Water is of prime importance when it comes to the production of Scotch Whisky and we are lucky to have water of outstanding quality sourced from an aquifer 100 metres beneath our feet.
The water fell as rain decades ago and filtered through layers of 300 million year old sandstone rock, purifying it. This precious resource is drawn to the surface and harnessed to produce Kingsbarns spirit.
We use the Laureate variety of barley, grown here in the sun-soaked fields of Fife.
Barley goes through a process called malting before it is delivered to us. The barley is first steeped (soaked) through successive immersions with water and “air rests” for two days to start the germination process - breaking down the protein, releasing the starch and synthesising enzymes. The germination process continues over a further 5 days.
The barley - now termed green malt - is then laid on a floor and dried over a kiln to stop the germination process.
Some distilleries add peat to the fuel to create a smoky whisky, but we use unpeated malted barley at Kingsbarns.
MILLING AND MASHING
1.5 tonnes of malted barley is used for every mash and our four row "Buhler" mill processes one tonne of malt per hour turning The four row mill will process the malt into husks, grist and flour in the proportions of 20%, 70% and 10% flour respectively.
Mashing takes the grist from the mill and adds hot water to convert the starch into sugar, or what we now call worts.
For our daily mash, we take 1.5 tonnes of ground malt from our mill and initially add 6000L of water at 64°C. The second water of 2700L is then added at 76°C, with a final third water of 5800L at 87°C to extract the maximum amount of sugar. The third water is used as the first water in the next mash.
The sugary wort from the mash tun is cooled to 20°C and transferred into one of our four washbacks and turned into alcohol by the addition of yeast. We use two types of dried yeast: 'Anchor' and 'SafWhiskyM1' types of yeast to promote fruitiness in our spirit.
Our washbacks here at Kingsbarns are stainless steel, and although the more traditional wooden vessels (usually Douglas Fir/Oregon Pine or Scottish Larch) hold their temperature better, stainless steel washbacks are cleaned and sterilised more effectively, contributing to a more consistent end product. The time length and temperature of fermentation contributes more to spirit character than the type of vessel used.
By the end of this fermentation process of around 75-120 hours, the wort is now known as wash and resembles a strong beer of around 8% alcohol. We have a long and slow fermentation to produce a fruity character.
The wash is now boiled up twice in copper pot stills. The copper helps create certain flavours and remove unwanted compounds. The first still is called a "wash still" and the second distillation is in the "spirit still".
The spirit travels through the spirit-safe where the purest part or the "cut" is taken and the rest drained away or re-distilled. What we now have is new make spirit.
We have increased our production to around 200,000L of spirit a year and filling an average of 34 casks per week.
SUPERIOR CASK MATURATION
Here at Kingsbarns, our wood policy was set under the expert consultancy of the late Dr Jim Swan.
Each cask was carefully selected by Isabella Wemyss, the sister of Wemyss Malts founder William Wemyss. We use ex-bourbon barrels shipped whole directly from Heaven Hill Kentucky Distillery chosen for their succulent wood tannins that balance well with the complex Kingsbarns spirit.
Other cask types we use are ex-Portuguese red wine barriques which have been shaved, toasted and recharred, some Sherry Butts and a small selection of some other cask types for future special releases.