Scotland’s “other national drink” has many styles, depending on the type and preparation method of the grain used. There’s Scotch, Irish, rye, and bourbon. But the two different whiskies that divide some of the drinkers are single malts and blends.
While comparing the two will always be a subjective matter, those who prefer to have their palate touched by varying tastes and textures, single malt whiskey is the prime choice.
For five centuries, the basic ingredients of a single malt whiskey have been water and barley, a product of the expansive grain fields of Scottish Highlands. The barley grain, which contains starch or sugar, is steeped in water and allowed to germinate on malting floors to produce malt sugar.
The malt is then milled to flour while the sugar is extracted with hot water. The liquid solution is then fermented for two to four days resulting to a wash that contains eight to nine percent alcohol.
With the use of heat, the wash is distilled twice in long and slim copper pot stills to yield 65 to 70 percent alcohol. Some distilleries use a third pot still to make the alcohol even purer at more than 75 percent.
The spirit is matured in breathable and durable oak casks. Single malt whiskies are usually aged for at least 10 years – the longer, the better. The taste of the whiskey depends on the origin and type of the oak wood used for the cask.
Adam Quirk co-founded Cardinal Spirits, a Bloomington-based craft distillery that produced the Indiana’s first craft single malt whiskey using malted barley from Lebanon, Indiana. Subscribe to this blog for more interesting read about spirits and liquors.