Scotch whisky is solely produced in Scotland, according to strict regulations. The 1988 scotch Whisky act forbids the production of whisky in Scotland which is not scotch.. According to this document Scotch Whisky can only be defined so, if it’s produced in a Scottish distillery using only water and malted barley (with the sole addition of cereal grains) and which is macerated in the same distillery; it must be distilled at an alcoholic gradation inferior to 94,8%to guarantee aroma and taste which comes from the raw materials used in their production method, it has to be aged in a Scottish storehouse, in oak barrels which can contain not more than 700 litres for no longer than 3 years; and lastly, no other substance must be added which is not water and eventually caramel. Scotch whisky is produced and distilled in isolated areas, in the wilderness, in the open countryside, or on the banks of lakes or streams. According to the area in which it’s produced, it acquires different characteristics. At the moment there are six areas where Scotch whisky is produced: the highlands, Islands, Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, and Lowlands.
There are three types of Scottish whisky: single malt (malted whisky) grain whisky, and blended whisky.
Malt whisky is made from malted barley, water, and yeast. The liquid is then distilled in enormous copper pot stills and subsequently refined in whisky barrels for at least three years. Single malt whisky is produced in only one distillery in the Scottish region. All Cuspid whisky is strictly single malt.
In this case malted barley is blended with ordinary barley with the addition of other grains such as corn and wheat. Water and yeast are added to the mixture and then it is distilled in a high still (Coffey still) which is very different to traditional stills. It produces a larger amount of alcohol at a superior gradation.
The production of blended whisky requires mixing different single malt with grain whisky which is a complex procedure. Blended whisky came about in the XIX century, when a choice was made to export a milder whisky compared to the traditional single malt. The mixing phase is a very delicate one, because each individual whisky coming from different distilleries has different characteristics which aren’t easy to combine together in one product.
How is whisky produced
1. MALTED BARLEY
The barley is immersed into tanks of water which are sitting on the malting processor, so as to aid germination and after that it is left to dry out in an oven before being grinded. Towards the end of the malting process, other than the hot air used to dry it out, the barley then undergoes the smoking process, by means of combustion of the peat. The smokegives the malted barley aroma and a strong peaty flavour which is typical of certain whisky. Since the 1970’s the malting process is not carried out within a distillery, but it is processed in mecchanical malthouses.
2. MIXING THE GROUND BARLEY AND ADDING THE YEAST
Ground barley which is called ’Grist’ is mixed with warm water in a container which is called a ‘mash tun’.The result is a sugary liquid, malted must, which is called ‘Wort’. It is then transferred into enormous tanks which are called washback, that’s when the yeast is added. At this point the liquid is left to ferment, and the sugar converts to alcoholic gradation – approximately at 8% proof. This liquid is called wash.
The wash is then heated in two copper stills, which are respectively called wash, still, and spirit still. Only the very best part of the alcoholic liquid produced is then poured into oak barrels and left to age. The distillate is then diluted (using the same water with which it was distilled) reaching a 64,5 gradation.
4. AGEING PROCESS
Which barrels are used for the ageing process? Normally they are oak, because it’s a porous type of wood – which means that it maintains all the previous components of the distillate or wine it contained before. Normally American (ex-bourbon) barrels are used, which give the distillate a golden colour and a sweet aroma; spanish barrels are also used (ex sherry, or in rarer cases, ex port or madeira), which acquirestronger colours and a long-lasting caramel flavour. Whilst ageing, the size of the barrel, and the climate in which it is preserved, makes a difference. Once the ageing process is over, the whisky can be diluted to a 40% alcoholic gradationthat’s the minimal legal requirement for it to be considered whisky). When whisky is not diluted, it is usually at approx 60%, it is called Cask Strength.
CANE SUGAR AND MOLASSES
The first raw material found in rum is sugar. Sugar- canes (Saccharum officinarium) grow in numerous varieties in the equitorial zone, and in tropical regions. They can be found in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, the Antilles, Hawai, central America, and South America. They are also found in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, China, India,in the islands of the Indian ocean, Australia,and southern Spain. The sugar- cane is picked after eleven months, before blooming.The tops and the leaves of the cane are disgarded in the fields. The other parts of the cane is quickly taken to the sugar plant to avoid any loss of sugar. Once the base of the sugar- cane is reduced to fibre, warm water is added to extract the sugary juice.The pressing of the sugar- cane yields two products. Cane juice (vesou) and ‘la bagassa’ which is made up of fibre residue and which is then used as fuel. Vesou rapidlyalters. It must be used quickly. It’s used to aid fermentation and to distill. That way the namely ‘rum agricole’ is obtained. If the suga-r cane is refined, a thick and sticky syrup is obtained called molasses, which is used to produce the most prestigious molasses rum.
CANE WINE AND ITS FERMENTATION
Yeast Is added to the wine must (molasses diluted with water or vesou) which ferments.The sugar turns into alcohol which becomes suga-r cane wine with an alcoholic gradation which goes from 8% to 10%. The fermentation of the sugar-cane wine is a fundemental phase which eventually establishes the aroma of the rum. It changes from region to region, which give the final distillate a very wide range of aroma. There are three types of fermentation:
Natural fermentation depends on the micro-organisms which are naturally present in the enviroment or in the sugar-cane juice. It is produced in tuns, in the open-air, and it may take from one to two weeks. Small distilleries, in particular in the area of Haiti, are still using this type of fermentation to produce rum today.
In this case, yeast that is grown in laboratories is used, and thereafter it is mixed with the must. This type of fermentation lasts two or three days and allows a certain amount of alcohol to riproduce constantly and it acquires a specific range of aromas. Many distilleries have been cultivating their own blocks of yeast for years, which in turn becomes their trademark for the rum that is subsequently produced.
In continuous fermentation process, typical in the rum industry, the fermentation vat is always full and is continuously fed with molasses. This allows the yeast to remain active and toaccelerate thetime taken to produce it, and the quantity produced.
THE CHOICE OF THE STILL
Rum is distilled through column stills (constantly processing) otherwise more traditionally known as (batch). The colonial history of each country often influences the choice made to use one form or the other of distillation. Therfore old british and French colonies still use copper batch stills today, whereas the ancient Spanish establishments prefer to use column stills. The type of rum produced depends upon the technique with which it is distilled. On the whole, we can say that heavier rum comes from batch stills ( where the heart of the distillate is collected between 68 and 70 alcoholic content) whereas in column stills lighter rum is produced. (The distillate is collected at more than 90 alcoholic content, leaving little room for impurities).
PASSED DISTILLATION (BATCH)
This technique requires continuous interruptions of the still, to clean it, and leave it to rest, before beginning a new distillation. I’s the most traditional method of distillation: it gives rum a superior quality, at the expense of the speed with which it is produced, typical of industrial time lengths.
COLUMN DISTILLATION (CONTINUOUS PROCESSING)
There is no need to pause when using two or three self-powered columns, once they have been filled. They are made upof different plates of concentration through which vapours circulate. Column distillation allows to accurately control the aromatic level of the rum. The lighter vapours reach up to the top plate of the column, whereas the heavier ones remain at the bottom plates.
Every country has its own method of producing rum. The aging period, distillation and receipes often differ from one country to another. The aging of rum can take place in ex-bourbon drums, but it can also be aged in ex-cognac barrels or even in new oak drums. Very rarely Europpean bottlers adopt certain similarities, they suggest Banyul, Porto, Xeres, or Madera barrels.