The Scotch industry’s newest experiment: a whisky that tastes like beer

To make a single-malt Scotch whisky, a distillery’s water has to be filtered and cracked using hand-blown grit filters. Called creaming cream, this is a measure of gravity at the point of extraction. It’s…

The Scotch industry’s newest experiment: a whisky that tastes like beer

To make a single-malt Scotch whisky, a distillery’s water has to be filtered and cracked using hand-blown grit filters.

Called creaming cream, this is a measure of gravity at the point of extraction. It’s a relatively new technique, beginning in the 1970s, in Scotland, and most distilleries use it. Currently, there are at least 15 creaming cream distilleries in Scotland, each run by a separate farmer who is paid on a sliding scale for the amount of grain each mine yields. If you have turned up at one of the locations where creamed cream is made, you’ll likely find different cuttings of grain, but the basis for any grain-cum-cream mixture is the same: malt sugar.

This is one of the many ingredients responsible for the authenticity and complexity of any whisky. An estimated 37 percent of Scotch contains this sugar. And just like food companies pay farmers a price for certain types of ingredients, the farmers get paid from a range of pounds and pence, the prices they could be paid from major supermarket chains for this product. A farmer from Highland Perthshire, the former home of Dewar’s, recently started up a creamed cream malt distillery in a barley field, thanks to a grant.

Because of this, it’s no surprise that the most popular type of liquid in stouts and stouts-inspired cheeses are creamed malt. But if you want the same smooth whisky taste of an actual whiskey, you’ll have to get it from a nearby merchant.

Like so many other parts of Scotch, the color of creamed malt depends on how it’s dyed. There are basically two ways to do this. From kilns, which are cylindrical and similar to a bakery, color is infused through the unwashed metal with a toque of the corresponding cheddar or porter, before being heated at high temperatures, similar to the scalding mixture in some hot pots. Or, from fermentation — via a process where natural bacteria eat and extract sugar from the grain — color comes from beer-like nutrient called acetic acid and macerated with wheat that are gently bathed in barley malt.

You might ask why don’t you just just make your own cider or scotch on a farm yourself? The answer is, actually, an interesting one. According to his recipes, Ian Pettit, of The Orchard at Seahaven — an orchard and gin distillery in England’s Yorkshire Dales — says the result is “like the simple trick of throwing salt in puddles to make them flow to the bottom, only worse.”

Even though you might be able to make your own creamed malt yourself, it’s not very versatile. Or you can buy it from a distillery you’re familiar with. For now, scotch makers are investing in something new: creamed malt whiskey. It’s also called cutlet whisky. The scotch makers are taking all the learning from their grain-cum-cream operations and repurposing it for old world Scotch. A future-focused description: Ched track whisky.

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