This is how whiskey is made

Whiskey in Scotland is big business. Scotch denotes quality in flavor and crafts throughout the world. But where does that quality come from? Can it really be as simple as water, barley and yeast? The short answer is no. About 60 percent of the flavor of a whiskey comes from a process called ripening. Those rich golds, deep reds and twinkling copper are born during this time, also known as aging.

Go to the tap of your kitchen and turn it on, this is the color of the whiskey before it matures. This clear liquid is known as new spirit alcohol: about 70 percent alcohol by volume and many workers drank it in the past. It should be noted that due to its strength, the new manufacturing spirit was also used to clean the windows, fierce things. Before it can be called whiskey, the spirit must go through a transformation, the ugly duckling to a swan. According to the law, this process must take a minimum of three years in Scotland to be called Scotch whiskey. Something less than this and it is still new to make spirit, any other country and cannot be labeled as Scottish.

It is carried out inside oak barrels, also called barrels, maturation is an interaction between fresh Scottish air, softwood and spirit. As the spirit matures, the harder elements soften, allowing complex aromas and flavors to emerge. Up to 2 percent of the content of a barrel is lost by evaporation every year, affectionately known as the Angel part, and is one of the reasons why the older a whiskey is, the more expensive it is.

This vital process has taken place for hundreds of years in Scotland, currently 20 million barrels reside in cobweb stores across the country. But the aging process is only part of the art of maturation, so choosing which barrel to use is of the utmost importance.

Different barrels have been used for different types of alcohol, two types of oak are traditionally used: American and European. American barrels are often used previously to ripen bourbon or Tennessee whiskey, they impart a golden color and a robust, sweet, creamy and vanilla flavor. European barrels are often used previously for Spanish sherry in Jerez. It imparts an amber red color and a rich, nutty and fruity sweetness. The three types of barrels used predominantly are: Butt (500L), Hogshead (250L) and Barrel (190L). In Scotland, barrels are reused and rebuilt up to four times. This is achieved through a carbonization process, where the taste of whiskey is removed to return to the original taste of alcohol. The barrels that have been used once leave more intense flavors than those of their fourth use.

None of this would be possible without the coopers, the profession of making barrels. It is a four-year apprenticeship to become one and they are paid per barrel they do. Enormously impressive and vital for whiskey production. Contemplate whiskey on a shelf and you will meet a lot of ages. This is not an average age, nor a maximum age, it is the minimum amount of time that the whiskey in question has matured. Take an example of a 12-year-old boy from Ballantine: when he began to age in 2007, Apple announced its first iPhone and India won the T20 Cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka.

As is the nature of time, things become more complex, whiskey is no different. Younger whiskey tends to be lighter in flavor with a little more kick. Older whiskey, although softer, can bring heavier flavors, and anywhere between 12 and 17 often gives you a very balanced drink.

With a mixed Scotch whiskey, the master mixer is responsible for the barrel selection. They work extensively with the ripening process and have an intimate knowledge of the barrels. In the words of Sandy Hyslop, Ballantine's master blender: “Not only the brand, the type of barrel or the filling of the barrel is seen, the score rating of how close it was to the sensory standard when it was distilled is seen. That's important because when you become a blender you are using the stock that someone else has assigned you. Then he has a golden period when he works with actions he established. And now I have reached this point, that I am not very happy, to be honest, where I am establishing actions to leave the house in good condition for the next man. It's about quality and continuity.

The next time you bring a glass of whiskey to your lips, just think there is a lot to say for a little patience. By Alan Ironside and Lewis Anderson, Ballantine’s brand ambassadors in India