April 2013 Archives
We set out just after dawn. Our boots steadily scrubbing the well weathered pavement as we crossed the faces of the white wind-rattled harbourfront homes. The sun shone down gloriously from a pristine blue sky as we turned left onto Lennox Street, now heading uphill with a quickening pace. It was a perfect Islay spring day in every way imaginable, and yet somehow all of this was secondary to the destination.
There were just the three of us alone on that road. Marching over the hills; past the stone-walled fields; beyond Laphroaig. The only sounds: our footsteps, the wind, and the ocean. Then, past the old croft on the left, while rounding the bend to the right around the hill, it came into view. An alabaster visage as though conjured from a dream. Simultaneously surreal and hyper-real.
We had arrived at Lagavulin.
We certainly enjoy writing about whisky here. By and large we write about the whisky itself, once it's in the glass. Here's a pared down description of the whisky-making process from start to finish. The overall steps in the production of all whiskies are the same everywhere on earth, but I'll only discuss the processes specific to single malt Scotch making, and I'm using a lexicon appropriate to that region. Other whisky-making regions have their own special techniques and nomenclature but in the interest of brevity I shall skip over these variations.
Album Grain Processing: Malting, Milling, and Mashing.
Malting is the process of generating enzymes within a grain which will allow the conversion of starch into sugar during the mashing process (outlined below). The malting process results in malted grain, or "malt". Grains are steeped several times in warm water, allowed to germinate and dry, and then kiln dried using either hot air or smoke. It is during the kiln drying that peat smoke may be used which imparts peat flavour into the malt.
Only about seven distilleries malt their own barley, the balance buying malt directly from malting houses.