|What's in the whiskey?|
Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grains. Different grains are used, including barley, corn, rye, and wheat, all of which produce different flavors or types of whiskey. Whiskey is also aged in wooden barrels, which are sometimes new and sometimes used in other barrels.
The history of whiskey spans all parts of the world, and each country has its own iconic grain and its own craftsmanship. However, most whiskeys follow a similar process.
Whiskey starts with raw grains or a combination of raw grains. Malt whiskey requires the processing of grains (usually barley) to obtain sugar. Malting involves moistening the grain to germinate, then heating the grain to stop the germination process and drying the grain.
Many different whiskies use the malt manufacturing process, especially those made in Ireland and Scotland. American whiskey usually uses more rye and corn, but malt is still a common ingredient in American whiskey production.
Regardless of the type of grain or malt used in whiskey, the sugar in the grain needs to be extracted. This is done through a process called mashing, in which grains are ground and mixed with hot water. This produces a porridge-like substance called mash. Once all the sugar has been extracted, the mash can continue to ferment.
|What is fermentation?|
Fermentation is where the alcohol begins. The mash is mixed with yeast, and the yeast will eat all the sugar in the mash and convert the sugar into alcohol. This process usually takes several days, depending on the yeast strain. The fermentation process also introduces different flavors into the mash, forming a beer-like liquid with an alcohol content of about 10%.
|What is distillation?|
Distillation adds more alcohol to the fermentation liquid by heating the liquid into steam and then condensing it into liquid. The distillation takes place in the still. There are two main types of distiller: tank distiller and column distiller. Column stills are commonly used for bourbon, rye and other American whiskies.
A column distiller is basically a tall column with partitions or plates, forming a cavity in the distiller. When the distiller is heated from the bottom, the fermented mash enters from the top of the distiller, making the top of the column the coldest part. When the fermented mash enters, it sinks to the bottom and interacts with the hot steam to evaporate the mash and force the alcohol to return to the distiller, while the water and grain solids fall back to the bottom of the distiller.
Every time the steam hits the plate in the distiller, they will condense again, and as they condense and leave behind heavy objects (not alcohol) and retain more alcohol. This resulted in a higher certification product. Column distiller can distill up to 190's alcohol level, or 95% alcohol by volume, but bourbon and other whiskeys are not usually distilled to such a high level.
Almost all whiskey is aged in oak barrels-usually oak barrels. Bourbon, rye and some other American whiskies must be aged in newly charred oak barrels, but other types of whiskey can be aged in different types of oak barrels. To be marked as pure whiskey, it must be aged in barrels for at least two years.
American whiskey and bourbon have additional aging requirements, including specific alcohol levels by volume.
When ready, the whiskey is bottled with an alcohol content of at least 40%. Whiskey can also be filtered in some way to prevent it from becoming cloudy when water or ice is added.
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