THE WORLD OF WINE AND SPIRITS

The World of Wine & Spirits from HEMANT SINGH

Beverages are potable drinks which have thirst-quenching, refreshing, stimulating and nourishing qualities. By refreshing, one means the replenishment of fluid loss from the body due to perspiration. Simulation results in increase of the heart beat and blood pressure. This is due to the intake of spirits (alcohol) or tea (thein) and coffee (coffein). Nourishment is provided by the nutrients in the beverages, especially fruit juices. Most of the beverages supply energy in the form of sugar or
alcohol. They also provide other nutrients like mineral salts and vitamins. For example, milk gives calcium and citrus fruits give vitamin C.
Generally, people drink for one or more of six reasons; to quench thirst, to get drunk, to enjoy a social setting (social drinking), to enjoy the taste of the beverage, to feed an addiction (alcoholism), or as part of a religious or traditional ceremony or custom (proposing toast).

Johnnie Walker Scotch Releases “Johnny for Johnnie”

Johnnie Walker Scotch and Entourage fans can “hug it out” with excitement. The world’s leading Scotch whisky has partnered with the highly anticipated feature film from Warner Bros. Pictures, Home Box Office and Rat-Pac Dune Entertainment to debut a new chapter in the Entourage storyline: the short film “Johnny for Johnnie.

Like the Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking’ campaign, Entourage is centered around personal progress and the celebration of achievements, both big and small, along the way. From embarrassing failures to epic successes and all the steps—and missteps—in between, the guys from Entourage never stop pursuing their dreams with the utmost optimism and confidence.

“What makes the Entourage series so universally relatable is that its story revolves around a group of friends and their unrelenting pursuit of their dreams,” explains Dan Sanborn, VP of Influencer and Entertainment Marketing for Diageo North America. “We all have dreams but it’s not always easy to achieve them.  In this short film, Johnny Drama – as only Drama can – brings to life his own dream, bringing some fun and levity to his journey and all of the steps along the way.   It’s a classic Johnny Drama story of perseverance.”

WHISKY – FAQ’s VI

When was blending introduced?

Blending was pioneered by Andrew Usher in Edinburgh in the early 1860s. It was only after this practice became common that a taste for Scotch Whisky spread first to England and then throughout the world.

The reason for this was that Pot Still Malt Whisky was inclined to be too strongly flavoured for everyday drinking, especially by people in sedentary occupations and warm climates. By combining Malt Whisky with Grain Whisky, which has less pronounced characteristics, the demand for a whisky that is milder in flavour and more suited to the conditions of modern life can be met.

What is the percentage of Malt and Grain Whiskies in blended Scotch Whisky?

There is no fixed percentage and the proportion differs from one blender to another. No brand owner is willing to reveal the proportions of the different whiskies used, but the blender determines the proportion according to the character he is seeking for his blend. This character is determined not only by the proportions of Malt and Grain Whisky which it contains, but also by factors such as the ages of the individual whiskies and the manner in which they combine to bring out the finest qualities in each other.

What is a deluxe blended Scotch Whisky?

It is a blend which contains a higher proportion of carefully selected older and, therefore, more expensive whiskies. When there is an age label on a bottle of blended whisky, does it refer to the average age of the whiskies in that blend?
No. The law requires that when the age is declared on a label, it must refer to the youngest whisky in the blend.

For example, if a blend is described as an eight year old, the youngest whisky in that blend must have been matured for at least eight years.

Is it legal to sell whisky which is less than three years old for consumption in this country?

No. Although the spirit is distilled under the strict conditions applied to the production of Scotch Whisky, it is not entitled to be described as Scotch Whisky until it has matured for three years. This does not apply to compounded spirits such as gin, vodka and liqueurs.

