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How Whiskey is Made

Whiskey is, quite simply, distilled beer. The Scots use barley, your Kentucky Bourbon is made from at least 51% corn and Canadian Whisky’s got rye. These grains go through a series of processes to go from grain to alcohol -stay with us! Here’s who it works (we’ll go with single-malt Scotch’s life cycle as our example today):

MALTING

Once the grains are harvested and cleaned, they need to go through a process called malting in order to release the sugars needed to turn into alcohol.

  1. Grains are harvested, cleaned and poured directly onto the planked, wooden floors of a malting house. These wide, open rooms are filled with undulating waves of grains, about 5″ deep.
  2. The barley is dried for a little over a month until the grains, when tested, measur less than 14% water content.
  3. Here comes the first set of catalytic conversions! The grains are now soaked and drained and soaked and drained and…you get the picture. They are soaked and drained for a period of three days to begin sprouting. This process unleashes a series of enzymes that will allow the starches inside each grain of barley to break down into sugars (bread bakers, this process also produces enzymes that make yeast very happy, which is why you see malted barley flour mixed in with some of your favorite flours).
  4. For the following 5 days, the grains are raked and turned over so that each grain can achieve a moisture content of 46%.

DRYING AND GRINDING

  1. Break out the cigars, folks- it’s smoking time. This drying-out phase traditional involves smoking out the grains from underneath the planks in the floor, but never hotter than 130F. This stage is how some whiskeys are imparted with peat flavor.
  2. The dried barley, now fully fattened up, sweetened up, germinated and dried, is ground into a flour.

FERMENTATION

  1. The malted barley flour that has so been so meticulously cared after is going to get hosed. Hot water is introduced in three stages, getting hotter each time, to leach the sugars out of the  flour and start the process of fermentation. Wait- what is fermentation? Plainly stated, the sugars in the barley are waking up in this hot bath and converting into Carbon Dioxide (bubbles in your beer)! and Ethyl Alcohol.
  2. Once sufficiently soaked, the fermentation is allowed to take place over 4 days in large barrels, keeping the mash just warm enough to excited the yeast but not so hot as to kill it.
  3. Once fermentation has completed its course, the mash, or beer, is held for 4-5 more days at a cooler, more comfortable temperature.

DISTILLATION STATION

  1. Your beer is now has a respectable alcohol content of 8-9%. Imagine for a moment that your chemistry teacher replaced your glass beakers with very large copper ones. These are copper stills. They get beer poured in them.
  2. The beer is warmed slowly and evenly so as to have the alcohol, but not the beer, evaporate up the narrow channel at the top of the Hershey kiss-shaped stills. The vapors of alcohol are carried in tubes down to oak casks (barrels).

MATURATION

  1. It’s time for these young vapors to grow up and mature. They’ll need at least three years in the casks to develop the flavor they need, drawing from the grains they grew from to the smoke they were dried with.
  2. Should your whiskey care for the distinguished Single Malt designation, it’ll have to stay in its cask for at least 10 years.
  3. Once you have tested the whiskey for perfection, you’ll bottle it up and savory its flavors. Or mix it into a killer cocktail or punch.

Chocolate Meringue Tarts

Ingredients

Pate Sucree au Chocolat (Chocolate Sweet Tart Dough)

3.5 ounces 125g Butter
1/2 cup 100g Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 Egg
3 Tbsps 16g Cocoa powder
1-3/4 cups 210g Flour

Directions

  1. Cream the butter, sugar and salt with a paddle attachment in a stand or hand held mixer. Need a workout? Start with room temp butter and beat with a wooden spoon. Either way, mix until no chunks or bits of butter remain.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour and stir until your dough just comes together.
  3. Grab two sheets of parchment paper (about the size of a cookie sheet) and a rolling pin (or wine bottle). Roll the dough between the sheets until it covers the entire area. This is a good thickness for a tart crust. Slide this dough onto a cookie sheet and freeze for at least an hour. Or a week.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350F. Grab an 8" or 9" tart pan or a couple of 4" ones. Peel off the top layer of parchment back and cut out circles about 2" larger than your pan. Once you can bend the dough without it cracking, lower it into your tart pan. Don't freak out if it does crack a little; you can patch this up.
  5. Tarts need to have thin crusts- no one wants to bite into a doughy corner. Be sure to thin out the crust, but not so much that you can see metal. If the dough is too warm, pop it back in the freezer for a few minutes.
  6. Grab a fork and dimple the dough all the way to the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 15 minutes for a larger tart and 12 for smaller ones. Set aside.

Chocolate Pudding (makes more than you need, because pudding is great for breakfast).

1-1/2 cups Sugar
1/4 cup Potato or Corn starch
2 tsps Kosher salt
3 cups Milk
4 Egg yolks
7 ounces Dark chocolate (or 10 oz milk)
  1. Chop up the chocolate and set it aside.
  2. Place the sugar, starch and salt in a non-reactive pot (anything but aluminum, really). Slowly whisk in the milk, followed by the yolks.
  3. Turn the heat to medium and whisk continuously until it boils (a little over five minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate until smooth. Set aside to cool a bit.

Chocolate Meringue

3 Egg whites
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Cocoa powder
  1. Place a medium saucepot filled 1/3 of the way with water and bring to a simmer.
  2. Place the sugar, salt and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Holding the bowl over the saucepot, whisk the mixture until it feels warm to the touch.
  3. Place the bowl on the stand mixer (or begin beating with a hand held mixer) and beat with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla and cocoa powder once the mixture is nice and stiff. Spoon or pipe over the pudding and torch!