Hello and welcome to my blog post How Whisk(e)y is Made. I love the taste but didn’t know how it came to be. Read on as I share the steps taken to create the amazing elixir I know and love called Whisk(e)y. Whisky or Whiskey? What I have been told is, in general, whiskey with an “e” refers to distilled spirits created in Ireland and the United States. Whisky with no “e” refers to distilled spirits created in Australia, Canada, Japan, Scotland and more. Since my go to whiskies are from Ireland, and my auto correct automatically adds the “e”, I will be writing whiskey with the “e” for this blog post and most other things where I use the word whiskey.
Whiskey is a light gold to dark amber colored spirit made from grains such as barley, corn, rye and wheat. The many different types of whiskey depend on the many different types of grain and, the type of aging process used. The word whiskey comes from the Gaelic spoken in the Highlands of Scotland and means water of life. This tasty water of life was originally used as an anesthetic and an antibiotic. I’m feeling better already, aren’t you?!
The steps involved in making whiskey are similar no matter where it’s being created. The differences during the creation process, starting with which grain is used, are what make each batch unique. The basic steps however, remain the same: grain, water, yeast, barrel and bottle.
Various grains are ground into a type of flour and cooked depending on the type of whiskey being created. Grains like barley, corn, wheat and rye are most commonly used and help dictate the flavor of the end result or bottle of whiskey.
The cooked grains / flour are added to warm water, which in turn becomes a liquid known as mash. The distillers heat, cook and stir the mixture in a large tank. This helps to convert the starch in the grain into sugar. This mash is then transferred to a fermentation tank
Once the mash has been transferred to a fermentation tank, yeast is added. Yeast is able to convert the sugar created during mashing into alcohol. Distillers usually store this mixture for one to two weeks to fully ferment. During fermentation the mixture begins to break down and become natural alcohol called ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Once the mixture is fully fermented, distillers strain off the liquid from the solids. They’ll discard the solids and transfer the liquid to a still.
The mashed and fermented liquid is transferred to a still. Here it is heated to a point that the alcohol turns to vapor but the water remains liquid. Since alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water it turns into vapor which rises through the neck of the still and then is cooled and turned back into liquid. Distillation is a process that purifies the mixture by heating and vaporizing it. It then collects the vapor as it cools and once again becomes a liquid. Most whiskies are distilled in either column or pot stills two or three times. Each distillation run results in a higher-proof spirit. Cheers to that!
After the distillation process, whiskey makers will add water to the product to achieve the desired alcohol by volume. The type of barrel used and the number of years aged in the barrel depends on the producer of the whiskey. Distilleries use different aging methods, including new oak barrels, used oak barrels, charred barrels, or barrels soaked in wine or sherry. The choice of which barrel is used can change a whiskies color and flavor.
When the whiskey has aged the amount of years needed to acquire the taste longed for, it is transferred and stored in glass bottles. Once the whiskey is put into bottles, the aging process stops.
How Whisk(E)Y is Made
Thank you for joining me for a journey into How Whisk(e)y is Made. Together we explored the basic steps in creating my all time favorite spirit, whiskey. Preparing grains. Mashing. Fermenting. Distilling. Aging. Bottling. Who knew the many steps that take place in creating my favorite spirit, whiskey?! And the number of variations? That would have made a much, much longer blog post. Do you have a favorite whisk(e)y? Share it in the comments. I lover discovering new treasures and their process in being created.
Now that you know how whiskey is made are you looking for some whiskey recipes to try? Check out my website wonderlesch.com. Enter whiskey in the search bar and discover some tasty cocktails. Cheers to tasty cocktails!
Until Next Time,
Erin at WonderLesch
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