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Whisky: The Production

The production of whisky is a unique combination of several factors. These factors include the quality of the base product, the manner in which it’s distilled and the years it is stored in oak barrels.

Barley is at the base of the whiskey production. The quality of the barley has a great influence on the quality of the end product. Water is also one of the most important ingredients in the process of making whiskey and thus the purity of the water is very important. The difference in taste between whiskies from different countries is partly due to the quality of water used. Water is used in several steps during the distillation process, it is mixed with the grinded malt, it is used for cooling the alcohol and to  reduce the alcohol at bottling.

The production starts with Malting. During this process, top-quality barley is steeped into water and spread on the malting floor to allow it to germinate. Germination is changing the grain slowly into malt where the starch in the grain is made ready to be converted into sugars. Later the sugar will be converted into spirits. Malting takes between eight and twenty one days and is ended by drying the barley over a fire in an oven or a kiln. The end product is called malt.

The malt is then grinded to make a flour type product called “grist”. The grist is mixed with hot water into the “mash tun”. A mash tun is a tank with rotating blades and double bottom with thin perforations to let the sugared liquid, resulting from the brewing operation, to flow out. The sugared liquid is called wort.

During fermentation the wort is mixed with yeast. The combination of the wort and the yeast will produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. After two to three days fermentation is complete, leaving behind a beer-like liquid called wash, which contains 8-9% alcohol by volume.

Distillation is the process of separating alcohol from water and other substances contained in the wash. The wash is distilled twice. The first wash distillation produces a liquid with a low level of alcohol known as low wines, which is then re-distilled in the spirit still. During this second distillation only the pure centre cut, which is about 65% alcohol by volume, is collected in the spirit receiver.


The newly distilled, colorless spirit is filled in oak casks. During maturation, the whisky becomes smoother and more flavorsome, drawing its golden color from the cask. By law the whisky must be matured for a minimum of three years, but most single malts stay in the wood for 8 years or more.