How is a Malt Made?

The ingredients used to make whisky can have a substantial effect on its flavor. However, how the ingredients are prepared will also have a very strong impact on the taste of the whisky.

A key example would be the malting process–that is, how the barley (if used) is germinated prior to being ground up and prepared for fermentation.

Below, we’ll get into the different variations of the malting process so it is easier to understand how it impacts the flavoring of a whisky.

Barley varieties

Barley comes in many different varieties. While any variety of barley can be used, many distilleries are selective about the type of barley they use. Optic, Golden Promise and Chariot are some popular types.

Water added

Once the type of barley is selected, it is then soaked in water in order to germinate. This germination process releases the sugars from the ingredient making a sweeter cereal grain to use for the mash when making the whisky. This germination process is what is referred to when they say the barley is “malted”.

The germination process normally takes a few days.

Mixture is dried

Once the germination process is complete, the mixture will have to be dried. The drying process will often vary depending on the region the whisky is made in. Some distilleries will dry the mixture in a kiln, whereas others (such as the Islay region in Scotland) will dry the mixture over smoke by burning peat (partially decayed vegetation). This is why Islay Scotches will often have a distinct, strong smoky flavor.

Mixture is ground into a grist

Once the mixture is dried, it is then ground into grist, which has a similar consistency to that of cornmeal. The malt has now been fully prepared and ready to be used to make whisky.

Have any comments or observations about the malting process? Let us know in the comments below.

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