Known for its unique smooth taste, malt whiskey has been a long time favorite among many whiskey drinkers. The unique process of making it lends it a distinct flavor. While malt whiskey is rumored to be a Scottish invention, it's produced in distilleries around the world. Top producers of malt whiskey include the United States, Scotland, Canada and Japan.
Ingredients of Malt Whiskey
Grain is the key ingredient that makes whiskeys distinct from other types of liquor. Malt whiskey is primarily made from malted barley. In fact, it only takes the simple ingredients of malted grain, yeast and water to produce malt whiskey. While barley is the predominant ingredient, wheat and rye are also malted and featured in many variations of malt whiskey.
How Malt Whiskey Is Made
The malting process is the beginning stage in the production of malt whiskey. During this step, the grain used to make the whiskey is soaked in water for up to five days. This enables them to convert its starch into sugars.
After the malting stage, the grains are mashed and added to hot waters. In the fermentation process, yeast is added to this new mixture. Next, the batch is ready to be distilled. The whiskey is placed in pot stills and boiled. This allows manufacturers to modify the alcohol content in malt whiskey. The whiskey is then stored in barrels and left to age in the final step.
Different Types of Malt Whiskey
Malt whiskey comes in two different categories. Single malt whiskey is primarily produced in Scotland. Single malt whiskey comes from one type of grain and one single distillery. Keeping with Scottish requirements, single malt whiskey is aged for at least three years.
Blended malt whiskey, also known as vatted malt whiskey, is the second category of malt whiskeys. As the name suggests, blending together different malted grains makes this type of whiskey. The final product is a combination of whiskeys from more than one distillery. Blended whiskey is more commonly found on shelves.
Regulations For Malt Whiskey
Government regulations determine what can rightly be labeled as whiskey. In the United States, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations is responsible for setting forth whiskey standards. By stipulation, liquors that are labeled as malt whiskey must be made up of at least 51 percent grain. Whiskey must also be aged for at least two years and cannot contain a volume of alcohol that is greater than 80 percent.
The regulations are similar in other countries. High grain content is a universally agreed upon stand for whiskey. However, other countries allow malt whiskey to have higher concentrations of alcohol. Scotland allows it to have higher percentages and Canada has no limits at all. Scotland and Canada also age their malt whiskeys longer, requiring a minimum period of three years.
The malting of grain, combined with the barrel aging process are the key factors that distinguish malt whiskeys. The original flavor of malt whiskey makes it a popular drink worldwide.