Chapter 11 Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and ...

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Chapter 11 Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and ...

Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 137Chapter 11Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their historyand evolutionT.P. LyonsAlltech Inc., Nicholasville, KY, USAIntroductionWhisky is the potable spirit obtained by distillationof an aqueous extract of an infusion of maltedbarley and other cereals that has been fermentedwith strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast.Various types of whisky are produced in anumber of different countries in the world. Theydiffer principally in the nature and proportion ofthe cereals used as raw materials along withmalted barley, and also in the type of still usedfor distillation.The principal types of whisky are alsocharacteristic of particular geographical regionsof the world. In Scotland, the characteristicproduct is manufactured using only malted barleyas the raw material; and the fermented malt mashis distilled in relatively small pot stills.The product, known as Scotch malt whisky, isproduced in small distilleries, of which there areover 100 in Scotland. Scotch malt whisky ismarketed both as a straight malt whisky, manybrands of which have recently becomeextremely popular throughout the world, andalso as a blend with another type of whiskyproduced in Scotland known as ‘Scotch grainwhisky’ or (because it is distilled continuously inCoffey-type patent stills) as ‘patent-still whisky’.Most Scotch whiskies available on theinternational market consist of blends with 20-30% malt whisky and 70-80% grain whisky.Within the blend, there may be as many as 20-30 individual malt whiskies and grain whiskies.These blends are, by law, matured for at leastthree years but in practice this period is muchlonger. Unblended Scotch malt whiskies areusually matured for a minimum of eight years.The cereals used in the manufacture of Scotchgrain whisky are malted barley, together with ahigh proportion (up to 90%) of wheat or corn(maize). Currently wheat is the main cereal,chosen on the basis of cost and the attraction ofusing a Scottish-grown cereal. All whiskies arelegally protected and defined, mainly becauseof the huge revenues that governments obtainfrom their sale. The Scotch Whisky Order (1990)and the Scotch Whisky Act (1988), in definingScotch Whisky, state that to be called ScotchWhisky spirits must be:1. produced at a distillery in Scotland2. from water and malted barley to which onlywhole grains or other cereals may be added3. processed at that distillery into a mash


138 T.P. Lyons4. converted to fermentable carbohydrate onlyby endogenous enzymes5. fermented only by the addition of yeast6. distilled to an alcohol strength less than 94.8%so that the distillate has the aroma and tastederived from the raw materials7. matured in Scotland in oak casks of less than700 litres for a minimum of three years8. be a product that retains the color, aroma andtaste derived from the raw materials9. produced with no substance other than waterand spirit caramel added.The word ‘Scotch’ in this definition is ofgeographical and not generic significance.Irish whiskey (spelled with an e) is a distinctiveproduct of either the Republic of Ireland or ofNorthern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland,definitions were enacted by the Parliament in theIrish Whiskey Acts of 1950 and 1980. The 1950Act distinguished pot still whiskey from blendsand stated that the title ‘Irish Pot-Still Whiskey’was reserved solely for spirits distilled in pot stillsin the Republic from a mash of cereal grainsnormally grown in that country and saccharifiedby a diastase of malted barley. The 1980legislation specified that the term ‘Irish Whiskey’only applied to ‘spirits distilled in the Republic orNorthern Ireland from a mash of cerealssaccharified by the diastase of malt containedtherein, with or without other natural diastases’.This meant that unlike Scotch, Irish whiskey maybe produced with the use of microbial enzymepreparations in addition to malt. The 1980 Actalso specified that the whiskey must be aged forat least three years in Ireland in wooden barrels.While not possessing the ‘smoky’ taste andaroma of Scotch, Irish whiskey is usually moreflavorful and has a heavier body than Scotch.Moreover, the whiskey is distilled not twice, asin Scotland, but three times to give a very strongspirit of 86 o GL compared with the 71 o GL whiskydistilled in Scotland.The tremendous popularity of whiskiesmanufactured in Scotland, Ireland, the US andCanada has prompted several other countriesto try manufacturing whiskies, usually onesdesigned to resemble Scotch. Indeed, thenumber of countries with minor but neverthelesssignificant whisky-distilling industries must nowbe well over a dozen. Some countries, notablyAustralia and Japan, have whisky-distillingindustries producing a sufficiently acceptableproduct for them to venture into the exportindustry. Other countries, including theNetherlands and Spain, have whisky-distillingindustries that cater mainly, if not exclusively, forhome consumption. The measures that some ofthese industries have taken to imitate Scotchbecome apparent when the spirits are sampled.One of the two whisky distilleries in Spain thatlocated northwest of Madrid in the GuadarramaHills near Segovia produces a very acceptableScotch-type whisky. Its quality is attributed in partto the fact that the water used, which comes fromthe surrounding hills, closely resembles that usedin highland Scotch whisky distilleries.Recommended descriptions of Scotch whiskymanufacture have come from Brander (1975),Daiches (1969), Dunnett (1953), Gunn (1935),Robb (1950), Ross (1970), Simpson (1968),Simpson et al. (1974), Ross Wilson (1959, 1970and 1973) and Philip (1989). There are a fewsmaller books describing individual distilleries inScotland. Recommended are those byMcDowell (1975) and Wilson (1973; 1975).Recommended reading on Irish whiskey includesan account by McGuire (1973) and short reviewarticles by Court and Bowers (1970) and Lyons(1974).History of whisky productionThe origins of the art of distilling potable spiritsare obscure, and probably date back to ancientChina. However, the first treatise on distilling waswritten by the French chemist Arnold deVilleneuve around 1310. The potency of distilledspirits caused many to be known as the ‘waterof life’, a description that survives today in suchnames as eau de vie for French brandy andakvavit and aquavit for spirits in Northern Europe.The name ‘whisky’ is a corruption of


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 139‘uisgebaugh’, the Gaelic word for water of life.Uisge was corrupted first into ‘usky’, which finallybecame whisky after several centuries. Dr.Johnson sang the praises of this potable spirit,although in his Dictionary of 1755 it is listed under‘u’ and not ‘w’.Much to the chagrin of the Scotsman, it islikely that the first whisky was distilled not inScotland but in Ireland. The spirit was known inIreland when that land was invaded by theEnglish in 1170. In all likelihood the art ofdistillation was imported into Scotland bymissionary monks from Ireland. Two of today’smain centers of Scotch distilling, namely theisland of Islay and the Speyside town ofDufftown, were the sites of early monasticcommunities.Whisky, principally Scotch whisky, has formany years been one of the most populardistilled beverages in the world; and it was inScotland rather than in Ireland that its qualitiescame to be extensively appreciated. This hascontinued to the present day and in theintervening period many Scotsmen have feltcompelled to record for posterity their thoughtsand inspirations on the potable spirit. There arenumerous histories of whisky distilling in Scotland,some more comprehensive than others. Forgood general accounts, the reader is referredto the texts by Brander (1974), Daiches (1969),Ross (1970) and Ross Wilson (1970).Whisky distilling flourished in Scotland notleast because consuming the spirit helped theinhabitants to withstand the climatic rigors of thisnorthern region of Britain. The first recordedevidence of whisky production in Scotland is anentry in the Exchequeur Rolls for the year 1494.It reads “To Friar John Cor, by order of the King,to make aquavitae, eight bolls of malt”.Production of whisky was therefore beingcontrolled; and an Act of 1597 decreed that onlyearls, lords, barons and gentlemen could distillfor their own use. To many Scots of this erawhisky was a medicine, and in 1506 King JamesIV of Scotland had granted a monopoly formanufacture of ‘aqua vitae’ to the Guild of BarberSurgeons in the City of Edinburgh.Taxation on whisky production first appearedin the 17th century. Breaches of the monopolyregulations and the need to raise money to sendan army into England to help the EnglishParliament in its war against Charles I led to theAct of 1644, which fixed a duty of two shillingsand eight pence Scot’s on a pint of whisky (theScot’s pint was then about 1.5 litres). But the taxwas short-lived and was replaced by a malt taxthat later was also repealed.At the time of the Treaty of Union betweenScotland and England in 1707 there was a taxon malt in England, but not in Scotland. TheEnglish were irate; and in 1725 when LordWalpole’s administration decided to enforce thetax in Scotland, the first of a series of Malt Taxriots occurred. The English, meanwhile, hadcultivated a taste for French brandy, there beingvery little whisky consumed at that time outsideof Scotland. However around 1690 William IIIbegan to wage commercial war against theFrench, and imposed punitive taxes on importsof French brandy into England. The Englishreacted by acquiring a taste for gin, which wasdistilled locally. The scale of drunkenness thatdeveloped with the popularity of gin had to becontrolled by law; and the Acts of 1736 and 1713levied high taxes on gin manufacturers. Both ofthese acts contained clauses exempting Scotland,but not for long. The Parliament in London sawthe prospect of a rich harvest of taxes in thedistilleries of Scotland; and in a series of actsstarting in 1751, production of whisky in Scotlandwas increasingly subjected to taxation.The outcome of these punitive measures wasnot surprising. An extensive and thriving businessin illicit distillation of whisky grew up in Scotlandas described by Sillett (1965). Curiously, illicitproduction of Scotch hardly extended over theborder into England, although there are a fewrecords of the operation of illicit stills in theCheviot Hills west of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.Following the Act of 1823, which introducedmuch stiffer penalties for illicit distillation, and tosome extent because of the increased standardsof living in northern Scotland, illicit manufactureof whisky declined. Indeed, many erstwhile illicit


