What are Floor Maltings in Whisky Production?

Floor maltings is a whisky production process from the days of old. While many distilleries have moved onto modern practices, there are a handful that continue to use this traditional method.

In this guide, we explore what the purpose of floor maltings is and whether or not they make a real difference in the taste and production of whisky. 

What Are Floor Maltings?

Malting is the process of turning grain into malt and is therefore a key part of making whisky. Floor maltings are a traditional method for the production of malt whisky still used by a few distilleries in Scotland, namely Highland Park and Laphroaig. 

floor maltings whisky

How does it work?

First, the grain must be steeped, which requires it to be placed in a tank to absorb the right level of moisture. After this is complete, it is transferred to a concrete-laid floor to germinate. Germination is an essential part of the process that transforms the starch enzymes into sugar, which then goes on to create the alcohol. It takes just 48 hours for the germination process to get going, and after a few more days, it is complete. During this time, the malts will always be turned by hand with a malt shovel at set intervals. This is an essential part of the floor malting process and is designed to protect the batch and prohibit any unwanted growth from taking root. 

In History

This method dates back to at least the 17th century. It enabled whisky distilleries to focus on larger batches to ensure they had a sufficient supply and proved a popular method for many years to come. However, when the 19th century came around, there had been advanced strides made in the whole process, which allowed more efficient operations to take the lead. 

Why Did Time Move Away From Floor Maltings?

The simple truth is that, while beautifully effective, floor maltings are time-consuming. They are hard work and are not always the most efficient way to produce whisky when it comes to industrial malting.

Producing the optimal conditions for the perfect germination process to occur is difficult and requires a deep insight that is slowly but surely becoming a lost art.

Temperature has a key role to play in protecting the malts and this bit really matters when it comes to retaining a focus on quality and taste. The environment has to be perfect in order to not waste time and money, and it is far easier in modern times to focus on an operation that supports enhanced productivity and outputs over traditional methodology. 

So Why Do Certain Production Facilities Still Use Floor Maltings?

It is not a completely forgotten craft. Floor malting methods are still used in a few distilleries and the reasons why are largely nostalgia-based and as a nod to tradition. When it is done right, floor maltings are capable of producing a perfect drink and the taste plus hard work that goes into this particular branch of whisky is something that is just irreplaceable. There are fantastic modern whisky beverages, but sometimes the old ways really are the best ones.

Read more: Benriach Malting Season Unique Single Malt Whisky 

Which Method Is Better?

This all comes down to what you love and what you don’t. There are great-tasting whiskies out there that use modern methods and fantastic ones that stick with the old ways. The fact is, you can’t go wrong with a perfect floor malting process if you are a lover of finesse. 

Whisky continues to be a popular drink throughout the world, and UKV International’s whole focus is to find the best of the best for their clients.

Get in touch today with our team of experts to learn more about starting the whisky investment journey.