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Making Whisky

The magical processes used to create whisky have not changed a great deal over the years. Some of the more traditional techniques have fallen by the wayside as distilleries introduce more efficient, modern apparatus but as other countries have found, it is impossible to create Scotch anywhere else in the world with even the most scientific methods at your disposal. Whether it is the water, geography, climate, techniques used or some form of combination of these, it’s not known for sure. All we do know is that whatever it is, it works! The main rules that define what makes ‘Scotch whisky’ are as follows  – it must be made at a Scottish distillery using water and malted barley  – it must spend at least three years maturing in oak casks  – the whisky must be matured in Scotland   Ingredients  The main ingredients used in making whisky form a short list:   Water – most of Scotland’s water is very soft. Soft water will absorb more from the malted barley used to make whisky, than hard water will, which might offer a reason as to why it seems to make a suitable ingredient for whisky. Some also believe that peaty water will have an influence on the whisky, helping to give a peaty flavour to the drink. Otherwise the different waters used by distilleries should not affect the finished product too much. The most important factor for the distillery is that they have a large supply of water.   Malt – malted barley, or malt, is always used for malt whisky, not surprisingly. In contrast, grain whiskies will use maize or other cereals. Malt is explained in more detail below.   Yeast– one of the less significant factors when it comes to the flavour of the whisky, but nevertheless a crucial element as the yeast is used to trigger the chemical process that converts sugars in the malted barley into alcohol.   Peat– peat is basically decayed vegetation that has not broken down in the soil due to poor drainage in the land. Cut from marshland bogs, it is used as fuel and in the case of whisky, as a fuel for halting the maturation process of the barley once it has begun to germinate. It adds a smoky flavour to whisky which is usually associated with the Island malts, particularly Islay whiskies, but is present in virtually all malts in varying degrees.    Malting Once the barley has arrived at the distillery it is steeped in water to allow the germination process to begin. Shoots begin to grow from the grains of barley as a result. Before the germination can go too far and the barley grain begins to consume its own sugar in order to grow, it is heated to halt the process, by kilning the barley. It is at this stage that peat is used to introduce its flavour to greatest effect. Peat was traditionally the fuel used for drying and slightly cooking the malted barley in many parts of Scotland and is still used for the flavours it imparts.  Depending on whether a distillery is using traditional floor maltings where the germinating barley is spread thinly on the floor, or a more modern system such as a rotary drum which allows the barley to be aired and heated more uniformly, the malting process can take between 20 and 48 hours. From here the malt will be ground down, or milled, ready for mashing.    Mashing  Warm water is added to the milled, malted barley which is then fed into a large, circular vessel called a mash-tun to allow the mashing to take place. Mashing is the stage where the starches in the barley convert to sugars which will later be fermented into alcohol. The mash-tun will contain either mechanical rakes or rotating blades that stir the mash. Slots in the base of the mash-tun allow the now sugary liquid, called ‘wort’, to run off. The wort will be recycled through the mash-tun three or four times before moving onto to be allowed to ferment.    Fermentation  By this stage the liquid is ready for fermentation. In a wash-back the wort has yeast added to it to encourage the chemical reaction that converts the sugars to alcohol. Washbacks were traditionally made of wood, although some distilleries now use stainless steel. While more time consuming to clean out and less sterile, it is reckoned by some distillery managers that using wooden vessels does add to the flavour of the whisky.    Distillation  Scottish whisky distilleries use pot-stills to distill the spirit that will become whisky. Pot-stills, the copper icons of the whisky industry, offer a means of evaporating the alcohol, which turns to vapour before water does, which is then condensed and collected after escaping through the neck of the still. The exact shape of the still, its height, the shape and length of the neck, the fact that the still is made from copper rather than another metal, all play their part in making each whisky individual. The use of copper in making stills is crucial, as it’s only this metal that will remove some of the unwanted elements from the spirit – experiments with stainless steel have proved the importance of the metal used in the still. The liquid will typically be distilled twice, first in a larger ‘wash’ still, then in a ‘low wines’ or ‘spirit’ still in order to collect the ‘heart of the run’, the batch of spirit that the stillman knows will be suitable for maturing as whisky.    Maturation  Scotch whisky is always matured in oak casks. The exact type of wood used in the maturation stage and what the cask has been used for prior to being filled with whisky lends a great deal to the final flavour of the whisky when it is bottled. Oak is sourced from America and Spain – the right choice of oak being crucial. New oak is never used for maturing whisky as the wood will lend too much flavour to the spirit. For the majority of whiskies, casks that have been used for maturing bourbon are used. American law prevents bourbon producers from using casks twice, so after being used, a cask is of little use to the bourbon industry. The Scotch whisky industry benefits from this, with the practice guaranteeing a steady supply of ex-bourbon casks. Some distillers will use ex-sherry casks from Spain instead, perhaps the most famous being The Macallan, which uses ex-oloroso sherry casks.   While some whiskies spend their whole lives in the cask they were first poured into, some distilleries will use a second stage of maturation to add a different edge to the whisky. Glenmorange are one of the bigger producers of whisky that have done just this with their range of malts, which have Madeira, Port and Sherry finishes achieved by a maturation in a second barrel. Recent limited edition bottlings have also seen Malaga, Fino Sherry, Cognac, Bordeaux, Cote de Nuits finishes.   Just how long the whisky will mature before it is bottled is another complex question. Three years is the legal minimum but most will spend much longer, depending partly on how quickly the whisky ‘grows up’ which will vary from one whisky to the next. Over time, flavours from the environment that the distillery is in such as salty seaside air may offer its own particular effects. Some whisky will also be lost gradually through time as a very slow evaporation occurs through the pores of the wooden cask. Seeping out at a rate of roughly 1-2% a year, this loss is known as the ‘angels share.’ When the distillery sees fit, the whisky will be bottled. 