140 T.P. Lyonsdistillers emerged to become legal and registereddistillers of Scotch whisky.In 1826, Robert Stein of the Kilbagie distilleryin Clackmannanshire, Scotland, patented acontinuously operating still for whiskyproduction. However, this invention wassuperseded in 1830 with the introduction byAeneas Coffey of an improved version of thistype of still. The appearance of continuous stillssparked off a period of turmoil in the Scotchwhisky industry, it being claimed that the productfrom the continuous distillation of a mash thatcontained unmalted grain (described as neutralor ‘silent spirit’) could not be called whisky, sinceit had not been distilled in the traditional pot still.The battle was waged for about three quartersof a century; and in 1908 a Royal Commissiondecided that malt whisky and grain neutral spirit,when blended, could be labeled whisky.The major factors which have affected thedevelopment of the whisky distilling industry inScotland in this century have been economic.The industry has had to endure the privations oftwo world wars, the economic depression inGreat Britain during the 1920s and prohibitionin the United States from 1920 to 1933, whichgreatly affected export of Scotch to NorthAmerica. Since 1945, however, the industry inScotland has consolidated and expanded. The20th century has also witnessed a considerableimprovement in the quality of whisky distilled andblended in Scotland as a result of the acceptanceof blending malt whiskies with grain whisky andthe amalgamation of several smaller distilleriesinto combines.Scotch malt whiskies can be divided into‘highland’, ‘lowland’, ‘Islay’ and ‘Campbeltownwhiskies’ (Simpson et al., 1974). The ‘highlandline’, which separates the areas in Scotland inwhich the first two types of spirit are distilled, is astraight line which runs from Dundee in the eastto Greenock in the west (Figure 1). It thenextends southwards, below the Isle of Arran. Anywhisky produced north of this line, includingthose from Campbeltown and Islay, is entitled tobe called a highland malt whisky, while whiskiesdistilled in areas south of the line are designatedas lowland whiskies. Of the 104 malt whiskyFigure 1. Highland and lowland whisky-producing regions of Scotland.


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 141distilleries in Scotland, 95 are highland malt whiskydistilleries. Of these, no fewer than 49 are situatedin an area measuring 50 miles east to west and20 miles southwards from the Moray Firth. Thisarea of Speyside has been called the ‘Kingdomof Malt Whisky’ (Cameron Taylor, 1970).Classification of the four whiskies distilled on theislands of Jura, Orkney and Skye is disputed.Some authorities list them along with the Islaywhiskies as ‘islandwhiskies, others as highlandwhiskies, which is geographically correct. Thereare also eight grain whisky distilleries in Scotland.Whiskey distilling in Ireland was, as has beennoted, first recorded in the 12th century. By 1556,it had become sufficiently widespread to warrantlegislation to control it. A statute proclaimed thatyear stated that a license was required tomanufacture the spirit, but that peers, gentlemenowning property worth £10 or more andborough freemen were exempt (McGuire,1973). Taxation of whisky distilling graduallybecame more excessive and collection of taxesbecame increasingly efficient. However, in 1779there was an important change in the distillerylaws. An attempt was made to limit the extent ofevasion of spirit duty by prescribing a minimumrevenue to be exacted from the owner of eachstill. The effect of this legislation was dramatic. In1779, there was said to be 1,152 registered stillsin Ireland. By 1790, this number had fallen to 216and this inevitably fostered widespread illicitdistilling (McGuire, 1973). This legislation lasteduntil 1823 when it was replaced by laws that taxedIrish whiskey on the volume of production,legislation that is essentially still in force today.Development of the Irish whiskey distillingindustry in the present century has inevitably beeninfluenced by economic circumstances and bythe political division of Ireland into the Republicand Northern Ireland that occurred in 1922.Barnard (1887) described visits to 28 distilleriesin Ireland, but closures and amalgamationsfollowed such that when McGuire (1973)prepared his account, there were only twowhiskey-distilling companies in Ireland, one withdistilleries in Dublin and Cork in the Republic andthe other with plants in Bushmills and Colerainein Northern Ireland. These two companies havesince amalgamated and have concentrated theirdistillery operations in Cork and Bushmills. Therehas also been a move towards production of alighter Scotch-type whisky in Ireland to replacethe heavier traditional Irish whiskey.Outline of whisky productionprocessesWhiskies differ basically in the nature andproportion of the cereals used as raw materialsand on the type of still used in the distillationprocess. These differences in the productionprocess are illustrated in the flow diagram inFigure 2 for production of Scotch malt whisky(production of Irish whiskey is very similar).Detailed accounts of each of the unit processesin whisky production are given in subsequentsections of this chapter.A characteristic of Scotch malt whisky is thatthe only cereal used in its manufacture is maltedbarley (Table 1). After milling, the meal is mashedin a mash tun (Figure 2) similar to that used inbreweries for beer production. During mashingor conversion, enzymes in the malt catalyze thehydrolysis of starch into fermentable sugars. Inthe manufacture of Scotch grain whisky and Irishwhiskey, other cereals are used along withmalted barley to provide additional starch in themash tun (Table 1). Owing to the highgelatinization temperature of their starches,unmalted cereals must be precooked beforethey are incorporated into the mash.The wort, or clear mash, leaving the mashtun is cooled and fed into a vessel where it ismixed with yeast. In Scotland and Ireland thesefermentation vessels have a relatively smallcapacity and are known as ‘washbacks’ (Figure2).Fermentation is conducted with strains of theyeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae that are usuallyspecially propagated for the purpose, althoughScotch malt whisky distillers may use somesurplus brewers yeast (Table 1). The process isallowed to proceed to a point at which the


142 T.P. LyonsFigure 2. Flow diagram showing the principal operations during production of Scotch malt whisky.


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 143Table 1. Raw materials and unit processes used in the production of scotch and Irish whiskies.Scotch malt Scotch grain IrishRaw materials Peated and unpeated Wheat or corn and a small Unmalted barley and unpeated,malted barley proportion of malted barley malted barleyConversion Infusion mash Mash cook followed by Infusion mashconversion standFermentation Distillers yeast and Distillers yeast Distillers yeastbrewers yeastDistillation Two pot stills Continuous still Three pot stillsMaturation At 62 o GL in used charred Up to 67 o GL in used charred At 70 o GL in used charred oakoak bourbon whiskey oak bourbon whisky barrels bourbon whisky barrels or sherrybarrels or sherry casks or sherry casks for at least casks for at least three yearsfor at least three years three yearsspecific gravity of the fermented mash has usuallydropped to below 1.000. In pot still distilleries,the fermented mash or ‘wash’ (beer) is feddirectly to a still known as the wash still, fromwhich the distillates are redistilled in the secondor low wines still. In Ireland, and in one Scotchmalt whisky distillery, a third distillation is carriedout. Finally, the freshly distilled whisky is storedin charred oak barrels for minimum periods oftime that depend on the legislation in theproducing country (Table 1). Scotch malt andIrish whiskies are customarily matured for muchlonger than the legal minimum period.Individual operationsRaw materialsMalted cerealsMalted barley is the principal malted cereal usedin whisky production. Like the brewer, the whiskydistiller uses barley cultivars of the speciesHordeum vulgare L. and Hordeum distichon(Hough et al., 1971). Malted barley is employedas a source of enzymes (principally amylolytic)that catalyze the hydrolysis of starches and insome instances serves as a source of starch thatis converted ultimately into ethanol. These twodemands must be finely balanced. In themanufacture of Scotch malt whisky, where onlymalted barley is used, care must be taken whenthe grain is sprouting during the malting processto ensure that only a limited amount of enzymeactivity is produced. This is because enzyme isproduced at the expense of the fermentablematerials in the grain (referred to as ‘extract’).However in the manufacture of other types ofwhisky, malted barley is often used as the onlysource of amylolytic enzyme in a mash bill thatcontains a high proportion of unmalted grain. Inthis type of whisky production the enzymeactivity of the malted barley must be greater thanthat used in Scotch malt whisky manufacture.Traditionally, barley used in the production ofScotch malt whisky was malted on the distillerypremises using a floor malting system and driedover fires of coke and peat in the pagoda-shapedkilns which are still a feature of these distilleries.To a large extent, this system has beensuperseded by mechanical maltings, whichproduce malt for groups of distilleries. In ordernot to destroy the enzyme activity developedduring malting, a balance must be achieved inthe kiln between drying the green malt to a


