A bottle of old and rare whisky has long been an ideal investment, for those who appreciate the Scottish heritage behind the drink and those who love the delicate and often subtle flavours of some good whiskies. The distilling process can be split up into five significant stages which are as follows: malting, mashing, fermentation, distilling and maturing. This process is called the Pot Still style of distillation, which makes batches of whisky.
First of all, one of the key ingredients, Barley, is cleaned and socked for 2-3 days in large vats of water which are called steeps. Traditionally the barley was then laid on the malting floor to germinate, but is now contained in large ‘Saladin’ boxes where it germinates for 8-12 days dependent on the season. This process makes the starch soluble, preparation for it to be converted into sugar.
Germination is then stopped by the malted barley being dried in a large malt kiln or oven.
This dried malt is now named ‘grist’ and is ground in a mill before being mixed with hot water and mixed further in a large tank called a mash tun. The starch is now turned into a sweet, sugary liquid that is known as wort- which is the part that is kept, with the solids being used as food for cattle.
The wort is then filled into tank which hold between 9,000 and 45,000 litres, where it is fermented by adding some yeast. The yeast converts the sugar into an early stage of alcohol. This process takes roughly 2 days and creates a liquid called wash. Wash is low in alcohol, contains some by-products of fermentation and is left with some unfermentable matter.
The malt whisky is then distilled twice in copper Pot Stills, with the wash being heated until the alcohol becomes vaporous. This gas is collected by a cooling plant which turns it back into a liquid. The cooling plant is usually a coiled copper pipe which is kept perpetually cold.
Distillation number 1 separates the fermented liquid from the alcohol and takes away any traces of the yeast or the unfermentable matter. Known as low wines, this liquid is then put into the second still for distillation number 2. The first collection of liquid from distillation number 2 is not considered potable and the standard is checked continually until a standard is met and is collected in the Spirit Receiver.
After distillation, the spirit is filled into casks of varying types of wood which allow air to pass through. Evaporation takes place and over time the whisky mellows and takes on some of the flavours of the wood it has been casked in. This process can take any number of years. After this, the various casks are blended together and often reduced in strength by adding water and filtered.
Old and Rare Whisky’s Qualities and Source
Each whisky results in having its own unique flavour and personality, dependent on many factors, including the water source used, the level of peat used in the malting kiln and the climate at which the whisky was distilled in. The maturity of the whisky is the most predominant factor in the quality with the oldest whiskies fetching far higher prices, particularly those which have increased in rarity.
For old and rare whisky, an ideal place to begin your search is The Rare Malt Whisky Company. Based in Scotland but shipping globally, this retailer is determined to provide quality old and rare whisky that is matured to perfection.