Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology

Whiskey is a strong aromatic alcoholic beverage obtained from various types of grain using the processes of malting, fermentation, distillation and long-term aging in oak barrels.

Whiskey can be made from barley, rye, wheat or corn. In Brittany (a region in northwestern France) they also make whiskey from buckwheat. The alcohol content is usually 32–50% vol., however, some types of whiskey have a higher strength (up to 60% vol).

The color of the drink varies from light yellow to brown, the sugar content is zero or extremely low. The traditional whiskey-producing regions are Scotland and Ireland.


About the term "whiskey"

The modern word "whisky" comes from the Gaelic "uisge beatha" or "usquebaugh", which means "water of life" in translation. Interestingly, whiskey was originally recommended as a medicine to preserve health and prolong life, it was prescribed to relieve the pain of colic, paralysis, and even smallpox.

In modern English, there are two spellings for "whiskey", depending on the region in which the product was produced: "whisky" or "whiskey".

Scotch, Canadian and Japanese whiskeys are commonly referred to as "whisky".

Whiskey made in Ireland or the USA is called "whiskey".

The addition of a letter to distinguish their product occurred in the 1870s, until then the word "whiskey" did not exist.

In many countries, the abbreviation "Scotch" is used to refer to "Scotch whiskey".

There are still disagreements about the grammatical gender of the Russian word "whiskey". Russian Spelling Dictionary of the Russian Academy of Sciences, ed. V.V. Lopatina" offers a masculine and neuter gender for the word "whiskey". A large explanatory dictionary of the Russian language offers only the middle gender.

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology


Production features

The taste characteristics of whiskey are determined by many parameters, including the quality of water and grain, the method of malting, filtering, cask features, aging time, the design and shape of the copper still, the temperature of the air at bottling, etc.

As for the features of the barrel: many distilleries use barrels of wine – sherry, Madeira, port wine, which, when aged in such barrels, leaves its flavor and aroma imprint. Some whiskeys are mixed-aged, first aged in two different casks and then blended. There are also options for further aging, for example, the last three years of whiskey is aged in another barrel.

However, two main areas can be distinguished: "Scottish" and "Irish".

  • The Scottish way of making whiskey is distinguished by the tradition of drying malt using peat as fuel, which gives a special smoky taste to the drink.
  • The Irish way is characterized by "peat-free" drying in ovens and triple distillation, which, in turn, gives the whiskey softness.


Raw materials for the production of whiskey in different countries

  • According to classical technology, in Scotland the raw materials for the production of whiskey (Scotch whiskey) are barley malt and barley. At the same time, barley for the production of whiskey in Scotland is grown in several areas where it has specific taste properties.
  • In Ireland (Irish whiskey) rye is added to barley malt.
  • In the United States and Canada, corn, rye whiskey, wheat (wheat whiskey) are used as raw materials for whiskey. Whiskey made from corn in the United States is called Bourbon and is officially considered the country's national product. Bourbon is aged in special barrels made of American oak and scorched from the inside using a special technology, so it has a golden color and a long original aftertaste.
  • In Japan, as well as in Scotland, barley malt is used to make whiskey.


whiskey aging time

According to the law of 1860, Scotch whiskey must be aged for at least 3 years – only after this period does the malt distillate receive the right to be called whiskey. Malt whiskeys not intended to be mixed varieties are aged from 5 to 20 years or more.

The most common holding times are:

  • 10-12 years – original whiskeys;
  • 21 years – exclusive or collectible whiskeys;
  • 30-50 years – some rare whiskeys.

Irish whiskey, like Scotch, is aged for at least 3 years, but typically 9–12 years. Canadian whiskey is typically aged for at least 6 years.

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology

Distillery |

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology

Distillery |

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology

Barrels of whiskey |

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology

Whiskey from different producers |


Scotch whiskey and its classification

Scotch whiskey or scotch is whiskey produced in Scotland. As a "national" product, this whiskey is classified as a "geographical statutory name" and is protected by government legislation in the UK, the European Union and the World Trade Organization.

Scotch is usually distilled twice, but sometimes subjected to a third distillation. Under international law, any product bearing the designation "Scotch" must be distilled in Scotland and aged for at least three years in oak barrels and be of appropriate quality.

Whiskey is aged not in a bottle, but only in an oak barrel no more than 700 liters, and the "age" of the scotch corresponds to the period between distillation and bottling. Age indicates how much the barrel has interacted with alcohol, changing its chemical composition and taste. Whiskey that has been in the bottle for many years may have rarity value, but is not considered "older" and not necessarily "better" than whiskey that is freshly made and aged in the wood for the same amount of time.

Scotch whiskey is divided into three main types:

  1. Malt whiskey is whiskey made exclusively from malted barley and distilled in an onion-shaped pot still.
  2. Grain whiskey is made from malted and unmalted barley using other types of grain, usually using a Coffey pot still. Until recently, this type of whiskey was used only for blending, but now there are several brands of single-grain Scotch whiskey on the market.
  3. Blended whiskey – the most massive and popular category, this type of whiskey is produced by blending (blending) malt and grain spirits from different distilleries. The main types of blending:
    • Standard Blend – it includes alcohols that have been aged for at least three years;
    • Deluxe Blended Whiskey – spirits are used that are aged for at least 12 years;
    • Semi Premium & Premium Blends – the maximum percentage of malt whiskey, and the age of spirits is no longer limited and can even reach a hundred years.

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology


The culture of drinking whiskey

There are several traditions of drinking this drink. Whiskey drink:

  • as an aperitif – a drink served before meals and causing appetite;
  • as a digestif – a drink served after a meal and promotes the digestion of food.

High-quality whiskey is never drunk from glasses, wine glasses, shot glasses, ordinary glasses. Nosing glass is used – the glass is designed to smell the aroma of whiskey. The tapered top contributes to the concentration of whiskey vapors. Due to its shape, it is suitable for drinking high-quality complex whiskeys. Not suitable for cocktails and blended whiskeys. The volume of such a glass is about 100 ml.

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology

Scotch and Irish whiskey. Manufacturing technology


Interesting Whiskey Facts

Every second, Scotch whiskey generates £135 of income for the UK Treasury. That is, every minute Scotland exports 2500 bottles of whiskey.

Three years and one day is how long it takes for a distillate to become whiskey. According to Scottish law, the word "Scotch" can be indicated on the label only after three years of aging whiskey and only on Scottish soil. Basically, manufacturers withstand about 10 years. The most revered distilleries have special stocks of exceptional barrels, where whiskey is stored for 50 years or more.

In the UK, service on a deep-sea submarine of the British Royal Navy is considered the most prestigious. Applications are accepted once a year, then a rigorous selection awaits applicants. The training program for future naval officers costs the country £2000,000 per candidate, so only the best are selected. If a candidate is weeded out during the selection process, he is given a box with his belongings, which contains a bottle of excellent Scotch whiskey, and is pointed to the exit. This tradition is said to have started in the first years after the founding of the training program.