Single malt whisky is made from 3 basic ingredients:
- Malted barley (barley which has been soaked to promote the first stages of growth or germination, then dried to halt further growth)
- Water – usually spring water
These simple ingredients are combined and cooked in an age-old and complex process to produce a raw, high alcohol spirit called New Make Spirit (NMS). There is however, a tremendous skill and knowledge needed to produce quality whisky from grain to glass and with hundreds of years of history behind many distilleries, recipes are handed down through generations of stills men.
Each distillery selects (and protects), its particular strain of grain like Optic. Golden Promise and Chariot. Combined with their unique water sources and specific yeast varieties, it’s not hard to see how a common and well know distillation process can yield very different results. Add to this, the skill of the head distiller and the type of casks selected for maturation of the new spirit along with the physical location of the distillery which is affected by weather and you have all the components for a wide variety of whisky.
In the end, making whisky is part industrial process, part skill and part closely guarded knowledge. A combination of technology, myth and history. A great mixture which results in a fantastic choice for the customer and a feeling of true history in the brand.
For those that have visited a distillery for a tour, you will know that the best ones try (and usually succeed!), in marrying folklore, history, technical process and a sense of brand to provide us all with more than just a spirit in a bottle. The production process doesn’t tell the story of the whisky – just the steps needed to get that all important New Make Spirit, which in itself is unique to a distillery. Although all the ingredients are there, It’s after that a touch of magic happens to make the whisky we know and love.
The video below describes the production process, but doesn’t describe the skill, knowledge and love that goes into making fine single malt whisky.