Whisky is a spirit obtained through distilling one or several grains and ageing the distillate in oak barrels, while cognac and armagnac are made from grapes, calvados from apples (and pears), and rum from sugarcane. However, grain, fruit and sugarcane cannot be directly distilled in a still. The sugar contained in the grain or fruit must first be extracted and converted into alcohol with the help of yeast: fermentation is the pivotal action in this complex process.
Simply speaking, whisky can be described as a spirit made from fermented grains, in many ways a beer - just as cognac is a spirit made from wine, and calvados a spirit made from cider. The ingredients that go into a whisky appear straightforward: grain, water and yeast, with the mixture being placed in various vats and filters before being passing through stills and aged in oak barrels. Yet each ingredient, step and tool is of paramount importance in creating the whisky’s aromas and texture. Read on to discover each step involved.
Barley is the grain
that contributes the most to a whisky’s aromatic range. Learn its importance in the composition of various types of whiskies. Find out more
From the end of spring throughout the summer
, when the weather is too warm to distill, workers harvest peat from the bogs. This task has been largely abandoned, but is still carried out in the Orkneys and on the isle of Islay... Find out more
swear by the quality of their water and extol the virtues of its influence on the flavours of their whisky... Find out more
Yeast are single-celled micro-organisms
from the mushroom family that feed on sugar, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide in the process. Find out more
may swear by the quality of their water, but nothing in the world would make them change the size or shape of their precious stills. This is because a whisky’s character and defining characteristics are forged by the still itself and the art of distillation. Find out more
From the 20th century
, being obliged to age their whisky for a minimum of three years, manufacturers began taking an interest in the properties of oak and its impact on a whisky’s aromas and colour. Find out more
This practice comes from 19th century Scotland
as wine and spirit merchants began to emerge... Find out more