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From Grain to Glass – How whisky is made

From Grain to Glass – How whisky is made

There are few drinks as complex, interesting, and rewarding as whisky. Made all over the world, this spirit takes many different forms, but always retains a certain complexity that makes it a favourite of drinkers around the globe.


In this article, we will explore the process of whisky making from grain to glass. It is a complicated and fascinating process that results in one of the most popular spirits in the world.

It starts with the grain 

Whisky is a spirit made from grain. The most common types of whisky are made from barley, rye and corn. There is another type that is also very popular in Japan called shochu which is made with rice instead of barley or rye.

The grain for making whisky is usually grown locally at the distillery as it needs to be fresh when it arrives. Many distilleries have become famous for the type of grain they use and each brand has a unique recipe that defines its product.

The process starts off with malting, which is done by soaking the grains in water to stimulate germination. The grains are then dried in kilns until they reach a certain temperature, after which they are milled into a grist.

The next step of the process can take several hours.  The grist is mashed with hot water in order to extract sugar from the grains to produce what is known as ‘wort’.  The ‘wort’ can then be filtered out, before being fermented into alcohol using yeast, which takes around 48 hours.

The fermented liquid is then distilled and the alcohol content is increased. This process happens in copper pot stills where the alcohol vapours are captured and cooled to form a pure whisky spirit.


Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough

Whisky Casks 

There are many different types of casks that can be used to mature whisky. The most common are oak, but chestnut and even bamboo have been used in the past.

The wood used in the barrel is important as it can impart a lot of flavour into the whisky. For example, Scottish whisky is often aged in American bourbon barrels to get that rich vanilla and oak character, while Japanese whisky producers have been using Spanish (sherry) casks for their own unique style.

The reason many people love drinking whiskey is that they enjoy tasting the different flavours that come from the cask. These can be anything from toffee and caramel to tobacco and leather.

Cask ageing 

After distillation, the whisky is aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years but often much longer depending on the brand. The cask ageing gives the whisky its colour and flavour profile that can vary from light and fruity, to smoky and peaty.

The spirit is then transferred to oak casks and stored in warehouses (sometimes for decades) where it ages, matures and picks up additional flavour from the wood. This can take years or even decades depending on the brand. The more time that passes, the darker the colour of the whisky, as it absorbs some of the tannins from the cask.

The whisky is then bottled and labelled with its unique flavour profile, alcohol by volume (ABV) and sometimes the distillery’s name.

It’s important to remember that not all whiskies are made equal – there are many different styles of whisky from around the world and each has its own unique taste and aroma.


Once the whisky has matured, it’s ready to be bottled.  Although whisky may be left at barrel strength, it is usually diluted with water before bottling.  It is diluted down to 40% ABV or less in order for people who drink liquor responsibly, to not only enjoy their dram but also to have fun doing so!

After dilution, the bottles are labelled with the whisky’s unique flavour profile, alcohol by volume (ABV) and sometimes the distillery’s name.  The bottling process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the volume being bottled. 

The process of making whiskey is a complicated one that takes many years of training and experience to master. From start to finish, it can take anywhere from two to six years for a distiller to create a high-quality whisky.

What are the different types of whisky?

Whisky can be broken down into four main groups: blended whiskies, single malt whiskies, single grain whiskies and blended grain whiskies.

Blended whisky is a mix of different types of whiskeys, including single malt and/or grain whiskies. Single malts are made from only one type of barley (malt), while blended grains contain more than one variety. Blended whiskies tend to have smoother flavours than single malts or grains due to their combination with other ingredients.

Single malt is the purest form of whisky, made at a single distillery from 100% malted barley mash. Single grain whiskies are produced in the same fashion but may contain other grains such as wheat or rye (as long they don’t exceed 40%).

Blended grain is created by blending together two or more single grain whiskies that have been distilled at the same location. The resulting product will usually be made up of around three different grains such as wheat, corn and oats or less commonly used grains like rye (which is more frequently found in bourbon production).

There’s also an option for mixing together various cereal grains with malt whisky; however, this doesn’t result in a whisky that is designated as a “single grain” product.

Normal whiskies are made from a blend of different grains, while single malt whiskies are made from only barley. This gives the whisky a much more pronounced flavour and character.

What is grain whisky?

Grain whisky is a type of whisky that is made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley, as well as other grains such as wheat and corn. Grain whiskies are usually blended with other whiskies to create a blend of different flavours and characteristics.

What does single malt mean?

One of the primary terms associated with whisky is single malt. This term refers to whisky that is made from a mash of 100% malted barley at a single distillery. Single malt whiskies are often considered the highest quality and most premium whiskies available.

Normal whiskies are made from a blend of different grains, while single malt whiskies are made from only barley. This gives the whisky a much more pronounced flavour and character.

Love makes the world go round? Not at all. Whiskey makes it go round twice as fast.

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