Production of Whisky Using Specialty Malts: An Optimised Process

Academic Institution: Heriot-Watt University

Academic Supervisor: Dr Calum Holmes

Industry Partner: Holyrood Distillery / Crisp Malt

PhD Student: Rutele Marciulionyte

Start Date: 1st July 2019


Currently, the majority of malt whisky produced in Scotland is derived from lightly kilned malted barley that contributes only subtle aroma / flavour characteristics to the final product. In response to a consumer demand for greater product variety, there has been some recent commercial interest into the incorporation to specialty malts during the whisky production process.

Specialty malts are produced under conditions of high temperature which results in an increased concentration of aromatic constituents, primarily through the action of Maillard chemistry. Specialty malts are used extensively in the brewing industry and their behaviour in the process is well understood, in the distilling industry, the use of specialty and highly roasted grains has not yet received adequate attention.

There remain a number of hurdles that must be addressed before used of specialty malts can be fully adopted by the industry (1) the distillation properties of specialty malt derived flavour compounds (2) the impact of Maillard reaction products and specialty malt on yeast cell fermentation and health (3) the maturation characteristics of specialty malt-derived spirits in wooden casks.

The proposed project, a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University, Holyrood Distillery, and Crisp Malt, aims to use novel grain roasting technology to optimise the production of specialty malts specifically for the distilling industry and to characterise the production and maturation characteristics of malt whisky produced using specialty malt.