Malt Whiskies, which differ considerably in flavour according to the distillery from which they come, have a more pronounced bouquet and flavour than the Grain Whiskies. The production of Grain Whisky is not so influenced by geographical factors and it may be distilled anywhere in Scotland. What gives Scotch Whisky its distinctive flavour and bouquet?
This is one of the mysteries of the industry and a secret which many imitators of Scotch Whisky have tried in vain to discover. Many theories and explanations have been put forward, but there is no universally accepted solution. The distilling process itself is one factor. Scotch Whisky, after it has been distilled, contains not only ethyl alcohol and water but certain secondary constituents. The exact nature of these is not fully understood, but it is believed they include some of the essential oils from the malted barley and other cereals and substances that derive from the peat.
The amount of these secondary constituents retained in the spirit depends upon the shape of the still and the way it is operated and also on the strength at which the spirit is drawn off. Grain Whisky, because of the process by which it is made, contains fewer secondary constituents than Malt Whisky and is accordingly milder in flavour and aroma. The natural elements of water, peat and the Scottish climate all certainly have a profound effect on the flavour of Scotch Whisky.
Water is probably the most important single factor and a source of good, soft water is essential to a distillery. The Scottish climate is extremely important, particularly when the whisky is maturing.
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At this stage the soft air permeates the casks and works on the whisky, eliminating harsher constituents to produce a mellow whisky. Why do whiskies produced in different distilleries vary in flavour?
This again is a question which it is very difficult to answer with certainty. Most people would agree that the water used is the decisive factor. Adjoining distilleries which draw their water from different sources are known to produce whiskies that are quite dissimilar in flavour. The size and shape of the stills are also important as are the skill and experience of the men who manage them.
It is the objective of the distiller to produce a whisky whose flavour and character remain consistent at all times and in all circumstances. This is the true art of distilling, acquired only after many years and often handed down from one generation to the next. How many distilleries are there?
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There are around Pot Still Malt distilleries and Grain, or Patent Still, distilleries in Scotland; but the number working can vary from year to year. Can Scotch Whisky be made only in Scotland? Many other products which were originally manufactured only in a particular locality have lost their geographical significance and can now be manufactured anywhere.
This is widely recognised in law throughout the world. It is extremely limited.
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Scotch Whisky vs. Irish Whiskey: What's the Difference
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