The following recipe will let you make homemade whiskey according to a classic technology, which is used in Ireland and Scotland. It resembles usual moonshining quite a bit, but also includes one additional stage—oak infusion, which lasts 6 months or more. This time is necessary to make a good alcoholic drink.
To make homemade whiskey which is very similar to Scottish or Irish original drinks, you’ll have to travel a long way, but the result will be worth the effort.
Single malt whiskey of the highest quality can be made from barley. But you can also mix different types of malt to make blended malt whiskey. For example, barley, rye, corn or wheat. General ratios of ingredients remain the same.
You can couch malt at home or purchase it in a specialized store. Where you get it is not all that important. What is important, though, is the quality of water. Spring or filtered water is perfect, but don’t use hyperfiltration and don’t boil it!
Note. Use a thermometer at all times. Measuring wort’s temperature by eye without thermal control will yield no results.
Making Homemade Whiskey
- Crush the malt into a coarse-ground state, keeping the husk particles. Be careful not to turn it into flour. You just need to break the grains into small pieces. Correctly ground whiskey malt is shown in the photo. You can skip this part if you’ve already purchased ground malt, which is an optimal solution for fledgling moonshiners.
Correctly ground malt
- Heat up a large metal container with water to 70°C.
- Slowly pour the malt into the hot water, constantly stirring it with a wooden stick until smooth.
- Bring the wash to 65°C (it’s very important) and seal. Maintain stable temperature (give or take 2-3 degrees) for 90 minutes. Check and stir every 10-15 minutes. Temperature control can be carried out by simmering. By the end of this process, the top part of the wash will become lighter and the grains will sink to the bottom.
Temperature exposure causes wash conversion, conversion of starch into sugars and dextrin (soluble substances). Then during fermentation yeast convert sugar into alcohol.
Note. Wash conversion occurs only in the temperature range of 61-72°C. Otherwise, the process ceases and there’s no way to start it once again.
- Remove the lid from the container and cool the contents to 25°C as fast as you can. For example, by setting the container in a cold bath. Quick chilling stops unwanted microorganisms from spreading in the nutritional medium. This prevents sour fermentation.
- Dilute yeast according to an instruction on the label.
- Pour the wash into a fermentation container, add yeast, and stir.
- Leave the container in a dark room with a temperature of 18-25°C. Install an airlock.
- Depending on the quality of raw materials, yeast activity, and temperature fermentation lasts from 3 to 15 days. While fermentation is active, remove the airlock and stir the wash with clean hands or a wooden stick.
When the airlock stops bubbling for 2 days, the wash becomes lighter and bitter (there’s no sweetness), you can proceed to the next step.
- Pour the wash into a distillation still through a colander in order to remove spent grains, which might burn during distillation, making the whiskey bitter.
- Distill the obtained wash in the distillation still. During the first distillation, don’t separate into fractions (heads, middle run, tails). Stop collecting the product when its ABV is lower than 38%.
It will yield about 5-6 liters of barley 40° proof moonshine. The yield depends on the extractivity of malt—specifically, its starch contents. The higher the extractivity, the better.
Barley distillate after the first distillation
- Determine the ABV of the distillate and calculate the volume of pure alcohol. Dilute the moonshine with water up to 20%. Run the second distillation. Gather the first 12% of the pure alcohol separately. This harmful fraction is called “heads” and can only be used for technical purposes. It spoils the taste of the homemade whiskey and is harmful.
Collect the middle run (“hearts”) until the ABV goes below 45°. You’ll end up with 3-4 liters of the final product.
Optionally you can run the third distillation, separating the outcome into fractions just like during the second distillation (gathering the head fraction—2-3%). This will improve the quality of the distillate.
- Now it’s time to infuse the grain moonshine with oak. There are two ways to do this. You can either purchase an oak barrel, fill it with the distillate, and infuse it in a cellar for at least 6 months or use oak pegs. Using a barrel is more preferable, but we’ll go over the technology of infusing whiskey with oak pegs.
You can use an oak log, 30-35 cm in diameter (oak should be at least 50 years old). Bark and chips contain too many tannins, which make the taste harsh. That’s why they shouldn’t be used.
Cut the log into pieces 5-8 mm wide. They should fit the fermentation containers of choice. Pour the wood pegs over with boiling water, pour off the decoction, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes, and then let them dry in the sun. Put the pieces into the fermentation containers (10-15 pieces per jar) and fill with the distillate diluted to 45-50°. Then seal the containers and leave them in a cellar for 6-12 months. Prolonged aging enhances the taste.
After 6 months of infusing
- Filter your homemade whiskey through several layers of cheesecloth and bottle it for storing.
After 1 year of aging
Now the drink is prepared, and you can taste it.