144 T.P. Lyonssuitably low moisture level for storage, curing togive it the appropriate flavor and retainingsufficient enzyme activity (Simpson, 1968). Inmaltings attached to the distillery, the kilntemperature is increased slowly over a 48 hrperiod to achieve an even rate of drying and thedesired flavor. The latter character is achievedby fuelling the furnace with peat during the earlypart of the kilning period when the green malt ismoist and readily absorbs the peat smoke or‘reek’. In mechanical maltings the green malt isdried at a faster rate with a forced-air draught,but a supplementary peat-fired kiln is often usedto produce flavored malts. The amount of peatused varies with different maltings. Some of thedistilleries on Islay in Scotland specialize inproducing a whisky with a very pronounced peatflavor, and they therefore use heavily-peatedmalts. Malted barleys used in the manufactureof Scotch grain and Irish whiskies are not driedover a peat fire. They generally have a greaterenzyme activity, so the relatively small proportionof malted barley used in the mash containssufficient enzyme activity to convert all of thestarch in the mash (principally supplied byunmalted cereals) into fermentable sugars. Thegreater enzyme activity in these malted barleysis reflected in their nitrogen content. Malts usedin production of Scotch grain whisky have anitrogen content of 1.8% or higher (comparedwith a brewer’s malted barley with a nitrogencontent in the region of 1.5%) (Hough et al.,1971). Malting aids, such as gibberellic acid andbromate, are not normally used in productionof malted barley for whisky manufacture.Because of the high cost of malted cereals,considerable effort has been expended by thewhisky distiller in attempting to devise methodsthat allow prediction of the yield of alcoholexpected using different proportions of maltedbarley in the mash bill. Unfortunately, the methodscustomarily used by the brewer, such as thoserecommended in Great Britain by the Instituteof Brewing Analysis Committee (1975), haveproved of limited value. The brewer has usedmeasurements of diastatic power, expressed asthe Lintner value, which is a measure of theextent of saccharification of soluble starchpresent in a cold water extract of the malt (LloydHind, 1948) as an indicator of malt quality.Diastatic activity measured in this way includescontributions from both "- and ß-amylases.However, Preece and his colleague (Preece,1947; 1948; Preece and Shadaksharaswamy,1949 a,b,c) have shown that high ß-amylaseactivity, as determined by the Lintner value, isnot always accompanied by high "-amylaseactivity. Pyke (1965) showed that the Lintnervalue of a malt is only useful for predicting thespirit yield in manufacture of Scotch grain whiskywhen the proportion of malted barley in themashbill is low (Figure 3). Determination of "-amylase activities of the malt gave a lesssatisfactory correlation than the Lintner value, anobservation which agrees with that made earlierby Thorne et al. (1945). Further evidence for theunsuitability of employing traditional maltspecifications for predicting performance inwhisky manufacture has come from Griffin(1972).Although the degree to which a malted barleyhas been peated can to some extent be assessedby smell, such is the importance of this characterin malt that it must be determined in a morerigorous fashion. Peat smoke or ‘reek’ containsa wide range of compounds, but it is generallyheld that the peaty character is imparted to themalt largely as a result of absorption of phenols.For some years, Scotch distillers used a methodbased on a reaction of phenols with diazotizedsulphanilic acid. A lack of specificity in thismethod, coupled with the instability of thediazonium salt, prompted MacFarlane (1968) torecommend an alternative method involvingextraction of phenols from malt with diethyletherunder acid conditions with absorptiometricmeasurement of the color developed when thephenols are reacted with 4-aminophenazone.MacFarlane applied the method to a wide varietyof malts, both peated and unpeated, andreported values ranging from zero (for anunpeated grain) to as high as 9.4 ppm for a maltproduced on Islay in Scotland. (It has beencalculated that to obtain a malt with 10 ppmphenols, one tonne of peat must be used fordrying each tonne of malted barley).


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 145Scotch whisky distillers have been concernedby the possibility that colorimetric methods, suchas those recommended by MacFarlane (1968)and Kleber and Hurns (1972), may not assay allof the organoleptically-important compounds thatmalt acquires as a result of peating. To examinethis possibility, MacFarlane et al. (1973)produced peat smoke condensate on a laboratoryscale and separated the oil and aqueousphases from the wax fraction, as only the twoformer would contain components that mightappear in the distilled whisky. Six compounds,namely furfural, 5-methylfurfural, guiacol, phenol,D-cresol and 5-xylenol, were detected in theaqueous fraction by gas liquid chromatography(GLC). The peat smoke oil was more complex,and no fewer than 30 peaks, some of themcreated by more than one compound, wereobtained by GLC. The compounds includedhydrocarbons, furfural derivatives, benzenederivatives and phenols. The authors stressed thatusing their GLC techniques, 3,5-xylenol ismasked by the peaks of m-ethylphenol and D-ethylphenol, two compounds thought to makean important contribution to peat aroma andtaste. Figure 4 shows gas liquid chromatogramsof extracts of a peated and a unpeated malt.Unmalted cerealsFewer problems are encountered in arriving atspecifications for the unmalted cereals used inwhisky manufacture, namely wheat, corn, rye andbarley. The corn (varieties of Zea mays) used inmash bills for manufacturing Scotch grainwhiskies is usually of the yellow dent type,generally obtained from France. Occasionallywhite corn is used, and it is reputed to give ahigher alcohol yield. Corn is a popular grainbecause it has a high content of starch that isreadily gelatinized and converted intofermentable sugars. The US has imposed controlson the quality of corn used for whiskymanufacture. In the US there are three gradesof corn, with only grades 1 and 2 being approvedfor spirit manufacture. In Great Britain, on theother hand, the corn used is normally grade 3on the US scale.Unmalted barley used in manufacture of Irishwhiskey has a quality intermediate to that usedfor malting and that used for cattle feed. In thisway, the maltster can select the best barleyavailable on the market at the time of purchase.For many years, a small percentage (about 5%of the total) of unmalted oats (Avena spp.) wasFigure 3. Relationship between the diastatic activity of a Scotch grain whisky mash bill and spirit yield.Laboratory fermentations were conducted using mash bills containing different proportions of malt mixed withcorn, and therefore with different Lintner values. It can be seen that only when the proportion of malt is ratelimitingcan spirit yield be correlated with the Lintner value (Pyke, 1965).


146 T.P. LyonsFigure 4. Gas-liquid chromatograms of extracts of unpeated and peated Scoth barley malts showing thecontribution peating makes to the content of phenols in the malt. Peating leads to an increase in the size of thepeak corresponding to phenol, D-cresol and guiacol, and of the peaks which lie to the right of the mixed phenolpeak (attributable to furfurals and hydrocarbons). D-cresol is also detectable on the chromatogram of extracts ofpeated malt. The ratio of the area of the total phenol peaks to that of D-ethylphenol is used as an indication ofthe peatiness of the malt.


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 147included in mash bills for manufacturing Irishwhiskey. It was contended that these grains, withtheir large husks, improved the texture of thegrain bed in the mash tun (to assist in strainingoff the clear wort from the mash solids) and thatoats influenced the flavor of Irish whiskey.Whether either or both of these effects wereimportant will probably never be known, for oatsare no longer used in the production of Irishwhiskey (Court and Bowers, 1970).Mashing and cookingMash production in Scotch and Irish distilleriesinvolves a process not unlike that used inbreweries to prepare wort for beer manufacture.However, where cereals other than malted barleyare used, the malt mashing is preceded by a hightemperature cooking process.MashingRegardless of whether the mash bill containscereals other than malted barley, the mainbiochemical changes that take place duringmashing are hydrolysis of starch, protein andother biopolymers in the meal to produce watersoluble low molecular weight compounds thatform a fermentable substrate (or wort). The majorstarch-liquefying and saccharifying enzymes are"- and ß-amylases, while the limit dextrins formedby action of amylases on amylopectin are furtherhydrolyzed by limit dextrinases.Barley malt used in the manufacture of Scotchmalt whisky is coarsely ground in a roller milladjusted to give a grind no finer than the maltwarrants. Too fine a grind can give rise to a ‘setmash’ that settles on the bottom of the mashtun to block and impede drainage of the liquid(Simpson, 1968). The mash tun is usuallypreheated with water and the perforated bottomplates are flooded before mashing commences.The meal from overhead bins is mixed with hotwater at 60-65 o C in the proportion of one partmeal to four parts water, and the mash ishomogenized by action of revolving rakes. Inthe traditional mashing process, the mash isusually loaded into the tun to a depth of aboutone meter and allowed to stand for about onehour, after which the wort is drained off fromunder the grain bed. This liquid extract, whichhas a specific gravity (SG) of 1.070-1.060 (Figure5) is collected in an intermediate vessel knownas an ‘underback’. After being cooled to around25 o C in a heat exchanger, the wort is pumpedinto the fermentation vessel. The bed of grainsin the tun is then re-suspended in water at 75 o Cand a second batch of wort is drawn off at aspecific gravity of around 1.030 and passed intothe underback. This process is known as the firstaftermash and is repeated twice more; exceptthat the dilute worts drawn off are not passed tothe underback, but are returned to the hot watertank to be used in the next mash. The wort inthe underback has a pH value of about 5.5, aspecific gravity of 1.045-1.065, and an aminonitrogen content of about 150-180 mg/L. Thespent grain residue or ‘draff’ is removed fromthe mash tun and sold as animal feed. Manydistilleries have now reduced this process to justthree water additions. Larger distilleries are nowinstalling semi-lauter tuns in place of thetraditional mash tuns. These have vertical knives,enabling the structure of the mash bed to bemaintained whilst speeding wort draining, andsparging rings to allow simultaneous draining andsparging. The result is a faster more efficientextraction without loss of clarity or changing thecomposition of the wort.Mash preparation in the manufacture of Irishwhiskey is very similar to that used in Scotchproduction, but there are certain differences. Useof a high percentage of raw barley in the mashbill (up to 60%) has necessitated the use of stonemills or hammer mills to achieve the requiredgrind. The unmalted barley is sprayed with waterto give a moisture content of about 14% andthen dried to around 4.5% moisture beforegrinding. The malted barley used is roller-milled.In recent years a plant has been installed inIreland which uses a wet milling process thateliminates the need for watering and drying of


