For Corowa Whisky and Chocolate the next step is putting in a Whisky Distillery. To start with it will only be a pilot distillery to get us underway and awaiting bigger and better things. We will be making an organic single malt. We are also in the process of looking at having a cooperage, with live barrel making displays each day.
Corowa Whisky and Chocolate intend in the future to manufacture their first batch of organic single malt whisky made from locally aquired certified organic grain. So just what is Single malt whisky? It is a whisky made from only one type of malted grain and distilled at one particular distillery. Single malts are traditionally made from barley cultivated near the distillery concerned. Most single malt whiskies are distilled using a pot still. Single malts are globally associated with Scotland though they are produced elsewhere, notably in Ireland and increasingly Japan.
Single malt goes through a similar batch production process, as outlined below. At bottling time various batches are mixed together or vatted to achieve consistent flavours from one bottling run to the next. Some variation does occur and most distilleries use different water sources in the various steps, and this becomes a crucial part of the character of the end product.
Barley, yeast and water are the only ingredients required in the production of single malt whisky.
The barley used to make the whisky is "malted" by soaking the grain in water for 2-3 days and then allowing it to germinate to convert starch (which is insoluble in water and not available for fermentation by yeast) to fermentable sugars. The malt is milled into a coarse flour (grist), and added to hot water to extract the sugars.
The extraction is done in a large kettle called a mash tun. At first, the hot water dissolves the sugars and enzymes in the grist. Then the enzymes act on the starch left over from the malting stage, continuing the conversion to sugar, and producing a sugary liquid. Typically, each batch of grist is mashed three times or so to extract all the fermentable sugars.
Yeast is added to this brew in a large vessel called a washback. Up until this point the process has been quite similar to the production of beer.
The wash is then pumped into a copper still known as the wash still, and distilled. The wash is heated, boiling off the alcohol, which has a lower bolining point than water; the vapour is collected in a condenser which has been submerged in cool water. The lower temperatures cause the vapour to condense back into a liquid form.
This spirit, known as low wine has an alcohol content of about 20 to 40%. The low wines are then pumped into a second pot still, known as the spirit still, and distilled a second, (and sometimes a third) time. The final spirit called "new make spirit" generally has an alcohol content of 60 to 70%.
The "new-make spirit", or unaged whisky, is then placed in oak casks to mature. The whisky continues to develop and change as it spends time in the wood, and maturation periods of twenty years or more are not uncommon. Each year spent in the wood results in the evaporation of between 1 and 2% of each casks' contents, depending on the ambient conditions at which the casks are stored. Because alcohol is more volatile, the alcohol content of the remaining whisky also drops over time.
It should also be noted that for whisky, unlike wine, the maturation process does not continue in the bottle.
Distillation of whisky has been performed in Scotland and Ireland for centuries. The first written record of whisky comes from 1405 in Ireland, while the production of whisky from malted barley is first mentioned in Scotland in an entry on the 1494 Exchequer Rolls.
Single malt distilleries also exist in the US, England, Canada,The Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Japan and South Africa.
Corowa Whisky and Chocolate hope to emulate the experts in the making of whisky and although several years will elapse before our first batch is complete we hope to offer top quality whisky made from professional distillers currently casked in various locations around the world.