Ballantine's Whisky Ballantine's Whisky

BALLANTINE'S SCOTCH WHISKY

Uisge-beatha is the name for whisky in Scottish Gaelic, with the word 'whisky' stemming from a mispronunciation of the word 'uisge'. Uisge-beatha literally translates as 'water of life'.

But where does Scotch come into this? Scotch is malt or grain whisky made entirely in Scotland and it's split into five distinct categories: single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain, and blended whisky. At Ballantine’s we’re blending malt and grain whisky from the four corners of Scotland. These include Speyside, Islay, Highlands, and Lowlands.

THE PROCESS

One of the first questions we get asked when we’re introduced to new whisky drinkers is, “how is scotch whisky made?”. Well, let us provide you with a simple guide.

Every whisky, from the most modest whiskies to the best whisky in the world, starts with the same natural ingredients. However, the magic doesn’t happen until the malted barley, water and yeast make it to the distillery.

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Malting | Scotch Whisky | Ballantine's

MALTING

Scotch whisky is called the water of life, derived from the ancient Scots gaelic language, where it was known as “uisgue beatha”. And life is an essential part of the first stage of whisky making, known as malting. First, barley is soaked in water encouraging it to germinate and sprout. This creates enzymes that convert the starch in the grains into soluble sugars that only life can provide. It’s then dried, ready for milling.

MASHING

After the barley is crushed into grist in the mill, it’s mixed with hot water to dissolve the fermentable sugars in the Mash Tun; a special vessel designed to extract the optimum level of a sugary liquid called wort. The wort is then transferred into the Wash Back for fermentation, leaving behind spent grains which are then converted to animal feed, wasting nothing.

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Mashing | Scotch Whisky | Ballantine's
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Fermentation | Scotch Whisky | Ballantine's

FERMENTATION

This is where things get really interesting. Yeast is added to the wort in the Wash Back to start the fermentation process and convert the sugars into alcohol. Fermentation times vary between distilleries, but it usually lasts around 48 - 56 hours. The result of fermentation is a liquid called wash which has an ABV of about 8%. Now, it’s time to distil.

DISTILLATION

Every single malt whisky distillery uses two types of still; the Wash Still and the Spirit Still, which are both made of copper to shape the flavour during a two-part distillation process. The wash is heated with steam in the Wash Still to separate the alcohol and turn it into vapour that rises up the still and condenses. This spirit, called Low Wines, is collected in a spirit safe. This is then distilled for a second time in the Spirit Still where only the heart of the second distillation or “middle cut” is collected as new spirit. A pure, perfect spirit, ready for maturation into a single malt, that will one day be a crafted into a blended Scotch whisky worthy of the Ballantine’s name.

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Distillation | Scotch Whisky | Ballantine's
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Maturation | Scotch Whisky | Ballantine's

MATURATION

For a Scottish made whisky to be called “Scotch” it has to age in oak casks for at least three years. This allows the whisky to interact with the casks and draw flavours, as well as colour, out of the wood. The higher quality of cask and longer storage time, the more flavour it can pick up. Because Ballantine’s has been making whisky for so long, we have some of the world’s most impressive stocks of aged scotch, meaning we can have blends aged for over thirty or forty years. Once bottled, the maturation stops. So there’s no point keeping it in a wine cellar for years and years, it’s there to be had and enjoyed.

BLENDING

A blended Scotch whisky is the product of blending multiple single malt and grain whiskies, and making blended Scotch is anything but easy. It requires great skill, an alarming level of intuition, excellent palate memory and a great nose. Throughout the history of Ballantine’s, hard work and passion for quality has always been present in our five master blenders. Each one of these blenders has looked after the continuity and quality of the Ballantine’s brand, staying true to the original family character of the Whiskies.

Learn more about the history of the brand here.

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Blending | Scotch Whisky | Ballantine's
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Bottling | Scotch Whisky | Ballantine's

BOTTLING

A great quality whisky deserves a quality bottle. There’s no better way of identifying the quality of our whisky than with a Heraldic coat of arms that was granted in 1938, appearing on every bottle of Ballantine's Scotch whisky to this day. The crest features the Scottish flag and the four essential elements of whisky making - Earth (represented by Scottish barley), Water (from nearby fresh streams), Fire (which heats the mash in a copper pot still) and Air (which allows the whisky to breathe in an oak cask). Another feature that appears on every bottle is the Latin phrase, ‘Amicus Humani Generis’, meaning a friend to all mankind. A friend never lets you down.