Friday, September 26, 2014

How To Distill Your Own Wee Dram

These are troubling times in the Fandom. 

Starz announced this week that instead of the second half of Season 1 of Outlander beginning in January, it will start on April 7, 2015. This news went down badly with fans who were already wondering what they were going to do with themselves from the time when Episode 8 airs on September 27 until the first of the year when Episode 9 was going to arrive.
Waddya mean? We have to wait six whole MONTHS? Waaaaah! 
This from people who should be used to waiting. Diana Gabaldon, prolific as she is, says that it takes her three to four years (not months) to write one of her Big Books. Doing the math, that means that since the most recent book in the Outlander series, In My Own Heart's Blood, came out in June of this year, we won't see the next book in the series until summer of 2017 or 2018. That makes waiting until April for a new TV episode seem like no big deal.

It happens that this upset over the date change is happening at the same time that I am doing research for a post on barley - a far more interesting subject than I ever expected. The research has led me to do some reading about how barley is used in the making of barley wine, beer and whisky. And once I got past the information on malting and fermenting, the next thing I wanted to know was how whisky is distilled.

As I was watching YouTube videos, it occurred to me - if anyone needs an Outlander-related activity to keep them occupied for the next 6 months, building a still and making whisky could be just the thing.

You're going to start by making wort, a liquid drawn from the mash of malted barley which contains the sugars that will convert to alcohol in the fermenting process. Unless you are really desperate for something to do, I'm not going to send you to the malting shed with bags of wet barley grain. To keep this simple, go to your local home-brew store and buy malt extract. That will save you the steps of malting the barley, making the mash, and extracting malt from it. You simply mix the malt extract with water to make the wort. While at the home-brew store, ask about recipes and buy the yeast you will use for fermenting the wort. You will also need to buy a large glass container in which to store the wort while it ferments. When fermentation is complete, you are ready for distilling.

This article, How to Make Whisky - Step by Step, is a good overview of the entire process. Before you get invested too much in this project, you should give it a read.

The basics of still manufacture are pretty simple, as this article 3 Ways to Build a Still explains. If you are more of a visual learner, here's a video, below, that explains what to do. You can probably build a still for around $100.

There's enough to do here to keep you busy for weeks. And if your attempts are less than hoped for, you can always pop into a bottle shop on April 6 and buy a bottle of the good stuff to sip while you watch Episode 9.

Slainte mhath!

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