Whiskey ( History, Production Process, Scotch, Brands)


DEFINITION- Whiskey is a spirit made by fermenting and distilling grain. By long standing tradition, Scottish distillers spell the name of the spirit as “WHISKY” and the Irish distillers spell their spirit as “WHISKEY”. The Canadians follow the Scottish spelling and the American follow the Irish spelling.

HISTORY- The use of grain as a source of alcohol originates among the Celts (the people of Ireland) between the 10th and 15th century. The name given to the distillate variously spelt as “UISGE BEATHA” or “UISCE BEATHA” or “USQUEBAUGH” and pronounced as wee-ski-bah meant “WATER OF LIFE”. Over the centuries the word has been anglicized to whiskey. Both Scotland and Ireland have long been claiming to be the original source of whiskey. But neutral heads say that the soldiers of Henry II had taken a lot of UISCE BEATHA to England after they invaded Ireland in the 12th century. This precedes the older known references to the Scotch, an entry in the Scottish exchequer rolls in 1484.


  1. Grain
  2. Steeping
  3. Malting
  4. Germination
  5. Kilning
  6. Sieving
  7. Grinding
  8. Fermentation
  9. Distillation
  10. Maturing
  11. Blending

Method Of Manufacture

Grains: As mentioned earlier any type of cereal can be used. The Scots use barley both malted and unmated with a little corn added to it. The Irish use mainly malted barley but sometimes un-malted barley is incorporated into the mash.

Steeping: The grains are then soaked in a huge tank of water for 2 to 3 days till the moisture content goes up to 40%. The excess of water is drained off and the barley is then taken to the malt room

Malting:. On a stone floor of the malt room the grains are spread at a depth of 15 to 30 cm.  Temperature of 150 C with 40% of moisture the grains start to germinate.

Germination: The process of germination develops the enzyme called “DIATASE” which converts the starch to maltose and other complex Dextrenes. In order to prevent rootlets from getting entwined among them the grains have to be continuously disturbed.

Kilning: Then the grains are kiln dried. The basic purpose is to stop sprouting and to facilitate grinding and storing. In Scotland, the grains are dried by being heated on steel plates by peat fire which is said to contribute to the characteristic Smokey flavour of Scotch. In Ireland the grains are heated on perforated floors and the fire comes from smokeless anthracite coal or oil fired furnaces. The heating goes on till the moisture content goes down to 3%. The grains are gently dried at first but then the temperature is raised to 510 C. The process continues for 2 to 3 days.

Sieving: The grains are then sieved to remove the plumages, which develop as a result of germination. The plumage is sold as cattle feed.

Grinding: Roller mills grind the grains to form “GRIST” . The grains are roughly broken and not powdered.

Mashtun: The grist is then introduced into a vessel called mashtun along with water. The water is heated to around 650 C. There are mechanical arrangements present inside which continuously stir the mixture of water and grist for around two hours. This extracts the sugar content from the grist in to the base of the mashtun, which has very finely stocked plates through which only water containing sugar can pass. The water containing sugar is known as “WORT”.

Fermentation: Wort is added with cultured yeast for fermentation in vats (Fermentation tank). During the fermentation, the yeast breaks down sugar into Carbon dioxide and alcohol. During the process, the temperature goes up to beyond 320 C. the temp. This is controlled by cold water pipes called “ATTEMPERATORS” at the bottom of the tank, which carry cold water in them continue to keep the temperature at a particular level. Fermentation is rapid and completed within three days. The fermented liquid is called as “WASH”. The fermented wash has an alcoholic strength of 7 to 100 GL. The fermentation tank is called “WASHBACK”.