148 T.P. LyonsFigure 5. Flow diagram showing the mashing cycle in a Scotch malt whisky distillery.the unmalted barley. Mash tuns used in Irishwhiskey distilleries differ from those used tomake Scotch in that they are larger, simplybecause these distilleries have stills with a greatercapacity than those in Scotland. (This differencedates back to when there was a flat rate of taxper still in Ireland, rather than a tax per gallon ofproduct.) Moreover, the mashing cycle differsin that the weak wort from the first aftermash isnot passed to the underback, but is mixed withworts from the second and third aftermashes tobe used in the subsequent mash (Lyons, 1974).Cooking followed by malt mashingThe wheat, corn and rye used in production ofScotch grain whisky must be cooked beforebeing added to the mash containing malted barleyin order that the starch in these grains canbecome gelatinized and accessible to the maltenzymes. Traditionally, cooking was carried outas a batch process, but it has to some extentbeen superseded by continuous processes.For batch cooking, the grain is freed fromextraneous material by passage through screensand then ground either in a pin-type mill or ahammer mill. It is then conveyed to the cookerand subjected to a cooking cycle involving hightemperatures and pressures designed to bringabout complete gelatinization of the starch.Inadequate cooking will sometimes leave starchgranules intact in the mash, while excessiveheating can cause caramelization and thereforeloss of sugar and decreased spirit yield. Pyke(1965) has provided an account of the cookingof corn in its production of Scotch grain whiskyand a similar process is still used today. Theconventional cooker is a horizontal cylindricalvessel capable of working at pressures up to 90psi (63 x 10 4 Pa), and fitted with stirring gear. Atypical cycle in cooking corn might consist of 1-1.5 hrs of heating with live steam injection toreach a temperature of 120 o C and a pressure of15 x 10 4 Pa. The mash is held at this temperatureand pressure for a further 1.5 hrs. The liquid usedfor the mash is often that from the third aftermashmentioned earlier. At the end of the cookingtime, the pressure is released and the hot cookedcorn mash is blown directly into a saccharificationvessel containing the malted barley suspendedin hot water. Cold water is then added to bringthe temperature in the mash tun to around 63 o C.Good mixing is also essential at this stage; and


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 149failure to achieve it can lead to the entire mashsolidifying. The need for rapid cooling of thecorn mash was emphasized by Murtagh (1970),who showed that with slow cooling or holdingat a temperature around 82 o C lipid-carbohydratecomplexes could be formed that are notfermentable and can lead to a loss of 1-2% inspirit yield.After a suitable mashing period, the mash maybe filtered as described previously. Morecommonly, the entire mash may be pumped viaa heat exchanger into a fermenter. Pyke (1965)has published the composition of a typical Scotchgrain whisky mash (Table 2).Table 2. Chemical composition of a typical scotchgrain mash*.Total soluble carbohydrate (as glucose) 9.00Insoluble solids 2.20Fructose 0.13Glucose 0.29Sucrose 0.28Maltose 4.65Maltotriose 0.96Maltotetraose 0.45Dextrin 2.54Amino nitrogen (as leucine) 0.09Ash 0.27containing P 2O 50.09K 2O 0.09M gO 0.02µg/mlThiamin 0.46Pyridoxine 0.61Biotin 0.01Inositol 236Niacin 11.1Pantothenate 0.71*Pyke, 1965.In the manufacture of Scotch grain whisky, theproportion of malted barley in the mash bill isusually around 10-15%, a proportion far greaterthan that required merely to provide a source ofamylolytic enzymes. It is a practice of long%standing, and is done to obtain the required maltflavor in the grain whisky. This was noted as earlyas 1902 by Schidrowitz and prompted furthercomment from Valaer in 1940.Continuous cooking has been adopted inrecent years in Scotland. Stark (1954) listed theadvantages of using continuous cooking. Whilepractices vary to some extent in differentdistilleries, essentially the cereal is slurried ataround 50 o C and then pumped through a steamjetheater into the cooking tubes where theresidence time is normally 5-10 minutes. Thecontinuous cooker has a narrow tube (6-16 cmin diameter) which reduces the incidence ofcharring and carbon deposition. The mash passesthrough the tube at about 20 meters/minute, withthe temperature reaching near 65 o C and thepressure 65 psi (40 x 10 4 Pa).FermentationThe objectives in fermenting a whisky distillerymash with strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiaeare to convert the mash sugars to ethanol andcarbon dioxide while producing quantitativelyminor amounts of other organic compoundswhich contribute to the organoleptic qualities ofthe final distilled product. Fermenting vessels varyconsiderably in volume, depending on thedistillery. The small Scotch whisky distillery atEdradour near Pitlochry, for example, hasfermenters with a capacity of only 4,500 liters.In contrast, other Scotch and Irish pot whiskeydistillers have fermenters with a capacity in therange 50,000 to 150,000 liters. Much largerfermenters are found in Scotch grain whiskydistilleries. Traditionally, the smaller pot distilleryfermenters were made of wood, usually of larchor Oregon pine, but in recent years they havebeen constructed of steel or aluminum. In someScottish distilleries, timber is still used as acovering material.When the fermenter is partly filled, the mashis inoculated with a suspension of Saccharomycescerevisiae. The source of yeast varies with thelocation and size of the distillery. Distilleries in


150 T.P. LyonsFigure 6. Changes in specific gravity, optical rotation, pH value and acidity during fermentation of a mash in theproduction of Scotch malt whisky (Dolan, 1976).Scotland and Ireland, particularly the pot whiskydistilleries, rarely have their own yeastpropagation equipment. They rely on speciallypropagatedpressed yeast for use infermentations. In Scotch malt whisky distilleries,this pressed yeast is augmented, usually on anequal weight basis, with surplus brewery yeasttypically supplied in compressed form frombreweries that may be as far as 500 km from thedistillery.The requirements for a strain of Saccharomycescerevisiae yeast used in distillery practicehave been described by Harrison and Graham(1970). Apart from the obvious need to select astrain that maintains very high viability in thepressed state (containing 25% dry weight), othervery important properties of these strains areability to tolerate concentrations of ethanol onthe order of 12-15% (v/v) and the capacity tometabolize oligosaccharides such as maltotrioseand maltotetraose in order to maximize theconversion of starch into ethanol and carbondioxide.Whisky worts usually have a specific gravityin the range 1.050-1.080, a pH value of around5.0, a total acid content of 0.1% and an opticalrotation of +30 o . After inoculation, the yeastcontent is 5-20 million cells/ml. The bacterialcount varies with the cleanliness of the plant andthe extent to which the raw materials wereendowed with a microbial flora. Scotch grainwhisky fermentations create little if any foambecause of their large content of suspendedsolids. However, in most Scotch malt whiskyfermentations only a small proportion of thesuspended solids in the mash is retained in thefermentation vessel. These fermentations tendto foam and the distillers have resorted to theuse of various types of antifoams.Changes over the time course of a typicalfermentation in a Scotch malt whisky distilleryare depicted in Figure 6. Fermentation proceedsvigorously for the first 30 hrs, during which timethe specific gravity falls to 1.000 or below andthe optical rotation to around zero. The sugarsin the wort are utilized in a particular sequencewith glucose and fructose being fermented first,followed by maltose and then maltotriose. Theremoval of sugars during fermentation of aScotch grain whisky mash is shown in Figure 7(Pyke, 1965). Over the first 30 hrs the pH value,after declining to around 4.2, rises to about 4.5.During the first 30 hrs the specific gravity dropsat a rate of about 0.5 o per hour accompanied by


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 151a massive evolution of heat. While many of thelarger grain whisky distilleries have fermentersfitted with cooling coils, these are absent, or iffitted are relatively inefficient in most malt whiskydistilleries where temperature can rise by the endof the fermentation to as high as 35-37 o C. Thedistiller is concerned about the temperature riseduring fermentation since this can cause thefermentation to stop or become ‘stuck’.Temperature rise can be controlled by using alower starting temperature or, because glycolysisof sugar is a heat-producing process, by using alower initial concentration. Strains ofSaccharomyces cerevisiae are well suited for maltwhisky distillery fermentations since they canferment efficiently over a wide temperaturerange. Fermentation is usually continued for atleast 36 hrs and frequently longer, at which timethe ethanol content of the wash is 7-11% (v/v).In larger distilleries, particularly those in the US,the carbon dioxide evolved is collected, liquefiedand sold. Smaller distilleries, particularly the maltwhisky distilleries in Scotland, usually do not havethis facility.It should be noted that mashes in malt whiskydistilleries are not boiled, so any enzyme activitymanifested at the temperature of the mash andany microorganisms that can survive at thattemperature will continue to be active during thefermentation. The continued activity of limitdextrinases in unboiled distillery mashesincreases the concentration of sugars availablefor fermentation by the yeast. Hopkins andWiener (1955) calculated that with amylasesalone the yeast cannot metabolize the equivalentof the final 12-16% of the starch.Another important consequence of usingnon-sterile conditions in distillery fermentationsis the activity of bacteria that pass through in themash, which are encouraged to some extent bythe relatively high temperatures to which thefermentations can rise. In addition to lactic acidbacteria, the flora can include other Grampositiveas well as Gram-negative strains. Theconcentration of the flora depends on a numberof factors including the extent to which the lacticacid bacteria grew during yeast propagation, theextent of the flora on the cereal raw materialsand on the standard of hygiene in the distillery.There is no doubt, however, that the controlledactivity of this bacterial flora, and particularly ofthe lactic acid bacteria, is accompanied byFigure 7. Time course removal of fermentable sugars from a Scotch grain whisky mash (Pyke, 1965).


