How is Whisky made?

How is Whisky made?

There are three raw materials to make whisky: water, barley and yeast. If there were no barley in the process, there wouldn’t be where to extract the sugar for the yeast fermentation.

Water is the main element, where everything is going to be mixed, the chemical processes are going to be produced within it.

The ingredients



Water is a very important determining factor; its quality can define the result of the drink. Generally, it’s obtained from abundant and natural sources such as rivers, streams, springs or caves.

It’s the medium that stimulates the barley and where the must is created. It must be pure water, suitable for drinking, not contaminated, mineral, and have organic matter.


An example of an ideal water source is the Spey river, the second-longest in Scotland and the most important for whisky production.



The base of whisky are cereal grains, they can be wheat, oats, rye, or corn. But single malt Scotch whisky must be made from barley, other parts of the world use blends of grains in different proportions.

Barley provides food for yeast, it contains starch, which is basically sugar, the essential ingredient to activate yeast fungi.


Before starting the process, when it’s ripe, it’s harvested, dried, and stored; so that it can germinate when it’s going to be used, this process is called malting.



They’re very small living microorganisms, that feed on sugar; When they eat the sugar, a chemical process starts in which carbon dioxide is released and alcohol is produced.

They must be in ideal conditions for them to wake up, that is, humidity, heat, and food.


There are many yeast strains used to ferment the must, each one can provide different characteristics and influence the taste.

The process



MaltedProduction begins with the malting process, in which the barley is forced to germinate. When the barley reaches the distillery, it’s immersed in water until it reaches a percentage of humidity.

Then comes the drying, there are those who do it by spreading it on the ground until it’s dry.

The idea is to trick the barley grain into believing that it’s spring, at which time the plants germinate.

When germination begins, the complex enzymes that are used develop, they release starch, that is, the grain’s food to grow.

After getting the grain’s germination to begin, the process must be stopped, this is done by applying heat.

In some regions of Scotland, they’re made with peat-based ovens, which is a vegetable fuel formed by decomposing matter, this gives a characteristic flavor to malt whisky; It’s extracted from the earth, it’s put to dry in the sun and you get some kind of coal burned by the ovens.

The barley expands in the oven; the smoke permeates the barley giving it flavor. Once dry, it’s ground in rollers to obtain a sweet malted barley flour.


Now comes the maceration, hot water and malt flour are combined in containers. It should be an ideal environment for the sugar in the mixture to dissolve properly; very hot water will kill the enzymes and very cold water will not help the process.



The resulting liquid is drained, cooled, and taken to fermentation containers, they can be made of stainless steel or pine wood. This is the moment when the yeast comes into play, in this process it begins to feed on the sugar in the mixture, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide that is expelled out of the tanks.


Second and more complex fermentation takes place inside the container, this time with bacteria, different chemical reactions influence on the substance’s flavor.


The next step is the distillation, it’s done in alembics, it consists of subjecting the mixture to heat to separate its components. Basically, the substance is heated until the alcohol boils, the alcohol vapor is taken to another alembic through pipes, where it condenses, producing a liquid with a lower alcoholic degree. The process is repeated again until a substance with a higher grade is obtained.


The most used method in Scotland is called batch distillation, but in each country, it’s done in different ways.


Finally, after the end of the established time in barrels, it’s extracted, and if necessary depending on the type of whisky, it’s bottled directly or reduced with water to reduce its alcoholic grade by volume.


Most of the world’s production, destined for companies that are in charge of making blended whisky, is transported directly in the barrels to the companies in charge of this type of blending.


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