How Scotch is Made – Step by step

how scotch is made feature

Scotch is very well known around the world. Despite the simplicity of its ingredients, such as water and cereals, from the first to last step of production, Scotch goes through 6 differents stages, which take at least eight years from beginning to end of process. Meaning, the process is much more complex than it appears. In this article you learn, step by step, how Scotch is made. Check it out!


Table of Contents – Sip this Article!

  1. How Scotch is Made? – 6 Steps of Whisky Making
    1. What are the 6 Steps in Making Scotch?
      1. Malting
      2. Drying
      3. Maceration
      4. Fermentation
      5. Distillation
      6. Aging

Glencairn glass filled with malted barley and a tumbler glass with scotch whisky on a barrel


How Scotch is Made – 6 Steps of Whisky Making

Since we are focusing on How Single Malt Scotch is Made, this production process does not include other kinds of Scotch Whisky, such as Blended Scotch or Single Grain whisky.

Discover our complete guide for Blended Scotch Whisky, from how it is made to the best expressions you can taste!

There are six steps from the beginning to the end of production of Scotch: malting, drying, maceration, fermentation, distillation and aging.

Before diving in the 6 steps to produce Scotch Whisky, it is important to understand what is, in fact, Scotch Whisky. This type of whisky is one of the most ancients there is, alongside with Irish Whiskey. Also, it is made primarily from malted barley, since its composition has to have a minimum 51% of this cereal.

To be called Scotch Whisky, there are a few rules a spirit has to follow to deserve that label:

  • 50% of the mash must be constituted by malted barley;
  • The spirit has to be matured in oak barrels;
  • 40% is the minimum ABV the whisky has to have;
  • The Whisky has to age for 3 years, at least;
  • The whole process must take place in Scotland, aging included.


What are the 6 steps in making scotch?

1. Malting

The first step on “How Scotch is Made” is malting. The malting process is to place the barley within natural water for a period of two to three days. This step aims to facilitate germination of malt. When the bud reaches the length of an inch, then it is time to start the second step: drying.

Barley ready to be malted, part of how scotch is made
Barley ready for malting, the first step on how scotch is made


2. Drying

Although this may look an unnecessary step, in reality, drying the malted barley can have great influence in shaping the taste of Scotch.

Thus, during this stage, the malted barley sprouts are taken to an oven, heated with peat. Peat, common in swampy areas of Scotland, when burning, produces little heat but a lot of smoke. This will impregnate the malt, providing the unique taste of smoky Scotch. And from region to region, the various types of peat provide distinctive flavors.

Get to know more about Peated Scotch Whisky, in this article:


3. Maceration

The third step on how scotch is made is maceration. In order to make the most of the grain and the bud of malt barley, all grains are grounded. The more the grains and malts are milled, more sugar is available for fermentation.

This way, it becomes easier to obtain a higher amount of alcohol and reach the minimum of 40% AVB necessary for a spirit to be considered Scotch. After milling, the grains and malts are placed in a distiller with hot water infusion in order to create the must.


4. Fermentation

After the must is formed, when it reaches 70 ° C, yeast is added in order to ferment. Within 72 hours, the sugar in must is converted into alcohol. This is the forerunner of Scotch, still being a sweet drink with only 9% alcohol.

The distillation is part of the process of "how scotch is made"
Copper stills for scotch whisky distillation. After the fermentation step, the mash is ready for the distillation process of  “How Does Scotch is made”.


5. Distillation

After withdrawing the impurities of the beverage resulting from fermentation, the liquid is put in the alembic, where will be distillated twice. The first distillation has around 20% alcohol, while the second has almost 64%. At this point will be added pure water, so that when all the aging process has finished, the Scotch has the 40% required. This is a lengthy process and it requires a lot of experience and wisdom.


6. Aging

To know how to scotch is made is to know that this is a spirit that needs at least to age for 3 years.

After distillation, which results in a clear liquid, the Scotch will then stand in the appropriate barrels. Here it will incorporate flavors and colors, depending on the type of peat, water, and the type of oak used in the barrels. The aging of a good Scotch lasts at least eight years, but could reach up to two decades. This is one of the main steps in the production of Scotch.

Laphroaig Scotch Whisky Aging Barrels

After that, the Scotch is ready to be bottled and tasted by all of us!


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