152 T.P. Lyonsexcretion of compounds that contribute to theorganoleptic qualities of the final whisky(Geddes and Riffkin, 1989).During the first 30 hrs or so of malt whiskyfermentation there is vigorous fermentation andthe majority of the aerobic bacteria die. This,however, provides ideal conditions for growthof anaerobic or microaerophilic bacteria,principally lactic acid bacteria (mainly strains ofLactobacillus brevis, L. fermenti andStreptococcus lactis) with the result that theconcentration of lactic acid in the fermented mashcan be as high as 30 mg/L (MacKenzie andKenny, 1965). A wide range of lactobacillusspecies have been identified in Scotch whiskyfermentations including L. fermentum, L. brevis,L. delbrueckii, L. plantarum, L. casei and abacterium resembling L. collinoides, in additionto Leuconostoc spp., Streptococcus lactis andPediococcus cerevisiae (Bryan-Jones, 1976).More recently Barbour (1983) isolated manyspecies that did not conform to recognizedspecies of lactic acid bacteria, a pointemphasized by Walker et al. (1990) who usedDNA hybridization techniques to classify distillerybacteria. Growth of lactic acid bacteria is probablyenhanced by yeast excretion of nitrogenousnutrients at the end of a vigorous fermentation.Kulka (1953) demonstrated the ideal nature ofyeast autolysate for growth of lactobacilli.Bacterial activity in the fermenting wort also leadsto removal of some acids. Actively growingyeasts secrete citric and malic acids, butMacKenzie and Kenny (1965) attribute the lowerconcentrations of these acids in malt distilleryworts (as compared to brewery worts) to theirpartial removal by bacteria.Occasionally, the extent of the bacterial florain the fermenting wort can become too large.This causes problems due to sugar utilization bythe bacteria that lead to an overall decrease inspirit yield. In addition, the bacteria may produceorganoleptically-undesirable compounds andalso release hydrogen ions causing the pH valueof the wort to fall too low, thereby providingsuboptimal conditions for action of certainenzymes. Examples of undesirable compoundsthat may be excreted by bacteria are hydrogensulfide and other sulfur-containing compounds(Anderson et al., 1972). Lactobacilli can alsometabolize glycerol (excreted by the yeastduring fermentation) to produce ß-hydroxypropionaldehyde, which subsequentlybreaks down on distillation to give acrolein(Harrison and Graham, 1970). Acrolein impartsa pungent, burnt and often peppery odor to thewhisky (Lyons, 1974). In a later paper, Dolan(1976) concentrated on the problems arising inmalt whisky distilleries when there is anunacceptably high concentration of bacteria inTable 3. Changes in the concentration of bacteria during fermentation of a minimally infected and a heavilyinfected Scotch malt whisky wort*Minimally-infected wort Bacteria/ml Heavily-infected wortAge Gram- Gram-negative Lactobacilli Gram-positive Gram-positive Lactobacilli(hours) negative rods cocci rods cocciAt setting 2,000 3,700 n.d. 52,000 60 0.6 x 10 610 150 n.d. n.d. n.d. n.d. 2.3 x 10 620 n.d.** n.d. 1.53 x 10 6 n.d. n.d. 18.8 x 10 630 n.d. n.d. 10.2 x 10 6 n.d. n.d. 96 x 10 640 n.d. n.d. 10.2 x 10 6 n.d. n.d. 502 x 10 650 n.d. n.d. 50 x 10 6 n.d. n.d. 1 x 10 9*Dolan, 1976.**None detected.


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 153the mash. Table 3 shows changes in theconcentrations of Gram-negative and Grampositivebacteria and (separately) of lactobacilliduring fermentation of a minimally-infected mashand of a heavily-infected mash. The time courseof fermentation of an unacceptably-infected maltdistillery mash (Figure 8) shows, in comparisonwith similar data for fermentation of anacceptable mash (Figure 6), a greater rise in theacid content of the mash after about 35 hrs anda lower optical rotation of the mash after about40 hrs. In the fermentations there is often adifference of up to 4 hrs from the time a rise inthe acid content is detected to the point whenthe pH value of the fermentation begins to fall.Dolan (1976) attributes this to the bufferingcapacity of the mash. The data in Table 4 showthe effect of different levels of infection after 30hrs fermentation of a malt distillery mash on spirityield and the associated financial losses to thedistiller. Dolan (1976) recommends upper limitsof 1,500 bacteria, 50 Gram-positive and 10 lacticacid-producing bacteria per million yeast cells inthe mash at the start of fermentation.Much less has been published on the effectof retaining solid material in the fermenting mash.However, marine microbiologists have longknown that the presence of solid particles in aliquid medium can affect bacterial growth,probably because of the concentration ofnutrients at the solid-liquid interface (Heukelekianand Heller, 1940; Zobell, 1943). Moreover,Cromwell and Guymon (1963) found that formationof higher alcohols during fermentation ofgrape juice is stimulated by the presence of grapeskins or inert solids. Beech (1972) made similarobservations on cider fermentations. Merritt(1967), in the only detailed report on the role ofsolids in whisky distillery fermentations, states thata dry solid concentration of 50 mg/100 ml mighttypically be expected, although much will clearlydepend on the design of the mash tuns used inindividual distilleries. Merritt went on to reportthat a concentration of dry solids as low as 5mg/100 ml causes an increase in yeast growth,and that solids also enhance the rate ofproduction of ethanol and glycerol. There wasalso an effect on production of higher alcoholsby the yeast (Table 5). With the possibleexception of n-propanol, production of all of themajor higher alcohols was increased in thepresence of solids, the effect being particularlynoticeable with isobutanol and 2-methylbutanol.Figure 8. Changes in specific gravity, optical rotation, pH value and acidity during fermentation of a Scotch maltwhisky mash containing an unacceptably high concentration of bacterial infection (Dolan, 1976).


154 T.P. LyonsTable 4. Effect of the level of bacterial infection on the loss of spirit incurred following fermentation of a scotchmalt whisky mash.*Infection Bacteria/ml in 30 hr old Approximate loss in Approximate financial loss inrating mash (million) spirit yield (%) US dollars (thousands)At fillingDuty paida 0 - 1 131 >1844*Dolan, 1976.The effect of low insoluble solids content is afactor relevant to congener levels in malt whiskyfermentations. In grain whisky production, where‘all-grains-in’ fermentations are generally used,the degree of rectification during distillation isthe principle determinant of higher alcohol levelsin the spirit.DistillationWhether the fermented beer is distilled in a potstill, as in production of Scotch malt and Irishwhiskies, or in a continuous still based on theCoffey design as in the manufacture of Scotchgrain whiskies, the objectives are the same:selective removal of the volatile compounds(particularly the flavor-producing congeners)from the non-volatile compounds and to createadditional flavor-producing compounds as aresult of chemical reactions that take place in thestill. Nevertheless, it is still most convenient todiscuss whisky distillation under the separateheadings of pot still and continuous distillation.Pot still distillationThe copper pot still, which is the featuredominating any Scotch malt or Irish whiskeydistillery, has changed hardly at all over thecenturies, except of course in size. Traditionally,the onion-shaped stills were fired from beneathand had the vapor pipe or ‘lyne arm’ from thestill projecting through the distillery wall toconnect with a condenser in the form of a coilimmersed in a water tank fed from a local stream(Figure 9). Internal steam-heated calandria arenow preferred to direct firing because thisdecreases the extent of pyrolysis of the stillcontents and results, for example, in a lowerconcentration of furfural in the whisky. VariationsTable 5. Production of higher alcohols (mg/100 ml).Insoluble solidscontent 2-methyl butanol 3-Methyl butanolMash (mg/100 ml) n-Propanol Isobutanol (amyl alcohol) (isoamyl alcohol) Total1 0 1.5 4.2 3.0 8.0 16.725 1.5 6.5 4.4 8.8 21.22 0 2.8 4.5 2.7 9.5 19.535 3.3 6.6 3.7 10.1 23.73 0 1.7 4.8 3.1 8.0 17.650 1.7 6.8 4.6 9.5 22.6


