Grinding the dried, germinated barley into a course flour produces a substance called grist. By passing hot spring water through this grist, the natural malt sugar dissolves to yield a sweet liquid extract known as worth. The by-product is a residue known as mash tun. Some distilleries gift or sell this solid waste to local farmers as cattle feed.
With the simple addition of yeast and in a container called a washback, the worth then ferments naturally to produce a beer without hops. Afterwards, in distinctive copper stills that vaguely resemble large kettles, the first distillation yields what the distillers term a low wine. Promisingly, it contains approximately 20 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV).
After repeating its passage through the stills for at least a second distillation, the new-make spirit then ages in oak casks. Regulations state that a minimum wait of three years is necessary to acquire the denomination of scotch whisky. However, as a primary indicator of quality, the liquor should mature for a full eight to twelve years – or more.
Coopers who make and maintain the casks fundamental for whisky’s flavour have perfected their craft over centuries. Some barrels are imports from Europe or North America, though their subsequent maintenance is invariably at Speyside Cooperage.
Instead of resorting to nails or glue, these experienced tradesmen join the wood using intricate carpentry skills. Using natural materials ensures maximum quality and superior taste for the matured liquor, sometimes decades later. As investors and experienced collectors know, it is the finest and most luxurious whiskies that appreciate to realise premium auction sale prices.