WHISKY – FAQ’s V

THE MAKING OF GRAIN WHISKY

1. Scotch grain whisky is usually made from 10-20% malted barley and then other unmalted cereals such as maize or wheat. The starch in the non-malted cereals is released by pre-cooking and converted into fermentable sugars. The mashing and fermentation processes are similar to those used for malt whisky.

2. The wash is distilled in a continuous or Coffey still, named after its inventor Aeneas Coffey. It has two tall columns – a rectifier and an analyser. Cold wash is pumped in at the top of the rectifier and meets steam. The columns in fact act like a heat exchanger. The alcohol is cooled, condenses and flows away as Scotch grain spirit at about 94% alcohol by volume.
3. The distilled grain spirit is lighter in character and aroma than most malt whiskies and therefore requires rather less time to mature. The bulk of matured grain whisky is used for blending.
THE MATURATION PROCESS

While maturing, the whisky becomes smoother, gains flavour, and draws its golden colour from the cask. A proportion of the higher alcohols turn into esters and other complex compounds which subtly enhance each whisky’s distinctive characteristics.

By law all Scotch whisky must be matured for at least 3 years, but most single malts lie in the wood for 8, 10, 12, 15 years or longer. Customs & Excise allow for a maximum of 2% of the whisky to evaporate from the cask each year – the Angels’ Share. Unlike wine, whisky does not mature further once it is in the bottle.

THE ART OF BLENDING

While the distinctive single malts produced by individual distilleries are becoming increasingly popular, blending creates over 90% of the Scotch whisky enjoyed throughout the world.

By nosing samples in tulip-shaped glasses the blender selects from a wide palate – from the numerous Highland and Speyside malts to the strongly flavoured and peaty Island malts, and the softer and lighter Lowland malts. These malts are combined with grain whiskies – usually 60-80% grain whiskies to 20-40% malt whiskies, and are then left to ‘marry’ in casks before being bottled as one of the world-renowned blended whiskies.

A blend of a range of malt whiskies, with no grain whisky included, is known as a vatted malt.
The way we make Scotch whisky has evolved over several centuries, but the history of Scotch whisky embraces a much wider heritage; that of Scotland and its people.
What are the main kinds of Scotch Whisky?
There are two kinds of Scotch Whisky – Malt Whisky and Grain Whisky. The Malt Whiskies are divided into four groups according to the geographical location of the distilleries in which they are made, as follows:

(1) Lowland Malt Whiskies, made south of an imaginary line drawn from Dundee in the east to Greenock in the west.