Distillation (pot still): The fermented wash is then transferred to a pot still, which is generally made up of copper. This pot still is called as “WASH STILL”. This pot still can be of various sizes and shapes. The pot stills used in Ireland are much bigger than that used in Scotland. The fermented wash is heated either by a source of fire from underneath or by steam coils present on the side of the pot still. At 78.30 the alcohol gets evaporated while the water is still in liquid state. The evaporated alcohol then passes through a coiled pipe called “WORM” which passes through a tank of cold running water, convert the alcoholic vapors into liquid alcohol. The first distillation produces three parts: –

  • Head called as “FORESHOT”
  • Heart called as low wines because of low alcoholic content.
  • Tail called as “AFTERSHOT”

The foreshot and the after shot are together called as “FEINTS”. The head contains Methyl alcohol, which is not suitable for consumption. The tail contains heavier alcohols, which are also not suitable for consumption. The head and tail are put back in the first pot still for re-distillation with a fresh batch of wash (water and alcohol mixture). The heart goes into a spirit still for second distillation. The heart contains about 40% of alcohol (the heart is also called as low wines because of low alcoholic content). The heart also produces three parts:-

  1. Head                            2. Heart                       3. Tail

The head and tail are put back in to the spirit still for re-distillation whereas the heart is required spirit, that is, WHISKEY. The heart, which is whiskey, is also called as high wine because of the high alcoholic strength of 70%. In Ireland, the whiskey is distilled thrice. Whiskey comes out from the spirit still it has an alcoholic strength of around 86%.

Maturing: The whiskey is now raw and colorless but with a pungent aroma. it is filled into oak casks under exercise supervision and stored in bonded warehouses often underground for at least 3 years in Scotland and 5 years in Ireland to mature. As the whiskey matures in the casks, air penetrates through the pores of the wood to mellow the raw whiskey. Some whiskeys mature in the casks for a period of 15 years and sometimes more. If the whiskey is left too long in the casks, it will start smelling woody. The age, which will appear on the label of a bottle, indicates the youngest whiskey in the blend.

Blending:  The blending takes place in the blending vat. The air lets present inside the vats mixes the whiskeys thoroughly and finally pumped into oak casks where they remain for some more time to harmonize.

Final stages: After blending and harmonizing the whiskey is filtered through asbestos sheets and its strength is greatly reduced by the addition of metallic free water. It is then tested for colour. Colour generally comes from the casks as the spirit matures but some amount of caramel is also added to give the correct tone. Whiskey is bottled and sent into the markets.


  • Scotch is made from homegrown cereal as well as cereal grown in other countries, whereas, Irish whiskey is made from homegrown cereal only.
  • Pot still scotch is made from only malted barley whereas Irish pot still whiskey is made from malted as well as unmalted barley and also other grains.
  • Pot stills used in Scotland are much smaller than those used in Ireland.
  • Scotch pot still whiskey is distilled twice whereas Irish whiskeys are distilled thrice.
  • Scotch is matured for a minimum period of three years; Irish whiskey is matured for a period of five years.

SCOTCH-  A whiskey wholly distilled in Scotland is scotch. The Scots claim that three natural influences make their malts so outstanding.

  • Water, which comes from the hills to the stills, is of the greatest purity, filtered through rock and granite in the Highlands and chalk base of the Lowlands.
  •  The purity of the air is the reason why so many distillers are sited away from pollution-prone locations. This is very important because while the whiskeys are maturing in cask they are breathing in the air that surrounds them.
  • The wood used for casks Oak is used as it allows the spirit to breathe and mellow. The Scots do not use new oak casks; they use casks that have already been seasoned by other liquors such as sherry or bourbon. These casks impart a flavor nuance and also contribute towards color.

Types of malt produced in Scotland- Scotch is basically divided into two categories: –

  1. Malt scotch   2. Blended scotch

Malt Scotch: These are the authentic Usquebaugh. They are also known as a single malt. They are so called because they are made from only malted barley and the entire process of distillations carried out in one distillery. The malt scotch or the single malt is all distilled by the pot still method of distillation. They are all made from malted barley hence called as malt whiskey. The grains used in the production single malt are heated on perforated steel plates by a peat fire. The smoky flavor imparted by the peat is felt in the final product. There are around 100 malt whiskeys produced in Scotland right now, each of them is produced in a single distillery. Malt whiskeys are produced from 4 different regions in Scotland. They are: –

High Land/ SpeysideLowlandCampbeltownIslay

Highlands: Whiskies have a firm, dry character, with some peatiness and saltiness. ”GLENMORANGIE” is a good example. They can be light and delicate of medium or full-bodied nutty, spicy, herby, smoky, depending on where they are produced.

