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THE LINGO

A lexicon of terms from the world of whisky.

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Find words begining with the letter

M

This indicates that the raw material is 100% malted barley, fermented with yeast and distilled in a pot still.
The natural process by which barley grains have been allowed to germinate by soaking in water and are then dried. The barley must be kept at an even temperature and turned regularly. The process of germination converts starch to sugars that can then be fermented at the distillery.
Marrying is a process where several whiskies come together in a large container where they blend into each other before bottling. Sometimes the whisky is returned to the cask left to “marry” for a short period of time, usually a few months, before bottling.
A mixture of grist and hot water which is created in the mash tun.
The large, circular vessels made from cast iron, stainless steel, wood or copper, where the mashing process takes place.
Process by which the milled, malted barley (grist) is mixed with hot water and progressively heated to obtain a sugary liquid called ‘wort’ that gets pumped into the washback where yeast is added to start the fermentation process. Traditionally, three waters or ‘extractions’ are used in the mashing. The first, which is the third water left from the previous mashing, is heated to around 63 or 64 degrees centigrade, mixed with the grist in the mashing machine then filled into the mash tun. The optimum heat at which the enzymes will break down the starch is known as the ‘strike point’. Control of this temperature is vital for if the water is too hot, it will kill the enzymes.

Rotating rakes revolve in the mash tun and stir the worts, which is then drained off through the holes in the floor into the “underback”. A second water is added to flush out more converted starch. This water is at a higher temperature of about 75 degrees centigrade. Sparge water is then added at 85 degrees centigrade to remove the final traces of converted starch. The sparge water is held in a vessel and is used as the first water for the following mash.

Modern plants use a lauter tun technique where after the first water is drained, water is sprayed onto the bed continuously. This method is more efficient at extracting the sugar, allowing faster drainage. The solids remaining in the mash tun (draff) are removed at this point for conversion into cattle food. The hot wort then passes from the underback through a heat exchanger to reduce the temperature to below 20 degrees centigrade. This is vital. If the wort is not cooled, the yeast will be killed off.

The master Blender is the person responsible for the creation and continued quality control of Scotch whiskies produced by a company.
By law, newly distilled spirit must be matured in oak casks in Scotland for a minimum of three years before it can be called “Scotch whisky”. A complex exchange, often referred to as a “conversation”, takes place between the spirit and the cask’s wood, which creates the flavours, strength and balance. The longer whisky is left at the maturation stage the greater influence the wood will have. The ageing process stops when the whisky is bottled as, unlike wine, it does not continue to mature in the bottle. Every whisky reaches its peak in terms of age at a different time and it is the job of the master Blender to find the right whisky at the right time.
At the mill the malted barley is loaded into the mill hopper and goes through the mill where sets of rollers crack the husks and grind the malt. It should produce 10% flour, 20% husk and 70% grit. These proportions are checked very thoroughly because if too fine, the “mash tun” will not drain quickly enough. If too coarse, the liquor will drain too fast and maximum extraction will not occur.
This is one of the 3 terminologies that describe a distillery’s working status. If a distillery is classed as “mothballed” then it is closed but with the ability to start back up again. The other terms are open meaning it’s running and producing spirit and closed meaning that is in such a state that it cannot reopen or the site is occupied by something else.