Whisky (Scotch) or whiskey
(Irish) is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain
mash. They all are distilled from
various and/or specific grains (corn, wheat, rye, oats, and barley) and aged in
barrels. Each grain has a different sugar content level, which is ultimately
converted to alcohol. They are all at least 40% alcohol by volume. The
difference between types of whiskies like bourbon, rye or scotch is a bit more
complex. Along with country of origin, the type of whiskey or whisky is also
determined by the grain used in the distillation process. Different grains
produce different taste characteristics. Whisk(e)y is the general overlying
term to categorize them all. Basically, they’re all whiskeys. The main 5
whiskey types are as follows:

o  
Scotch
– Scotland

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o  
Bourbon
– US

o  
Irish
Whiskey – Ireland

o  
Canadian
Whiskey – Canada

o  
Japanese
Whisky – Japan

 

Scotch
Whisky is a distilled spirit made in Scotland from cereals, water and yeast. It is a product renowned for
its quality, craft and heritage. The regulations, which govern the production
of Scotch whisky, are the solid foundation on which the industry’s success is
built, generating over £4bn in exports to almost 200 markets worldwide in 2016. The rules allow the use of
only a very limited set of ingredients in making Scotch (water, yeast, cereal
grains) and other aspects of production, such as maturation and labelling, are
strictly governed making it one of the most tightly regulated spirit category
in the world.

Production Process

The production process of Scotch whisky, as
specified by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is described briefly below:

 

Whisky is made by a simple, traditional batch
process, from natural raw materials: malted barley, water and yeast.

 

Malting

Barley must be malted – steeped in water and
then traditionally spread out on a malting floor and allowed to germinate. This
process provides a source of starch, which can be converted into soluble sugars,
which can then be turned into alcohol. During this malting process, which lasts
about a week, the barley starts to sprout. It is stopped by drying the barley
in a large oven, the kiln – sometimes by burning peat, which gives some whiskies
a distinctive, smokey flavour.

 

Mashing

The dried malt is ground in a mill and the
crushed grain or grist is mixed with hot water in a mash tun. Sugars from the
malt dissolve and create a sugary liquid known as wort which can be turned into
alcohol. The remaining solids are not wasted, being removed for use as
nutritious cattle feed.

 

Fermentation

The wort passes into large vessels – washbacks
– where it is fermented by adding yeast. The yeast converts the sugar in the
wort, turning it into alcohol and creating what is known as the wash, a liquid
of around 8% abv.

 

Distillation

The wash is then distilled twice in
distinctive copper pot stills, once in the wash still and once in the spirit
still, which act like large kettles. As the liquid is heated, alcohol vapours
rise and pass over the head of the wash still before being guided through
condensers and returning to liquid. The resulting spirit, the low wines, is
forwarded to the spirit still where distillation is repeated. Only the heart of
the run – high quality usable spirit – is then collected in the spirit safe.

 

Maturation

The new-make spirit is then filled into oak
casks. By law, it cannot be Scotch Whisky until it has matured in Scotland for
at least 3 years. As the spirit matures in the cask, it will develop further
flavour characteristics and its distinctive golden colour. Where a label
carries an age statement, all the whisky in the bottle must have matured in the
cask for at least that amount of time.

 

Different Malt Whiskies

Malt whisky produced at one distillery is sold
as “Single Malt Scotch Whisky”, and malt whiskies from more than one
distillery can be blended together to create “Blended Malt Scotch
Whisky”.

Scotch Whisky Categories (as per AWA
specifications)

 

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single
distillery (i) from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals,
and (ii) by batch distillation in pot stills.

 

Single Grain Scotch Whisky

A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single
distillery (i) from water and malted barley with or without whole grains of
other malted or unmalted cereals, and (ii) which does not comply with the
definition of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

 

Blended Scotch Whisky

A blend of one or more Single Malt Scotch
Whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.

 

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

A blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, which
have been distilled at more than one distillery.

 

Blended Grain Scotch Whisky

A blend of Single Grain Scotch Whiskies, which
have been distilled at more than one distillery.

 

 

Scotch may be the largest category of whisky in terms of variety based
on process, ingredients, and region. Scotland has more distilleries than any
other country. Single malts must be matured in Scotland for at least 3 years in
oak barrels, and are produced at a single distillery, using only malted barley
as grain, distilled in copper pot stills. This causes them to be more expensive
and individualistic. “Blended scotches” are more mellow, easier to drink, but more
difficult to make. Blend masters receive whisky from all over Scotland and must
create a mixture that tastes consistent with what was produced the year before,
even though the ingredients have changed. The blending smoothes out the rough
edges and fills in gaps that are present in a single malt. Both varieties can
be delicious for different reasons