Whisky from Hven
The foundation in a good Whisky are selecting good raw materials and treating them the right way. Spirit of Hven uses the best possible barley grown on the island, local barley indeed, but also specially selected producers of barley from all over Europe. The grain will during the time it is growing in the fields extract minerals and flavour components from the soil that will affect the final product.
Barley: To be able to make alcohol sugar is needed, this is what further down the line will convert into alcohol. Grain do not contain any sugar, it holds starch, starch on the other hand is just lots of sugars glued together. What needs to be done is making this starch available for conversion into sugar. This is done by the following method:
- Steeping: The barley is soaked with water to prepare it for malting.
- Malting: The wet barley is spread over flat, often perforated floors, here it is left to germinate. During germination it is important to aerate and move the seeds otherwise mould will strike and the rootlets will tangle together and create an unmoveable carpet.
- Drying, Kilning: When the barley have germinated to the wanted extent it is important to stop the germination before the rootlet eats all the sugar. This is done by kilning or drying the malt. If the drying is done by adding smoke to the air this will get stuck on the malt and affect the final taste. If the malt is roasted this will give another taste.
Milling: When the malt have been dried it is milled or crushed to something called Grist, this is a mix of husks, core and flower. It is important to get the right mix between the three to get the right flavour, yield and not to clog up the process.
Mashing: The grist is mixed with hot water in a mashtun, here the sugars are extracted to the water solution. Most often this is done in three stages to get maximum sugars out. Often the third water is kept to be the first water in the next batch.
Fermenting: The sugar solution extracted in the mashtun is moved to fermenting vessels, Washbacks where yeast is added. Different yeast gives different fermentation times and it also affects the final taste and scent in the product. Long fermentation often helps higher flavour profile, something that is used frequently at Spirit of Hven. The product created after fermentation is called wash and hold about 7-9%ABV. The wash is very much like beer but without the bitterness from the hops.
Distilling: When the wash is ready it is transported over to the first still, called Wash still. Here the first distillation takes place and about 2/3 of the wash is sorted out. The result after the first distillation is called Low Wine and often holds about 20-25% ABV. The residue in the still is called Pot Ale.
The Low Wine created in the first distillation is then distilled once more in a second still called Spirit Still. Here the distillate coming of the still is divided into three fractions, Heads (Fore Shots), Heart (Middle Cut) and Tails (After Shots). The heart is what is used for the final spirit to be put in casks. It is extremely important how one takes the middle cut, as this will alter and/or create the distinct flavour of the spirit. At Spirit of Hven the final strength of the fresh spirit is about 68% ABV.
Maturation: The maturation process is the sole most important part of making good Whisky. It is important what variety of oak to use as well as where it has been growing ant the terroir at the site it has been growing. It is important how the cask have been made, what size it is, if it has been toasted and/or charred inside and if so to what extent. It is also important if the cask is new or if have had some beverage in it before and if so what beverage, how long and under what circumstances.
The casks have three primary functions:
- Additive: What the spirit actually extracts from the cask and wood. Mainly the organoleptics, the substances scenting of Coconut, Vanilla, Toast and Perfume. It is also these substances that create a lot of the body in the final product, the buttery, sweet taste.
- Subtractive: The substances filtered away by the wood from the spirit. A lot of the harsh, immaturity goes away here a long with some sulphur components.
- Interactive: Some of the substances extracted from the oak are gently being converted by the spirit to wanted organoleptics. Amongst others we here finds Tannins and acetals giving fruit and stringency to the spirit.