The 50 Basic Parameters of Whisky Making

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by Oliver Klimek on June 1, 2010

With all the distillery visits I have done so far, my insight in whisky making as laid out in may has without a doubt become much deeper, although I had known the basic process pretty well before. To demonstrate just how many parameters there are that can be tweaked when making whisky, I have compiled this list. Some could be changed more or less any minute, but some are fixed basically forever when a distillery is built. Some are straightforward, some would deserve a blog article on their own or even a whole book. And this is only for malt whisky!

Please note that this is not the full set of variables in whisky making. These are the parameters that can be actively manipulated. Things like alcohol contents of the wash or reflux in the still during distillation are functions of these parameters and cannot be adjusted directly.

Barley

  • Variety
  • Geographic provenance
  • Agricultural method (organic or “traditional”)

Malting

  • Malting method (Malting floor/Saladin Box/Drum)
  • Germination temperature
  • Germination time
  • Drying temperature
  • Drying time
  • Peating level
  • Peat provenance

Mashing

  • Malt mill settings (proportions of flour, grist, husk)
  • Water for mashing
  • Ratio malt/water
  • Mashing temperature
  • Mashing time
  • Number of waters for extraction
  • Volumes of waters for extraction
  • Water temperatures for extraction

Fermentation

  • Washback material
  • Washback size (if made from wood)
  • Washback cleaning (if made from wood)
  • Yeast variety
  • Yeast amount
  • Fermentation time

Distillation

  • Distillation method
  • Still shape
  • Still size
  • Filling level of the still
  • Still heating method
  • Heating curve
  • Lyne arm angle
  • Lyne arm shape
  • Temperature in the condenser
  • Foreshot cutoff
  • Feints cutoff

Cask

  • Oak variety
  • Size
  • Age (refills)
  • Previous contents
  • Re-toasting or re-charring?

Storage

  • Location of warehouse
  • Type of warehouse
  • Location of cask in warehouse
  • Duration of storage
  • Decision about re-casking (repeat at “Cask”)

Bottling

  • Selection of casks (single or batches)
  • Water for dilution
  • Bottling strength
  • Filtration
  • Coloration

These are just the parameters that I think can have a noticeable influence on the final whisky. Really nerdy stuff like the balancing of the outputs of more than one spirit still in casking (as no two stills are excatly the same) is deliberately omitted.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gal June 2, 2010 at 12:20 pm

wow. great list Oliver

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