Major brands-  Aberfeldy                               Balblair                                    Ben Nevis

Lowlands:  The whiskies have suggestions of lemon grass and maltiness. “GLENKINCHIE” is the best known. It is located south of the Greenoch/Dundee line:

Major brands-  Littlemill                                 Rosebank                    St Magdalene

Campeltown: The products are distinctly briny (sea salt flavoured) with peatness, medicinal aroma , spicy e.g., “GLEN  SCOTIA” This is once the capital of whisky distilling in Scotland. Major brands- Longrow                                Springbank

Islay: the peaty soil and Islay’s exposed position on the west coast of Scotland make it the producer of the boldest malts. The sea weedy atmosphere permeates the soil and the warehouses, imparting a singular character to the malts. Famous malts from this region are “LAGAVULIN” and “ADBERG”. These strong-flavoured and strong-smelling malts are distinguished by their intense peaty and smoky characteristics.

Major brands- Bowmore                                 Bruichaddich                          Laphroaig

Speyside: these malts are noted for their elegance, flowery, heathery honey notes and sometimes a restrained fragrant peatiness. Speyside can be typified by “MACALLAN AND GLENLIVET” This is Highland sub-division.

Major brands-  Aberlour                                An Cnoc                      Ardmore

Blended scotch:- Blended whiskey is a mixture of both malt and grain whiskey. Grain whiskey is made from a mash of several grains, predominantly corn with a small amount of both malted and unmalted barley added to that. In this case a peat fire does not heat the barley. Grain whiskey is made by patent still method of distillation. Grain whiskeys are generally very light, as they tend to run off the still at around 1800 proof. These light grain whiskeys are then blended with malted whiskey in different proportions.

Blended scotch is divided into two categories: –

  1. Bulk                                          2. Bottled in Scotland

Bulk scotch: they are shipped in barrels and bottled at the destination. They are the cheapest quality of whiskey with the minimum malt whiskey to grain whiskey ratio. Blending is not very painstaking which leads to lack of consistency in quality. The label on the bulk scotch usually reads” distilled and blended in Scotland”.

Bulk scotch examples:-  Clan Mac Gregor, Inver house, Old smuggler, Passport, Vat 69

Bottled in Scotland: These scotches are often labeled “Distilled and bottled in Scotland” and makes up around two thirds of the total scotches available in the world. They are more expensive than the bulk. The bottled in Scotland scotch is further divided into: –

  1. Regular 2. Premium. 3. Deluxe

Regular: They are sometimes called as “standard” in Scotland. The minimum age of the youngest whiskey in the blend is around 10 to 12 years. The following are few brand names.

Ballantine                                Bell’s             Black & white             Cutty sark

Dewar’s white label                 Haig               J & B (Justerini and Brooks)

Johnie walker’s red label         Teachers’s highland cream

Whyte & mackay                     White horse

Premium: the minimum age of the youngest whiskey in the blend is 12 to 15 years. It is better than the regular whiskey.

Brand names: –      Chivas regal           Haig pinch                 Johnie walker`s black label

Deluxe premium: sometimes referred to as ultra premium. The hallmark of this group is that the minimum age of the youngest whiskey in the blend is 20 years and above. They are the most expensive among all the scotches available. The following are few brand names.

Ballantine 30 years                         Ballantine 17 years                Chivas royal salute

Usquebaugh                                    Ambassador                           Bell’s royal reserve

Johnnie walker’s blue label            James and martin fine and rare

Service: Bulk scotches are eminently mixable, ideal for cocktails, highballs and mists. Regular scotches are also used in mixed drinks but goes well over ice. Premium scotches add an extra dimension to cocktails but considering their reach, their mellow tones are better, poured over ice with a splash of water. Ultra premium scotches are best enjoyed neat or with a splash of water (on the rocks).

Irish whiskey- These whiskies are made from malted and unmalted barley mixes in a ratio of 20: 80 or 40: 60.These whiskies have perfumy character, aroma of linseed oil, flex. These whiskies ar produced in Dublin, Bushmill, Tullamore, Cork (Middleton).

Well-known brands

Bushmills 1608,          Bushmills Black Bush,           Bushmills Single Malt, Coleraine,

Jameson (Ireland’s best seller on the world market), Paddy,             Tullamore Dew

Middleton Very Rare- This distinctive, brilliant and very costly whiskey was first launched in 1984. It is Ireland’s most expensive but it is worth the price to experience its smooth, silky taste. It is super-premium whiskey made in limited batches and vintage bottled.