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 155in still design include expansion of the surfacearea of the column into a bulbous shape, waterjacketing and return loops from the first stage ofthe condensation. (Nettleton (1913) provided avaluable account of early still design). In manydistilleries, condenser coils have been replacedby tubular condensers that have an advantagein that they are designed to conserve the heatextracted from the distillates. Yet other pot stillsare fitted with ‘purifiers,’ which consist of acircular vessel cooled by running waterinterposed between the neck of the still and thecondenser. In Irish pot stills this purifier functionis effected by a trough fitted around the lyne armthrough which running water is circulated. Potstills in Scotch and Irish distilleries are traditionallyconstructed of copper. The reason for thisadherence to copper is more than tradition. Ithas been established that copper fixes somevolatile sulfur-containing compounds that areproduced during fermentation but undesirablein the distilled spirit.Early whisky distillers realized that althoughthe objective of distilling was to separate volatileconstituents from the beer, collecting thedistillate not as a whole but in several fractionsand combining certain of these fractions gave amuch more acceptable product. Pot stilldistillation in Scotland and Ireland differ not onlyin the size of the stills (25,000-50,000 liters inScotland vs 100,000-150,000 liters in Ireland), butalso in the different ways in which fractions arecollected from the stills.In Scotland, the beer is subjected to twodistillations. In the first, carried out in the beerstill, the beer is brought to a boil over a periodof 5-6 hrs and the distillate is referred to as lowwines. This distillation effects a three-foldconcentration of the alcohol in the beer (Figure10). The residue in the wash still, known as ‘potale’, is either discharged to waste or evaporatedto produce an animal feed (Rae, 1967).Distillation of the low wines in the spirit is stillmore selective. The first fraction, which containslow boiling point compounds, is rejected as ‘foreshotheads’. At a stage determined by continuedhydrometric monitoring, which usually occurswhen the distillate has an alcohol content ofapproximately 70-73 o GL, the distillate is switchedfrom the fore shots tank to the whisky receivertank. This switch has traditionally been made atthe discretion of the distiller; and he has beenFigure 9. Diagram of an Irish distillery pot still. Designs used in Scotch malt whisky distilleries are similar exceptthat the pot is onion-shaped and the still usually has a shorter lyne arm not surrounded by a lyne-arm tank(Lyons, 1974).


156 T.P. LyonsFigure 10. Flow diagram showing the stages in distillation of Scotch malt whisky.Figure 11. Flow diagram showing the stages in distillation of Irish whiskey.


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 157aided by the disappearance of a bluish tinge whenwater is added to the distillate. The monitoringprocess takes place in a spirit safe secured witha Government Excise lock. Collection of thedistillate is terminated when the alcohol contenthas fallen to a specified value, although distillationof the feints or tails is continued until all of thealcohol has been removed from the low wines.The residue remaining in the spirit still is knownas ‘spent lees’, and like pot ale is either run towaste or evaporated to manufacture animal feed.The whisky distilled over in the middle fractionhas an alcohol content of 63-70 o GL.The manufacture of Irish whiskey involvesthree rather than two distillations (Figure 11). Thefermented beer is heated in the wash still, andthe first distillation (‘strong low wines’) is collecteduntil the distillate reaches a predeterminedspecific gravity. The distillate, then known as‘weak low wines’, is switched into a separatevessel. The weak low wines are pumped intothe low wines still and are re-distilled to producetwo fractions termed ‘strong feints’ and ‘weakfeints’. Strong feints are mixed with the stronglow wines in a spirit still. Distillates from this arecollected in the same fashion as in productionof Scotch. The whiskey collected usually is about89-92 o GL.Continuous distillationNo fundamental changes have been introducedinto the design of the patent or Coffey still overthe past century. Automation, particularly of thebeer feed, is now commonplace, as is continuousmonitoring of other stages in the distillationprocess. Nevertheless, many Scotch and Irishproducers of grain whiskies continue to use astill which, like the original Coffey still, has justtwo columns: a beer stripper (or analyzer) and arectifier.A description of the operation of two columncontinuous stills in the manufacture of Scotchgrain whisky has come from Pyke (1965). Inorder to obtain whisky of high quality from thesestills, they must be operated such that the alcoholconcentration of the spirit at the spirit draw trayin the rectifier is not less than 94.17 o GL. Themanner in which the precise control of stilloperation can affect the composition of thewhisky is shown in Figure 12. As illustrated, ifconditions are changed in either direction on theabscissa, the concentration of congeners willalter with a possible adverse effect on finalproduct quality.Maturation and agingFreshly distilled whisky of any type is verydifferent from the spirit that is later bottled, eithersingly or blended. The transformation is broughtabout by storing the whisky in oak barrels forperiods of time that depend on traditionalpractice and legal requirements. In general,whiskies are matured for far longer than thelegally-required period of time. The raw spirit istaken by pipeline from the distillation plant to thetank house where it is diluted with water to therequired strength and then transferred intobarrels.Maturation in barrels is accompanied by a lossof liquid by evaporation, and the relative rates ofloss of water and of alcohol determine whetherthe aged whisky has a higher or lower alcoholicstrength than that at filling. In Scotland, wherethe barrels of whisky are stored in cool,unheated, but humid warehouses, the alcoholicstrength decreases (Valaer, 1940). In contrastValaer and Frazier (1936) reported that in theUS storage conditions cause an increase inalcoholic strength. Maturation in barrels is alsoaccompanied by changes in the chemicalcomposition of the whisky. These changes areattributable to extraction of wood constituentsfrom the barrel, oxidation of components presentin the original whisky as well as those extractedfrom the wood, reactions between componentsin the whisky and removal and oxidation of highlyvolatile sulfur components by the carbon charon the inner surface of the barrel.Some of the earlier investigators reported onchanges in the composition of the major classes


158 T.P. LyonsFigure 12. Changes in composition of the vapor at different trays in a Coffey still rectifier used in themanufacture of Scotch grain whisky (Pyke, 1965).


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 159of organoleptically-important compounds duringmaturation in barrels. Thus, Schidrowitz and Kaye(1905) found increased concentrations ofvolatile acids in aged whiskies, a trend alsodescribed in the report of the Royal Commissionon Whisky and Other Potable Spirits (1909).Several reports followed. Liebmann and Scherl(1949), for example, reported increasedconcentrations of acids, furfural, tannins andcolor with maturation in barrels. The arrival ofthe gas liquid chromatograph and HPLC greatlyaccelerated research on this topic; and morerecent data on chemical changes that take placeduring maturation are described later in thischapter.Maturation of whisky in oak barrels is anexpensive process; and it is hardly surprising thatconsideration has been given to methods foracceleration. Jacobs (1947) described several ofthese methods including pretreatment of the beerwith activated carbon, chemical treatment of thewhisky to convert aldehydes into esters and useof oxidation treatments. Such techniques are notused in the industry, which adheres to thetraditional nature of the whisky-producingprocess.Blending and coloringWhisky manufacturers take great pride in thequality of their straight or blended whiskies andin their ability to maintain the quality of a particularproduct over the years. Blending is conductedby experts who advise manufacturers on mixingor blending large volumes of whisky afterappropriate sniffing and tasting sessions onexperimental blends. Blended whiskies are filledinto re-used barrels after dilution with water (ornot) and stored for a further period of timereferred to as ‘marrying’. The water used fordilution is softened or demineralized, since watercontaining an appreciable concentration of saltscan cause hazes in the whisky (Warricker, 1960).After marrying, and dilution if necessary, the colorof the whisky may be adjusted to the desiredvalue by adding caramel. Some brownishpigment is extracted from the casks, but this maynot be sufficient to provide the desired color.Finally, the whisky is clarified for bottling byfiltration through sheets of cellulose (Simpson,1968). Chill filtration may also be practiced, sinceit removes tannin material from the whisky andprevents subsequent appearance of haze.Effluent disposal and spent grainsrecoveryTraditionally effluents from whisky distilleries weredisposed of in the most convenient manner.Spent grains were retailed, often quite cheaply,to local farmers as animal fodder while pot aleand spent lees were simply discharged into thelocal sewer, stream or river. This is no longer thecase, mainly because of the distiller’s awarenessof the nutritional value (largely the proteincontent) of some of these effluents, and publicawareness of environmental problems arisingfrom uncontrolled disposal of effluents intowaterways. Simpson has described theproduction of ‘distillers dark grains’. Theseprocesses are widely used to dispose of effluentsfrom whisky distilleries, especially where thetraditional methods of disposal are forbidden oruneconomic.Organoleptically important componentsof whiskyModern analytical techniques have enabledmajor advances in the understanding of thecompounds responsible for the organolepticproperties of whiskies. However, the first reportson the nature of flavor-producing compoundsin whiskies antedate the era of gas liquidchromatography by nearly half a century. Twopublications by Schidrowitz (1902) andSchidrowitz and Kaye (1905), dealing exclusivelywith Scotch whiskies, reported on the higheralcohol, acid and ester contents of some 50different brands. They reported analyses ofseveral Campbeltown Scotch malt whiskies. A


