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Issue 63 - Key processes

Whisky Magazine Issue 63
April 2007

 

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Key processes

In the latest in our series looking at the language of whisky, Dominic Roskrow looks at the letters E and F

When it comes to whisky-making you really can't help but use the F words. Some of the key distillery processes for making new make spirit require use of F words.

The first is fermentation – the process by which the solution containing water and the ground up malted barley (grist) known as ‘mash' is turned in to an alcoholic solution similar to beer and known as ‘wash'.

To make whisky you take barley, trick it in to growing so that it starts to sprout, then halt the process by drying it out. This barley is now said to be malted and the process has freed up the sugars, starches and enzymes that are necessary to for alcohol production.

The malt is ground in to rough flour and put in to a mash tun, where hot water is added. It's like making a giant cup of tea – the sugars, starches and enzymes are separated out in to the liquid and the grain husks are then drained off.

To this solution is added yeast, which feeds off the sugars and with the help of the enzymes, which act as catalysts, converts them to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is fermentation and it produces a distiller's beer that is sour to taste and will have an alcoholic strength of 7%-9% ABV.

Fermentation may take a few days, and it is generally felt that the longer the fermentation process, the better the wash, and therefore the better the final whisky.

The other key F words are feints and foreshots, and they arise during the distillation process.

To make single malt whisky you need to heat whisky so t...

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