What is malting?In the UK alone 1.5 million tonnes of malt are produced every year, using around one third of the UK’s barley production. Around 91% of this remains in the UK for use in distilling, brewing and food production.
To do this, malting must occur, which allows grains to partially germinate before drying them.
Starches are present in barley to provide sprouting seeds with nutrition as they grow. To give distillers access to the starch, barley must begin germination.
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Once the grains have begun to sprout, observed by a small white dot, which is actually the root, beginning to emerge from the seed. This is when the barley is moved into the germination period of malting.
In the past, malting floors have been large concrete floors on site that would require a lot of work to look after, with the grains needing to be spread out initially and the turned, all by hand.
These days, most distilleries outsource the malting to maltsers who use modern day mechanics to carry out these tasks.
These days peat is supplemented with the use of more modern fuels, such as oil and gas, but it is still used for the flavours it imparts.
Malting MethodsThere are several different ways to malt barley and some in the Whisky industry pride themselves on holding on to traditional methods of malting, including the continued use of floor maltings.
These distilleries are, Laphroaig, Balvenie, Springbank, Highland Park, Kilchoman, BenRiach and Bowmore.
These drums usually hold around 50 tonnes of malt. The seven rotary drums at Port Ellen Maltings on the Isle of Islay are the biggest in the northern hemisphere and hold up to 50 tonnes of barley at its original weight.