L'orge et le maltage
Japanese distilleries produce malt whiskey and grain whiskey for almost a century . In addition to their blends considered the best in the world , it now produces single malt made from 100 % malted barley , also repeatedly rewarded at international competitions .
The barley used for the development of single malts Japanese is not from Japan. Yet it is grown there in small quantities , but its quality is considered too inadequate for the distillation of whiskey by the Japanese producers . They prefer to use varieties specifically designed for the production of whiskey and almost exclusively from Scotland and sometimes a bit of France or Australia.
Today the main varieties of barley are called Chalice , Chariot, Decanter, or Optic Tankard , they were carefully selected over the years by Scottish producers according to very specific criteria, such as pest resistance or the productive efficiency. Most Japanese distilleries use one variety of barley to develop their single malts , but some can mix two or three .
Malting is a prerequisite for making whiskey step to reproduce the ideal conditions of heat and moisture necessary for germination of barley , in order to produce the latter sugars and certain enzymes that facilitate later therefore fermentation and distillation.
Few distilleries including Japanese , who still have a malting floor in working condition . Today barley is malted by companies specializing in large malting and manufacturers of Japanese whiskey imported malted barley already .
Malting takes place in four stages: steeping, germination , drying or kilning and degerming .
This step is the simplest , it involves moistening barley grains to reactivate for germination. For two to three days, the grains are regularly immersed in water and then aerated to bring the two main elements necessary for their revival : water and oxygen.
During soaking, the grain moisture rate goes from 12-14 % to 42-45 % and is constantly monitored to reach the threshold to trigger germination.
Once finished soaking , the grains of barley moistened and now awakened are brought to the malting floor to be spread over a surface of stone or concrete in a layer of about thirty centimeters thick .
Snapping germination , seeds release of amylase , an enzyme for the transformation of their starch into sugar , it is called saccharification. During this stage , which lasts from six to eight days depending on the variety , barley will generate a lot of heat . It is therefore regularly turn and mix the grains to better distribute the heat and humidity but also to prevent the emerging shoots tangle .
Once germinated barley , green shoots of a few millimeters in length emerge and give rise to green malt.
The drying or kilning
This step is to prepare barley into flour for this green malt is dried in kilns and kiln to stop germination. For 24 to 48 hours, the green malt is gradually heated from 50 ° C to about 90 ° C , the maximum temperature was maintained for three to four hours , this is called "shot " . It was at this time appear the very first aromas of malt , while dried grains contain only 4 % water.
Today drying is mostly done using large electric dryers or oil burners operating , but most maltsters to the needs of producers of whiskey, also offer fire drying coal or peat in large traditional ovens called kiln. Thus whiskeys will acquire their smoked and peaty so characteristic of Scottish distilleries islands flavors, but however can be found in some Japanese single malts like Yoichi or White Oak.
This final step is to rid the grain of its rootlets , small green shoots appeared during germination. Malting is now complete and the barley is ready to be processed into flour , it has now become an inert element that can be kept for nearly a year .
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