160 T.P. Lyonsreport by Mann (1911) published a few yearslater also quoted values for acidity and levels offurfural, aldehydes, esters and alcohols in Scotchwhiskies imported into Australia.Concentrations of organolepticallyimportant compoundsSince the introduction of GLC into distillerylaboratories, several reviews have beenpublished on the composition of the major flavorproducingcompounds in whiskies (namelyhigher alcohols, esters, carbonyl compounds,organic acids, aromatic compounds) and on theidentification of individual compounds that makeup these fractions. Higher alcohols, which arestill routinely determined with GLC using a polarstationary phase (Aylott et al., 1994), arequantitatively the most important. Scotch maltwhiskies are richest in higher alcohols, withcontents often well over 2 g/L. Free fatty acidsare relatively volatile and make a majorcontribution to the organoleptic qualities ofwhiskies. Concentrations of acids in some Scotchmalt whiskies can be as high as 0.4-1.0 g/Labsolute alcohol (Duncan and Philip, 1966).Roughly comparable concentrations of esters arefound in whiskies, although those produced withpot stills generally have higher concentrationsthan those from continuous stills. Esterconcentrations in Scotch and Irish pot stillwhiskies have been reported in the range of 0.27-0.87 g/L absolute alcohol (Valaer, 1940). Lighterwhiskies contain lower concentrations ofcarbonyl compounds, although theconcentration varies with the brand. Grain whiskymay have as little as 20 mg/l of aldehydes, whilein a mature Scotch malt whisky the concentrationmay be as high as 80 mg/L (Duncan and Philip,1966).Chemical nature oforganoleptically-important compoundsDuncan and Philip (1966) reviewed chromatographicand other methods used to separatethe various organoleptically importantcompounds from whiskies. Even thoughanalytical methods such as capillary column gaschromatography linked to a mass selectivedetector (GC-MS) (Aylott et al., 1994) havedeveloped in terms of sensitivity anddiscrimination, a major problem in analyzingwhisky by GLC is the overwhelmingpreponderance of ethanol and water. Only onevolatile compound, namely isoamyl alcohol, islikely to be present in a concentration exceeding0.01%; while most of the others are present inconcentrations that rarely exceed 50 ppm.Indeed many compounds now understood tohave an important impact on whisky flavor arepresent at ppb levels. Carter-Tijmstra (1986)described a technique for measuring dimethyltrisulfide, a compound with a threshold of only0.1 ppb present in whisky at concentrations below50 ppb. Analyses are most convenientlyconducted on extracted fractions of the differentclasses of compounds. When direct analysis ofwhiskies has been employed, only a limitednumber of components have been determined(Morrison, 1962; Bober and Haddaway, 1963;Singer and Stiles, 1965).Recent developments in headspace analysisusing trapping and thermal desorptiontechniques (Pert and Woolfendon, 1986) haveenabled analysis of the more volatilecomponents of whisky flavor whilst avoidinginterference from high concentrations of othercongeners. Headspace analysis using trap andpurge techniques would now be the method ofchoice for measuring highly volatile sulfurcompounds such as dimethyl trisulfide.Some idea of the variety of compoundsdetected in whiskies came from a compilationof both published and unpublished sources(Kahn 1969, Kahn et al., 1969). Of the some 200compounds listed there are 25 higher alcohols,32 acids, 69 esters and 22 phenolic compounds.Undoubtedly, this list could now be extendedquite considerably. Of the higher alcohols,isoamyl alcohol and optically-active amyl alcoholpredominate, accompanied by lowerconcentrations of isobutanol and n-propanol.Characteristically, there are usually only low


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 161concentrations of n-butanol and secbutanol. Theprincipal organic acid in whiskies is acetic acid,which can account for between 50 and 95% ofthe total content of volatile acids determined bytitration. Of the remaining acids, caprylic, capricand lauric are quantitatively the most important(Suomalainen and Nykänen 1970a). Some of thecharacteristic flavor and aroma of Irish whiskiesmay be attributed to somewhat higherconcentrations of the odoriferous butyric acid.Compared with other types of whisky, Scotchwhisky characteristically contains morepalmitoleic acid (and its ethyl ester) than palmiticacid. Suomalainen (1971) has suggested that thetypical stearin-like smell of Scotch malt whiskymay be attributed to long chain fatty acid ethylesters. It is not surprising to find that ethyl acetateis the major whisky ester in view of theprevalence of acetic acid in the distillate.Concentrations of 95 mg/L have been detectedin a blended Scotch whisky (de Becze, 1967).Other esters such as ethyl caprate are presentin much lower concentrations, on the order of2-10 mg/L. Of the carbonyl compounds,acetaldehyde is the principal componenttogether with a range of other short chainaldehydes. Furfural, with an aroma resemblingthat of grain, also occurs with as much as 20-30mg/L in Scotch malt whiskies (Valaer, 1940).Acrolein, a pungent and lachrymatorycompound, is also present; and it has beensuggested that it may contribute to the ‘peppery’smell of whisky.A variety of other organoleptically importantcompounds has also been detected in differentwhiskies, many of which result from maturing thewhisky in charred oak barrels. Scopoletin andother aromatic aldehydes, including vanillin, weredetected in bourbon by Baldwin and hiscolleagues (1967). These compounds werepreviously identified by Black et al. (1953) inethanolic extracts of plain and charred Americanwhite oak from which the bourbon whiskeybarrels subsequently used for the maturation ofScotch and Irish whiskies are constructed. (Itshould be noted that the US regulations forbourbon whiskey production require that newcharred oak barrels be used for maturation; sothere is a continuous supply of once-usedbourbon barrels that are shipped to Ireland andScotland for re-use.) A lactone dubbed ‘whiskylactone’, also appears in whisky followingstorage in oak barrels. This compound, ß-methyloctalactone,was first isolated from Scotch whiskyby Suomalainen and Nykänen (1970b). It hassince been reported that both cis and transdiastereomers of the compound occur in whisky(Nishimura and Masuda, 1971). Othercompounds detected in whisky include phenols(Salo et al., 1976), glycerol and erthritol (Blackand Andreasen, 1974), pyridine, "-picoline andvarious pyrazines (Wobben et al., 1971).Contribution of compounds to organolepticpropertiesPublished information on compoundsresponsible for the organoleptic qualities ofwhiskies is meagre and very largely confined toreports by Suomalainen and his colleagues fromthe State Alcohol Monopoly in Helsinki, Finland.In order to assess the contributions made bywhisky components to the odor of these spirits,Salo et al. (1972) concocted a synthetic whiskywith components that chromatographic analysishad revealed were present in a light-flavoredScotch whisky. The synthetic whisky was madeusing 576 g of a mixture of higher alcohols, 90mg of acids, 129 mg esters and 17.4 mg carbonylcompounds in highly-rectified grain spirit dilutedto 34 o GL in water that had been ion-exchangedand treated with activated charcoal. This imitationwhisky contained 13 alcohols in addition toethanol, 21 acids, 24 esters and 9 carbonylcompounds. Caramel coloring was used to giveit the color of a distilled and matured whisky.Odor thresholds of the individual compoundsand groups of compounds were determined asdescribed by Salo (1970). Experienced tastepanel participants were easily able to distinguishthe imitation whisky from a blended Scotchwhisky; but when the concoction was mixed withan equal amount of the Scotch, only 6% correct


162 T.P. Lyonsjudgments above chance were made. Thissuggested that the concentrations of, andinteractions between, components of thesynthetic whisky were not greatly dissimilar fromthat in the Scotch used for comparison.Odor threshold determinations of individualcomponents in the imitation whisky revealed thatthe contributions made by the mixture ofalcohols and acids accounted for only about 10%of the total odor intensity, despite the fact thatthe alcohols themselves accounted for over 70%of the total concentration of organolepticallyimportantcompounds in the concoction. Estersand carbonyl compounds had a much greaterinfluence, particularly butyraldehyde,isobutyraldehyde, isovaleraldehyde, diacetyl, andthe ethyl esters of acetic, caproic, caprylic, capricand lauric acids. Since just three of the mostimportant carbonyl compounds could substitutefor the whole carbonyl fraction, there wouldseem to be considerable homogeneity in theodor contributions made by these compounds.Interestingly, the relative contributions made bythe different classes of compounds are not verydifferent from the contributions Harrison (1970)reported that they make towards the taste ofbeers.Threshold values can be assessed not onlyfor individual components in whisky, but for thetotal aroma of the beverage. Salo (1975)examined this by diluting different whiskies withwater until the characteristic whisky aroma couldonly just be recognized. Values for the thresholddilution of several commercial whiskies shownin Table 6 reflect the differences in aromastrength for several different commercialwhiskies.Origin of organoleptically-importantcompoundsThe two main sources of the organolepticallyimportantcompounds in whisky are the yeastused to ferment the wort and the charred oakbarrels in which the whisky is matured.Suomalainen and Nykänen (1966) fermented anitrogen-free medium containing sucrose with astrain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and distilledthe fermented medium either after removing theyeast by centrifugation or with the yeastremaining in the medium. Gas chromatographicanalyses of these distillates are reproduced inFigure 13, which also shows a chromatogram ofScotch whisky for comparison. There is clearly asimilarity among the three analyses; althoughdifferences, such as the higher proportion ofisoamyl alcohol in the distillate from thefermented medium, can be detected. Also worthnoting is the greater concentration of ethylcaprate in the distillate from the spent mediumcontaining yeast as compared with that obtainedby distilling the medium from which yeast hadbeen removed. It would be interesting to learnof the importance of yeast strain in productionof organoleptically-important compounds inwhisky. Unfortunately, there is a lack of publisheddata on this matter.Table 6. Threshold dilution levels for nine different types of whisky*.Whisky Threshold dilution (x 10 -4 ) One standard deviation range (x 10 -4 )Scotch malt 0.56 0.2 - 1.3Scotch, old blend 0.87 0.5 - 1.5Scotch, blend 1.20 0.3 - 4.2Irish 1.30 0.4 - 2.0Bourbon 2.40 0.6 - 11.5Irish 4.50 2.7 - 7.5Canadian 10.40 3.0 - 37.0*Salo, 1975.


