Why Is It Called "Malt" Whiskey
If you are planning to shop for whisky, then it is helpful to know just what you are going to be buying. Each Scotch whisky is unique. The region where whisky is produced influences its taste and the amount of peat used in the process also plays a factor in the final taste. So, what makes Scotch whisky unique?
Why is Single Malt Whisky Unique
Scotland has six whisky producing regions. These are the Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Cambeltown, and Islands, Islay. Each of these regions produce whiskies that are unique to the area. So if you are shopping for whisky you can take the area into account and usually whiskies from the same area will have similar characteristics. Every distillery in Scotland will claim something unique about itself, whether it is the oldest one, the highest one, most southerly one, the most northerly one and the smallest (which is run by only 3 people!).
The Lowland region goes from the town of Greenock in the west to Dundee on the east then south to the Scottish border. The Highland region runs from the border of the Lowland region to the northern Scottish coast, excluding the islands and the Speyside region. The Speyside region is located in the Scottish Highlands, but because of the density of distilleries and the type of whisky produced is classed as it's own region. In fact over 50% of Scotch whisky is produced in this region. Cambeltown is a small town on the Kintyre peninsula and used to be home to 30 distelleries, but now there are only three. Because of the uniqueness of the whisky produced, it is classed as a region in itself. Islands - this region is the Scottish islands of Orkeny, Arran, Skye, Mull and Jura. Islay is a small island, but is classed as a region in its own right.
Why is it Called 'Malt' Whisky?
Barley has starch in it and this starch has to be converted into sugars to make alcohol. High quality barley is first steeped in water and then spread out on malting floors to germinate. This first part of the process is called 'malting'. Then the barley is turned regularly so that a constant temperature is maintained. This can also be carried commercially by using large drums which rotate. After 6 or 7 days the barley will start to sprout; this is called green malt. The barley is placed in a large kiln to dry it off and this stops the sprouting process. Peat is usually used to fire the kiln and will influence the flavour of the spirit. The temperature is kept below 70 Celsius, therefore ensuring that the enzymes aren't destroyed. The barley is now called 'malt'. It is then ground down and it is ready for the next process.
With around 125 distilleries in Scotland each producing many types of single malt whisky, the choice can be overwhelming. In order to appreciate what goes into producing a person needs to know the basics. The region that a whisky comes from will tell something about it's character, it flavour and aroma. So, if you go into a whisky shop or visit an online whisky exchange, you will now be more knowledgeable about what you are going to purchase.
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