the whisky is called cask strength </li></ul>Photo: Taking whisky samples before bottling at Springbank
  43. 43. The making of single malt whisky: Bottling <ul><li>Before bottling the whisky is checked again to verify its alcohol degree. </li></ul>Photo: Checking the the degree of whisky alcohol at Springbank
  44. 44. The making of single malt whisky: Bottling <ul><li>There are very few distilleries that have their own bottling plant. Usually whisky bottling is carried out outside the distillery. </li></ul>Photo: Bottling Hall at Springbank
  45. 45. The making of single malt whisky: Bottling <ul><li>A final revision of the product and the packaging is done at this stage. </li></ul>
  46. 46. The making of single malt whisky: Bottling <ul><li>After this final process the whisky is ready to be sold at stores. </li></ul>Photo: Cadenhead’s boxes at Springbank - © Joan Mitjavila 2008 - © Photographs: Joan Mitjavila

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