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 163Figure 13. Gas liquid chromatograms of aromacompounds produced by yeast in a nitrogen-free sugarfermentation, with a trace for comparison of the aromacompounds detected in a sample of Scotch whisky(Suomalainen and Nykänen, 1966).The complexity of the processes for determiningthe presence and concentration of compoundsin whisky may be illustrated by looking at onecompound for which this process has beenelucidated in detail. In the 1980s ethyl carbamate,a naturally-occurring component of manyalcoholic drinks, was identified as beingundesirable. Canada specified by regulation amaximum limit for ethyl carbamate in whisky spiritof 150 ppb and the US set guidelines of 120ppb. Control of this compound was only possibleafter the processes resulting in its presence inspirit were fully understood. Extensive researchin Scotland revealed the mechanism of ethylcarbamate production and facilitated theintroduction of very effective control measures.These measures maintain levels close to zeroand always less than 30 ppb in distilled whiskyspirit.Cook (1990) reviewed the outcome of thisresearch and the resulting control procedures.When barley sprouts during malting, a glycoside,epiheterodendrin (EPH) is present in theacrospire. This glycoside, which survives kilningand mashing, is extracted into the wort andconverted by yeast enzymes to glucose andisobutyraldehyde cyanohydrin (IBAC). The IBACis stable during fermentation, but when heatedabove 50 o C at distillation it breaks down to formvolatile nitriles. There are a multiplicity of potentialroutes nitriles can follow including reaction withother beer components or complex reactionsoften mediated indirectly by copper. Some ofthe volatile nitriles may escape these reactionsand pass into the distillate. A number of reactionscan remove the nitriles from the spirit, one beingthe reaction with ethanol to form ethylcarbamate.Two control strategies may be used toprevent ethyl carbamate reaching the final spirit.Firstly, some varieties of barley produce low levelsof the glycoside EPH (Cook, 1990), and plantbreeders are now concentrating onincorporating this character in all varieties for thedistilling industry. The second strategy relies onthe low volatility of ethyl carbamate. Control ofdistillation conditions eliminates all the volatileprecursor formed by copper mediated reactions.Non-volatile substances are formed prior to thefinal distillation in malt distillation or beforerectification in grain distillation. Thus, ethylcarbamate can be minimized in the final spirit.A considerable number of studies have beenpublished on those organoleptically-importantcompounds arising either directly or indirectlyfrom the oak barrels in which whisky is matured.The increase in coloring, tannin, dissolved solidsand acid concentrations are not observed whenwhisky is stored in glass, which is proof of theimportance of the oak barrels in the maturationprocess. An analysis of heartwood of theAmerican oak (Quercus albus) gave cellulose(49-52%), lignin (31-33%), pentosans (orhemicelluloses, 22%) and compounds extracted


164 T.P. Lyonswith hot water and ether (7-11%; Ritter and Fleck,1923). However, when charred oak sawdust wasdirectly extracted with water or 96 o GL ethanol,the extracts obtained differed markedly in odorfrom aged whisky. Moreover, none of thevarious fractions of ethanol-soluble oakextractives contained flavors that resemblemature whisky (Baldwin et al., 1967). As a result,it is now generally held that the maturationprocess involves not only extraction ofcompounds from the oak but also chemicalmodifications of at least some of the compoundsextracted from the wood.For a long time, most of the work reportedon this aspect of maturation of whisky came fromthe laboratories of Joseph E. Seagram and Sonsin the US. More recently, accounts of themechanisms of Scotch whisky maturation havebeen given by Philip (1989) and Perry (1986)and on the maturation of whisky generally, byNishimura and Matsuyama (1989). A theme fromall this work has been the identification of anumber of mechanisms of maturation commonto all whiskies. These divide into addition,subtraction and modification by reaction. Thereis addition of components from the oak wood,including those derived from lignin, tannins andoak lactones. There is the subtraction of volatilecompounds from the maturing whisky byevaporation and adsorption on the charredsurface of the barrel (Perry, 1986). Lastly thereare reaction processes including establishmentof equibria among acetaldehyde, ethanol andacetal (Perry, 1986), polymerization reactions(Nishimura and Matsuyama, 1989) and oxidationreductionreactions (Perry, 1986; Connor et al.,1990). Many of the reactions involve, and areindeed dependent on, the components extractedfrom the wood.Looking at several of these reactions in moredetail will serve to illustrate the complexity of thematuration process. The work at the Seagramlaboratories, whilst focused on bourbon, isdirectly relevant to Scotch and Irish whiskies forwhich once-used bourbon barrels are extensivelyutilized for maturation. Changes in theconcentrations of organoleptically-importantcompounds during a 12 year storage of a 109 oFigure 14. Changes in composition of the vapor at different trays in a Coffey-still rectifier used in themanufacture of Scotch grain whisky (from Pyke, 1965).


Production of Scotch and Irish whiskies: their history and evolution 165US proof (54.5 o GL) bourbon, on a 100 o proof(50 o GL) basis, are shown in Figure 14. Thenature and origin of some of these compoundshave been examined in some detail. Among thealdehydes, scopoletin and the aromaticaldehydes syringaldehyde, sinapaldehyde,coniferaldehyde and vanillin are important.According to Baldwin et al. (1967), thesecompounds could be formed by ethanol reactingwith lignin in the oak wood to produce coniferylalcohol and sinapic alcohol. Under mildlyoxidizing conditions, these alcohols could beconverted into coniferaldehyde andsinapaldehyde, respectively. Vanillin could thenarise from coniferaldehyde, and syringaldehydefrom sinapaldehyde. The increase in aldehydecontent during maturation is also attributable inpart to formation of acetaldehyde by oxidationof ethanol. Formation of ethyl acetate probablyaccounts for the steady rise in the ester contentof whisky during maturation.Several other groups of compounds notdescribed in Figure 14 are also important in thematuration process. Monosaccharide sugars arefound in mature whisky, and probably arise fromthe pentosans and other polysaccharides in theoak wood. Otsuka et al. (1963) reported that amature Japanese whisky contained xylose,arabinose, glucose and fructose, while Black andAndreasen (1974) added rhamnose to this listwhen they analyzed a mature bourbon. The latterworkers found that the concentrations ofarabinose and glucose increased at a faster ratethan those of xylose and rhamnose over a 12year maturation period. Salo et al. (1976) alsodetected low concentrations of mannose andgalactose in a matured Scotch malt whisky inaddition to the sugars already noted. Theconcentrations of sugars in mature whiskies (ofthe order of 100 mg/L) are too low to suggestany sweetening effect on the beverage. Phenolsare also detectable in mature whisky, althoughsome of these probably arise during mashing(Steinke and Paulson, 1964) or from maltproduced using peat-fired kilns (MacFarlane,1968). However, Salo et al. (1976) reported anincrease during a one year maturation of aScotch malt whisky in the concentration ofeugenol, which is a major phenol extracted fromoak chips by ethanol (Suomalainen andLehtonen, 1976). Also present in mature whiskiesare sterols, which may precipitate in bottledwhisky stored at room temperature. Black andAndreasen (1973) found campesterol,stigmasterol and sitosterol in mature bourbon,in addition to sitosterol-D-glucoside, although thepossibility that some of these were formedduring mashing cannot be excluded. Finally,reference has already been made to the whiskylactone, ß-methyl-octalactone, and its origin.Not surprisingly, the nature and amounts ofcompounds extracted from charred oak wooddepend on the ethanol concentration of thewhisky. It is to some extent an advantage tomature whisky at a high proof, since this requiresfewer barrels and saves on storage space. Until1962 the US Treasury Department limited thebarrelling proof of whisky to a maximum of 110 oUS proof (55 o GL). In anticipation of this limitbeing raised to 125 o US proof (62.5 o GL),Baldwin and Andreasen initiated a series ofexperiments in 1962 to establish the importanceof barrelling proof on changes in color andconcentrations of organoleptically-importantcompounds during maturation of bourbonwhiskies. Their report in 1973 indicated that colorintensity and congener concentration of whiskiesmatured for 12 years decreased as the barrellingproof was raised from 109 o US proof (54.5 o GL)to 155 o US proof (77.5 o GL). The one exceptionwas the higher alcohol content, which remainedapproximately constant.AcknowledgmentsThe author wishes to thank his friends andcolleagues in whisky production in manycountries of the world for their cooperation andwillingness to supply information on theprocesses of whisky production. Particular thanksare due to Dr. Gareth Bryan-Jones of UnitedDistillers, Menstrie, Scotland, for his assistancein providing information on recent researchreports.


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