From Grain to Glass
Scotland is quite often associated with breathtaking sceneries, bagpipe tunes and men in skirts – but it’s also the home of Scotch whisky and host to the greatest concentration of distilleries in the world. The International Society recently took a closer look behind the scenes and paid its nearest neighbour, the Deanston Distillery, a visit.
Located near the burgh of Doune, the Deanston Distillery has crafted its whisky the traditional Scottish way for almost 50 years. Stepping into the distillery, we are immediately surrounded by the distinct smell of yeast and fermentation.
Our tour guide is quick to explain the process of Deanston’s whisky distillation:
- Malted barley from fields in Perthshire is milled to extract natural sugars.
- The “grist” is then mixed with hot water in an open-topped cast iron mash tun.
- Sugars from the malt create a liquid that drains through a perforated copper floor for fermentation.
- Yeast and wort sugars interact and convert into an alcohol known as “wash”. This process of fermentation can take up to 100 hours.
- After completion, the fermented “wash” is moved to wash stills and heated by large copper coils to induce evaporation. The rising and condensing vapours are directed to the spirit still.
- The final step of maturation can begin.
Deanston’s whisky is distilled twice to extract the “heart of the run” – a high quality spirit that matures in former Bourbon oak barrels from Kentucky, USA. The wood used to nurture the spirit gives the whisky a sweet aroma for which Deanston is renowned. About 2% of the spirit is lost through natural evaporation during each year of maturation. This is called “the angel’s share” and explains why older whiskies are usually more valuable.
For Deanston Distillery it will be at least ten years until the new whisky created during our visit can be tasted. For us, however, the next part of the tour leads us to a separate room in the distillery’s visitor’s centre, where three whiskies and a selection of corresponding chocolates await our critical taste buds.
After learning how to best prepare our throats for the flavour (swiveling a sip of whisky around in our mouths for half a minute), we try a few drams of a 12-year-old Bourbon cask, a Virgin Oak new cask and a 15-year-old whisky from Deanston’s organic range. At the end of the tasting session, our burning throats unanimously declare Deanston’s 12-year-old signature whisky our favourite. How convenient that we can take home a bottle or two from the distillery shop next door…
If you are interested in more information on how Scotch whisky is distilled across the country, the Scottish national tourism agency, VisitScotland, created a short video well worth the watch.
The International Society organises different trips and social gatherings throughout the year. Why not join us on our last event in 2016 – a visit to the Edinburgh Christmas Markets on December 3rd in search of this year’s tastiest mulled wine.
New events for 2017 will soon be published. Make sure you like and follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss out on any updates!
If you have any questions regarding the Stirling University International Society or would like to become a member, please contact our committee which is happy to help all year round.