VCL Vintners



How Whisky is Made

How Whisky is Made




Barley is first steeped in water and then spread out on malting floors to germinate. After 6 – 7 days the barley, now called green malt, goes to the kiln for drying. Peat may be added to the kiln fire to impart flavour from the smoke.

The dried malt is ground into a coarse flour or grist, which is mixed with hot water in the mash tun. The quality of the pure Scottish water is important. Stiring, helps to convert the starches into sugar – this sweet, sugary liquid is known as wort.

The wort is cooled to 20°C and yeast is added which feeds on the sugars. This produces alcohol and CO2. Fermentation is finished after approx 48-96 hours and the resulting ‘wash’ typically has analcohol content of 8 to 9%




The wash is distilled twice – first in the copper ‘wash sill’ where it’s heated to 78°C. Here the alcohol evaporates before the water. The alcohol steam rises and is led into a condenser to be liquified again. Distillation is repeated in a second ‘spirit sill’ where the resulting liquid has an ABV of 65-70%

The newly distilled, colourless, fiery spirit is filled into oak casks and the maturation process begins. Then they are transported into a warehouse, where they stay at least for at least three years.

The whisky is then transferred to a bottling plant where a machine fills the Whisky into single bottles, which are later corked and shipped to market. 

Malt Whisky

This indicates that the raw material is barley malt, by itself fermented with yeast and distilled in a pot oil. This produces a far superior whisky to the common grain whisky found in blends. Note however that just occasionally quality single grain whiskies can be found.

Blended Scotch

This whisky contains a variable proportion of blended malt and grain whiskies, commonly about 40% malt: 60% grain. A good quality blend may contain more than 40% malt, a more moderate one, much less. Many malts may be incorporated in the blend to provide bulk then fine elements of the final taste (“top dressing”).

Grain Whisky

Indicates that the raw material is unmalted barley, wheat or maize produced as a continuous process in a column sill. There are eight grain distilleries in Scotland (though an older source has previously listed 15).

Cask Strength

Newly distilled malt whisky is generally 115-120 deg proof as it comes off the sill. Typically it’s watered down before being bottled – at around 70 deg proof – however it has been noted that the taste of whisky is far superior if the watering down occurs at the glass instead. It has never
been adequately explained but has in recent years led to an increasing availability of “cask strength” malt whiskies bottled at 100-110 deg proof (57-63% ABV). 


ABV Alcohol By Volume (%)
Age statement Maturation period (years)
Aldehydes Grassy, leathery aromas
Bastard Malt Malt of dubious origin
Body Mouth feel of a whisky
C/S Cask Strength
Dram Measurement of whisky (glass)
Dramm’ng Drinking whisky
Esters Fruity or flowery aromas
Finish 1. After taste of whisky
2. Maturation in a second cask
IB Independent bottling
NAS No Age Statement
OB Official owner/ bottling
Octave 63litre sherry cask
Overproof ABV higher than 46%
Phenols Peaty, smoky aromas
Proof Old systerm of ABV

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