PoteenThese are illicit distilled whiskies of Ireland. They are produced out side of govt. control or revenue deptt. They are white in colour and not matured in cask.

American whiskey (Production of American whiskey)

The principal grains used are maize (corn), rye, millet and barley. The grain is cleaned and coarsely ground into a meal. Heated limestone-water is added and the combination is thoroughly roused, the sugars are dissolved and the liquid becomes wort. The wort is cooled ready for fermenting. Two yeasting processes are widely used in America-the sweet mash process and the sour mash process.

In the sweet mash process, fresh yeast is added to the mash and fermentation takes place resulting in an alcoholic liquid known as distillers’ beer.

The sour mash process uses the residue or fresh hot slop from a previous distillation. This is added to the mash, together with some fresh yeast. Sour mash its name from the fact that the week spent been left over in the stills is fairly acidic.

Distillation- The distillers ‘beer’ / wash is taken to a patent still and after distillation will have an alcoholic strength of 160˚ US proof (80 per cent by volume). This is diluted using limestone-water to 103˚ US proof and sent to mature in charred oak casks.

Main categories of American whiskey

Bourbon- Bourbon was first made in Bourbon Country, Kentucky, hence the name. The Reverend Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister, is credited with being the father of bourbon whiskey. In 1789 he set up a still beside a limestone creek in Georgetown, Bourbon County. He used maize (corn) as the main grain, principally because it was more abundant than other grains, and called his new whiskey Bourbon County whiskey. The use of charred oak barrels is also attributed to Craig. Apparently he was heating some white oak staves to make them pliable for bending into barrels. Something distracted him and on his return he found some staves had been heavily scorched. He made these into a barrel and discovered later that the whiskey in this particular barrel was far superior to any in the batch. Bourbon is made from at least 51 percent maize (corn) mainly using the sour mash process. It is matured in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

Major brands-  Ancient age, Elijah Craig, Four Roses, Old Crow,  Wild Turkey .

Tennessee- Tennessee whiskey is straight whiskey distilled in Tennessee form a mash that contains a minimum of 51 percent corn. Its production is somewhat similar to that of bourbon, except that a unique filtering system is used to help to produce the smooth, rich flavour associated with the Tennessee style. Slats of sugar maple are burned and hosed with the water. The resulting charcoal is packed into 10 foot-high (3 metre) vats and the raw spirit is slowly filtered though the charcoal. The spirit takes ten days to pass through the charcoal. Often the whiskey is twice charcoal filtered-once before and once after maturation which contributes to the traditional mellow, smoky flavour. The whiskies are aged in charred, white oak barrels for four to six years and take on a smooth, mellow character. Most is produced by the sour mash system. Only two whiskey distilleries operate in Tennessee: Jack Daniels and George Dickel,. Both distilleries produce a variety of excellent brand, but jack Daniels sells better on the international markets.

Moonshine/ White Lightening– These are illicit distilled whiskies of America. It is produced out side of govt. control or revenue dept. &  white in colour and not matured in cask.

Canadian Whisky- These whiskies are made from Rye. Canadian whiskies have some spicy and bitter sweet character obtained from the grain. They are blended with corn whisky and bourbon whisky which impart vanilla note to Canadian whisky

Mojor brands- Black Velvet, Canadian Club Canadian Mist , Crown Royal

Amit Kumar
Amit Kumarhttps://hmhelp.in
Hii! Welcome to My digital home, I am Amit – an almost no-code generalist, helping businesses with their online presence using WordPress and other tools and simplifying some of their operations with ideas and automation. A psychology and philosophy geek by interest and a graduate in Hospitality Management. I founded hmhelp during college, which got me into WordPress. I am a highly motivated and results-oriented professional with a proven track record of success in the hospitality industry. I’m also a Digital Marketing Enthusiast with significant academic and practical experience managing digital content across multiple platforms. Skilled at SEO optimization, developing digital content for social media platforms, I offer extensive knowledge of multiple software programs, strong attention to detail, and extraordinary communication skills. If you are interested in talking about any of the topics I have mentioned on my website, you are in the right place. You can contact me or learn more about what I do. You can also connect with me on social networks.

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