Ever wondered how the distillation process works, wonder no more. We’ve got your back. The steps below just simplify the process. It can sometimes be a little more complicated but we thought we’d give you the basics.
- Barley is the cereal grain of choice for scotch whisky.
- The barley is processed to remove any unwanted foreign matter.
- The barley is then soaked in large tanks of water for 2 or 3 days.
- After soaking, the barley is then laid out on a concrete floor to allow the germination process to begin.
- Germination takes a while longer, sometimes between 8 and 12 days depending on the time of year and the quality of the barley.
- During germination, the barley creates an enzyme that prepares it for conversion into sugar later.
- During germination, the barley is turned regularly to control the temperature and germination of the barley.
- The barley (now, malt) is then dried in a malt kiln.
Just how a typical traditional malting process would look like, nowadays distilleries can source their malt from outside ‘malteries’.
- The dried malt is then ground in a mill and mixed with hot water in the mash tun.
- The starch from the malt is converted into a sugary liquid called wort.
- The wort is then drawn off from the mash tun and the waste solids are then recycled and used as cattle feed.
We love a good mash up. We’re glad the waste mash doesn’t wasted, we love a good steak.
- After the wort has cooled, it is passed into the washbacks and the yeast is added to begin the fermentation process.
- The yeast attacks the sugar and converts it to alcohol, this normally takes about 48 hours.
- The liquid that is now in the washbacks in affectionately known as wash.
- The wash contains alcohol of low strength and other waste products from the fermentation process.
This is where it all starts to get freaky. Things are starting to warm up.
- The wash is then placed in copper pot stills and heated to the point where alcohol becomes a vapour.
- This vapour rises and is passed into the cooling tank and condensed back into a liquid.
- This process is usually done twice. The first is to separate the alcohol from the wash. The second is to fine-tune the spirit before collection.
- The good quality spirit is then collected in the spirit receiver to begin the maturation process.
- Towards the end of distillation, the spirit drops in strength and quality. This liquid is retained to go through the distillation process again.
Another perfect way to recycle leftovers, genius! We do like a bit of recycling.
Anyway, now you know the basics.