Whisky Ingredients

How Whisky Is Made

In Whisky by Whisky MonsterLeave a Comment

It is really not easy to tell the production phases of a spirit which has been ruling the world for hundreds of years. However I will try to give you a summary of whisky production.

Whisky Production Process
An example distillery line up

To start whisky production we firstly need 3 main ingredients, namely water, grain and yeast. For the grain source, Scotch whiskies often use barley for single malt production and the US distillers widely use corn and rye are as you can remember from my Whisky Or Whiskey? post. Of course there are other materials which are used in the production phase like peat. Below you can find the production steps based on making a Scotch single malt whisky.

Whisky Ingredients

Whisky production is operated at places where we call distilleries. These distilleries are generally located in the proximity to pure water sources. The reason is to add water into the process without playing with it too much. Just a little research will show you that most of the distilleries claim to have the purest water in the industry. Moreover, distilleries like The Glenlivet and Bowmore released their bottled water. However, there is a generous amount of filtering and pH modification going on during the production.

In traditional manufacture, barley is harvested from nearby farms. Though today, the uprising demand resulted in the mass purchase of barley. For some Scotch single malt whiskies, barley is imported from high quality vendors in Germany and Slovenia.

Finally, yeast is of big importance when it comes to alcohol extraction. The ultimate goal would be to store and create their own house yeast like at some Belgian breweries, however, most of the industry uses M1 distiller’s yeast.

Production Phases


Malting is the first step of whisky production. Harvested barley is fed by water in a big concrete tank for around three days to attain a humidity of 45%. Wet and fat grain is laid on the ground to kick start germination. This traditional process is called ‘Floor Malting’. Some distilleries such as The Balvenie is still using this method for some part of its phase. Laid barley starts to germinate in time.

Floor Malting
Floor Malting at The Balvenie Distillery

The arms of germinated barley should not tangle with each other. Therefore, during germination, barley is aired by big shovels or ladles about 3-4 times a day for 6 to 7 days. A physical disease on workers’ dislocated shoulders which happened during this operation is called Monkey Shoulder, which is a popular blended malt whisky nowadays. The next step happens at kiln which is composed of two floors. The second floor has a big steel ground with tiny holes. On the first floor fire is made by anthracite coal and peat. In simple terms, the longer the peat is used, the smokier your whisky gets.

Malting Illustration – Credit: The Whiskey Wash




Maturation & Bottling

Aside from the stages I stated, processes like caramel coloring, mechanical and chill filtration can be applied to the spirit. Moreover, micro climate of whisky region, climatic characteristics saturated in the peat that is used, water characteristics can differ the taste and joy we get from whisky.

Please find the whole illustration from The Whiskey Wash here!

How Whısky Is Made