How is Scotch Made? Malted Barley and Yeast — Oh My!

Scotch is made with… great attention to detail! But seriously now, just how is scotch made?! Well it’s certainly not an overnight process. Let’s take a look together.

Whisky in a Glass by Keith F. Knasiak

Photo Credit: -Keith F. Knasiak

Scotch whisky, unlike American Whiskey, is actually spelled without the “e”. An important point to remember when you’re speaking with experts in the field. Although more often than not, it’s referred to simply as “Scotch.”

In order to be classified as Scotch whisky, the liquor must originate from Scotland, and be made from malt barley. In the late 18th century, more established commercial distilleries began introducing more whiskies made from wheat and rye.

Five main categories of Scotch Whisky include:

  • Single Malt
  • Single Grain
  • Blended Malt (formerly known as “vatted” or “pure” malt)
  • Blended Grain
  • Blended Scotch Whisky

It’s also required that all whiskies be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. Any statement of age presented on a bottle, expressed as a number, must represent the age of the youngest whisky used to make that product.

To be called “Scotch”, a liquor must be made in Scotland from malted barley and water. Only whole grains of other cereals can be added to this. These all need to have been processed at that distillery into a mash, converted at said distillery into a substrate that is capable of fermenting. The only material that can be used to initiate fermentation is yeast. Additionally, the final product must sport an alcoholic strength volume of less than 94.8% (190 proof in the USA). It then must mature in oak casks, in Scotland, for at least three years!

Here’s a great video that covers the basics in under 5 minutes 🙂

Single malt Scotch Whisky is made from only water and malted barley while single grain Scotch may involve additional whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals. Both are produced in a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills. When some of these whiskies are blended together it’s called a “blended Scotch whisky.”

Did we leave out anything crucial? Let us know in the comments section below!

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