(2) Highland Malt Whiskies, made north of that line.
(3) Speyside Malt Whiskies, from the valley of the River Spey. Although these whiskies come from within the area designated as Highland Malt Whiskies, the concentration of distilleries and the specific climatic conditions produce a whisky of an identifiable character and require a separate classification.
(4) Islay Malt Whiskies, from the island of Islay.
Each group has its own clearly defined characteristics, ranging from the lighter Lowland Malt Whiskies to those distilled on Islay which are generally regarded as the heaviest Malt Whiskies.
Malt Whiskies, which differ considerably in flavour according to the distillery from which they come, have a more pronounced bouquet and flavour than the Grain Whiskies. The production of Grain Whisky is not so influenced by geographical factors and it may be distilled anywhere in Scotland.
What gives Scotch Whisky its distinctive flavour and bouquet?

This is one of the mysteries of the industry and a secret which many imitators of Scotch Whisky have tried in vain to discover. Many theories and explanations have been put forward, but there is no universally accepted solution.

The distilling process itself is one factor. Scotch Whisky, after it has been distilled, contains not only ethyl alcohol and water but certain secondary constituents. The exact nature of these is not fully understood, but it is believed they include some of the essential oils from the malted barley and other cereals and substances that derive from the peat. The amount of these secondary constituents retained in the spirit depends upon the shape of the still and the way it is operated and also on the strength at which the spirit is drawn off. Grain Whisky, because of the process by which it is made, contains fewer secondary constituents than Malt Whisky and is accordingly milder in flavour and aroma.
The natural elements of water, peat and the Scottish climate all certainly have a profound effect on the flavour of Scotch Whisky. Water is probably the most important single factor and a source of good, soft water is essential to a distillery. Peat, which is used in the kiln or oven in which the malt is dried, also has an influence that can be detected in the ‘peaty’ or smoky flavour of many Scotch Whiskies.
The Scottish climate is extremely important, particularly when the whisky is maturing. At this stage the soft air permeates the casks and works on the whisky, eliminating harsher constituents to produce a mellow whisky.
Why do whiskies produced in different distilleries vary in flavour?
This again is a question which it is very difficult to answer with certainty. Most people would agree that the water used is the decisive factor. Adjoining distilleries which draw their water from different sources are known to produce whiskies that are quite dissimilar in flavour.
The size and shape of the stills are also important as are the skill and experience of the men who manage them. It is the objective of the distiller to produce a whisky whose flavour and character remain consistent at all times and in all circumstances. This is the true art of distilling, acquired only after many years and often handed down from one generation to the next.

How many distilleries are there?

There are around 100 Pot Still Malt distilleries and Grain, or Patent Still, distilleries in Scotland; but the number working can vary from year to year.

Can Scotch Whisky be made only in Scotland?

Yes. Many other products which were originally manufactured only in a particular locality have lost their geographical significance and can now be manufactured anywhere. The word ‘Scotch’, however, as applied to whisky, has retained its geographical significance. This is widely recognised in law throughout the world. Thus, whisky may be described as Scotch Whisky only if it has been wholly distilled and matured in Scotland for a minimum of 3 years.

If you could duplicate exactly a Scotch Whisky distillery in, say, Brazil or Spain, could you produce Scotch?

No. For the reason given in the preceding answer, whisky can be called ‘Scotch’ only if it is distilled and matured in Scotland. Whisky produced in Brazil is ‘Brazilian Whisky’ or in Spain ‘Spanish Whisky’. Attempts have been made to copy the unique flavour of Scotch Whiskies in many parts of the world, but with no success whatsoever.

What is blending? What is its purpose?

A number of distilleries bottle and sell some of the whisky they distil for consumption as single or unblended whiskies. By far the greater part of their production, however, is used for the well-known blended Scotch Whiskies that are sold all over the world.

Blending whisky is a considerable art acquired only after years of experience.

A blend will consist of anything from 15 to 50 different single whiskies, combined in the proportions of a formula that is the secret of the blending company concerned.
Whiskies from different distilleries have a character of their own and, just as people of different temperaments are often incompatible, so some whiskies will not blend happily with certain others. The Malts and Grains in a blend must therefore, be chosen to complement and enhance their respective flavours. Blending is in no sense a dilution. The blender’s task is to combine different single whiskies, to produce a blend which brings out the best qualities of each of its constituent parts.
The aim of the blender is first to produce a whisky of a definite and recognisable character.

