Scottish single malt whisky comes in four varieties, based on where it is distilled. The four whisky regions of Scotland are the Highlands, the Lowlands, Islay, and Speyside. Each region has a distinctive nose and flavor, and each individual whisky adds its own elements, based on the equipment, the ingredients, the location of the distillery, and the production process.

Whisky Production

The production of whisky has six main steps. First, the barley used must be malted, after which it is mashed, fermented, distilled twice, and finally matured.

  • Malting the Barley

    The barley used in Scottish single malt whisky must first be germinated. It is soaked in tanks of water for several days before being spread out on the floor of the malting house. As the barley germinates, it produces heat, and so it must be turned over regularly to prevent too much heat from building up. This is usually done by throwing it into the air with wooden shovels. When the barley has germinated enough (anywhere from two days to a week), it is now called green mash. It is put in kilns, where it is dried over peat fires, stopping the germination process. The temperatures are kept low, to prevent the breakdown of enzymes produced during germination, which will convert the starch in the green mash to sugar.

  • Mashing

    After the barley has completely dried out, it is ground finely, and mixed with hot water in a mash tun. The water is added in stages, gradually getting hotter. After the starch in the barley has dissolved into the hot water, and the used grain is strained out, the liquid is known as wort.

  • Fermentation

    After mashing, the wort is cooled and moved into a washback, a vessel used to hold the wort while it ferments. Yeast is added, and the fermentation process begins. The yeast break down the sugars in the wort, changing them into alcohol. After about two days, the fermented liquid, now called wash, is six to eight percent alcohol by volume, and is ready for distillation.

  • Primary Distillation

    The wash is moved into pot stills, made of copper, for distillation. Each still is shaped slightly differently, and so distills the wash differently. For this reason, distilleries avoid changing the shape of their still, to preserve the unique flavor of their whisky. The temperature in the still is raised to just below the boiling point of water. This allows the alcohol and other chemicals in the wash to vaporize. As the vapors travel out of the still, they are condensed, using a water cooled copper coil.

  • Secondary Distillation

    The distillate, known as low wines, is then passed into a spirit still for the final distillation. This step is much more demanding, as the stillman has to avoid collecting all but the "middle cut". The "foreshots," volatile compounds which evaporate before the alcohol, and "feints," oily compounds that come after, need to be separated from the middle cut. These are returned to the spirit still to be redistilled with the next run. The result of the secondary distillation is a colorless liquid about 68% alcohol by volume.

  • Maturation

    After being reduced to 63% alcohol by volume by the addition of pure Scottish spring water, the distillate is put in casks for maturation. The previous contents of the casks, commonly sherry, bourbon, or whisky, will impart the whisky with most of its flavor. To be called Scotch whisky, the whisky must age a minimum of three years in the cask, in Scotland, but most whiskies are aged more, often twelve to twenty-five years. After it has aged, the whisky is bottled and sold.

Whisky Regions

Foriegn Single Malts

In addition to the single malt whiskys produced in Scotland, which are classified as Single Malt Scotch, there are several other single malt whiskys produced in other countries. As mentioned above, these are not true 'Scotch', as they are not aged in Scotland, but are often marketed as such.

sources for this node
The Scotch Whisky Association. The Scotch Whisky Association 07/23/02
Water of Life. The Scotch Whisky Heritage Society. 07/23/02

forty years in a barrel would make anybody cranky and you don't have the friends you used to and your children stopped coming to visit and your kitchen table wobbles because the matchbooks you use to steady it keep getting used for other things and replaced when you remember (which is never) so your coffee cup shakes on its own and you gave up on trying to add sugar when you glazed your table like a ham

but it's worth it (it's probably worth it) for when your kids do come to visit and they take the food from your freezer and they bring you ice cream and new socks and they get mad at you for not voting but the bus the city offers for the elderly stops up over the hill and it's just too much

it's worth it it just is, because if it isn't, well that would be something for the grandkids, wouldn't it?

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