Scotch whisky

Scotch whisky is the name with which is commonly recognized the distillate produced in the Scottish territory. Whisky is a distillate whose origin is still shrouded in mystery; its invention is still disputed between Scotland and Ireland, whose name derives from an anglicization of Irish Gaelic "uisce" or Scottish Gaelic "uisge", and means water. The richness and peculiarity of Scotch whisky resides in its raw materials, the three fundamental pillars, besides yeast, of Scotch whisky: barley, pure spring water and peat.

The whisky production process is made of 5 different phases: malting, infusion, fermentation, distillation and maturation. In the first process, barley is immersed in water for a couple of days, until it begins to germinate; this process is done in order to facilitate the subsequent fermentation. Once germinated, the barley is put in kilns, big rooms with a perforated floor, in which underneath there is a source of heat (usually fire) which dries the barley; in the fire sometimes is also added, or substituted, peat, which gives it this unique peaty/smoky character.

Peat is a raw material for Scotch whisky and it is made by decomposing vegetal remains: in environments rich in water, acid and cold, they cannot decompose completely. The incomplete decomposition therefore creates a solid substance, with a carbonic consistency (peat is, in fact, one of the first stages of the formation of coal). The second phase is that of infusion, or "mashing", in which the barley is ground until it becomes a powder called "grist" and is immersed in large tanks with hot water. Here an arm, usually mechanical, mixes the two elements until most of the sugars of the barley are in the liquid solution; the final sugary liquid is called "wort".

At this point, after having separated the solid waste (which is also transformed into pellets), the wort is transferred in fermentation tanks, in which yeasts are added and fermented for some days, variable according to the style every single distillery wants to give to its scotch whisky. After fermentation, when the wort has reached an alcohol by volume of just 9 percent, the first distillation is done in copper pot stills in order to obtain a liquid with an alcohol by volume of just 20 percent, called "low wine"; the latter is put in a second still, smaller than the first one, for the second distillation, where the head and tails are separated from the heart, for a final alcohol by volume between 60 and 70 percent.

Once the distillation process is completed, which sometimes is made of more than two distillations, in order to be defined Scotch Whisky, besides being diluted with pure water in order to diminish the alcohol by volume, it must be aged for a minimum of 3 years, according to Scottish laws. The aging process leads, on average, to the evaporation of 2% of whisky from the cask, evaporated liquid which is called "Angel's Share". According to the different aging, to the age of the cask and to the previous use of the cask, it can be created Scotch whiskies having a very different character and aromas.

In the label, the word "Scotch whisky" can be accompanied by other terms, which can often cause confusion:

 "Single Malt", stands for Scotch is produced by a single distillery;

"Pure Malt Whisky", indicates the distillate is produced by only barley;

"Single Barrel Malt", when the whisky comes from a single cask;

"Blended Scotch Whisky", when it is made from malt whisky with a prevalence of whisky from other cereals.

In Scotland, where Single Malt is at home, there are as many as six different production areas, where each of them gives life to Scotch whiskies with a unique character:

Highland, their whiskies are known for being smooth and just slightly smoky; Glenmorangie and Arbikie whiskies come from this region;

Lowland, is the region where the lightest and least smoked Single Malts of all are produced;

Speyside, is the valley around the Spey river, are produced some of the best whiskies of Scotland; some of its expressions are, for example, Glenfiddich and Glenallachie;

Islay, is a region known for its unmistakable peat whiskies; some examples are Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroiag, Caol Ila and many others;

Island, includes Single Malts produced in all Scottish islands, among these there are Talisker whiskies;

Campbeltown, is probably the least known region, it gives life to very full bodied whiskies.

Scroll down and discover the selection of the best Scotch whiskies.

 

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