It is of the greatest importance that his blend should never vary from this standard, which his customers all over the world will have come to expect. His second aim is, therefore, to achieve consistency.

The blender must also decide when the different single whiskies are ready to be used in his blend. They are brought from the warehouse where they have been maturing to the blending establishment, where they are mixed together in a blending vat. They are usually returned to cask and left to ‘marry’ for a period of months, before bottling. Some companies prefer to vat their Malts and Grains separately and only bring the two together before bottling.

The combining of Malt with Malt or Grain with Grain is known as vatting. 

WHISKY – FAQ’s IV

THE MAKING OF MALT WHISKY

The origins of malt whisky distilling in Scotland are lost in the mists of antiquity. They date back at least to the monks of the 15′” century and probably long before.

Although the distillers’ art has been understood since earliest times, the subtle aromas and flavours of whisky have never been fully explained, even today. The ancient term using beatha, which is Gaelic for the Latin aqua vitae or ‘water of life’, was corrupted in the 18′” century to usky, and then to whisky. The following description is a generalisation of the process.
It should be remembered that each distillery has its own unique specifications.

1. Malting

Best quality barley is first steeped in water and then spread out on malting floors to germinate. It is turned regularly to prevent the build up of heat. Traditionally, this was done by tossing the barley into the air with wooden shovels in a malt barn adjacent to the kiln.

During this process enzymes are activated which convert the starch into sugar when mashing takes place. After 6 to 7 days of germination the barley, now called green malt, goes to the kiln for drying. This halts the germination. The heat is kept below 70°C so that the enzymes are not destroyed. Peat may be added to the fire to impart flavour from the smoke.
2. Mashing

The dried malt is ground into a coarse flour or grist, which is mixed with hot water in the mash tun. The water is added in 3 stages and gets hotter at each stage, starting around 67°C and rising to almost boiling point.

The quality of the pure Scottish water is important. The mash is stirred, helping to convert the starches to sugar. After mashing, the sweet sugary liquid is known as wort. The spent grains – the draff – is processed into cattle feed.
3. Fermentation

The wort is cooled to 20°C and pumped into washbacks, where yeast is added and fermentation begins. The living yeast feeds on the sugars, producing alcohol and small quantities of other compounds known as congeners, which contribute to the flavour of the whisky. Carbon dioxide is also produced and the wash froths violently. Revolving switchers cut the head to prevent it overflowing. After about 2 days the fermentation dies down and the wash contains 6-8% alcohol by volume.

4. Pot Stills

In some mysterious way the shape of the pot still affects the character of the individual malt whisky, and each distillery keeps its stills exactly the same over the years.

In distillation, the still is heated to just below the boiling point of water and the alcohol and other compounds vaporize and pass over the neck of the still into either a condenser or a worm – a large copper coil immersed in cold running water where the vapour is condensed into a liquid.
5. Distillation

The wash is distilled twice – first in the wash still, to separate the alcohol from the water, yeast and residue called pot ale – the solids of which are also saved for use in animal feeds.
The distillate from the wash still, known as low wines, and containing about 20% alcohol by volume, then goes to the spirit still for the second distillation. The more volatile compounds which distil off first – the foreshots, and the final runnings called feints where more oily compounds are vaporized, are both channelled off to be redistilled when mixed with the low wines in the next batch.
Only the pure centre cut, or heart of the run, which is about 68% alcohol by volume is collected in the spirit receiver.
6. Spirit Safe

All the distillates pass through the spirit safe – whose locks were traditionally controlled by the Customs & Excise. The stillman uses all his years of experience to test and judge the various distillates without being able to come into physical contact with the spirit.

The newly distilled, colourless, fiery spirit reduced to maturing strength, 63% alcohol by volume, is filled into oak casks which may have previously contained Scotch whisky, bourbon or sherry, and the maturation process begins.