The whisky congener of “Malted Barley” is one you would expect to be a walk in the park to describe. It either is or it is not. Depending on how much detail you would want to put into it.

Lets look at the congener word by word.

“Malted”

Malted could be used as a Verb. In which case it is used as 1 of 4 “perfects”. I am Dutch and 44 when I am writing this so I am clueless what that means. Let’s say it is “past tense” indicating that the “malting process” is concluded.

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It could also be an “adjective”.

I am taking a leap of faith and going for a verb. Indicating for the state the malt kernels are in after “malting”.

If it is after “malting”, does that then include or exclude the kilning? Let’s find out what a malting company has to say about it. I choose the Baird’s Maltings as a reference since this is the malting company used by Bruichladdich. Read about a visit some Bruichladdich people did to the Inverness maltings here.

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Screendump from the Baird’s Website

So the “Malting” process includes:

  • Barley Intake,
  • Cleaning and Grading,
  • Barley Drying,
  • Barley Storage,
  • Steeping,
  • Germination,
  • Kilning,
  • Peating (optional)
  • Roasting (optional)
  • Deculming.

Now we have “Malted Barley” which is ready for storage and transport to the customer,

I could describe all the steps but these steps are best explained by the experts themselves. You can find a playlist of the malting process here. You could also follow the coarse given by https://www.brilliantbeer-college.com/

So after the process is done “Malted Barley” is a product that looks like a kernel, without the rootlets, dried for storage.

The malted barley contains:

  •  ± 58% starch,
  • 3 – 5% simple sugars such as maltose and fructose,
  • 6 – 8% hemicellulose,
  • 2 – 4% soluble gum,
  • 8- 11% protein,
  • 1 – 2% Amino acids and lipids.

I actually took some of the malted barley from the counter of the Laddie Shop at the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay. When smelling it I can say to you that Malted Barley smells like “Malted Barley”. That is not very useful I know, but that is what it is!

Now here is the “problem” with the congener of “malted barley”. It will smell and taste a bit or a lot different depending on loads of factors like:

  • Barley type,
  • Field,
  • Climate,
  • Fertilisers,
  • Malting process parameters,
    • peating, type of peat,
    • machinery used,
    • time settings used,
    • peating (huge influence)
    • toasting (VERY HUGE influence)
    • etc,
  • etc.

Just check out the different types of “Malted Barley” you can get and see how they all differ. Malted Barleys can be used for pilsner style beers, but also for dark stouts. Now Scottish distilleries tend to not use these kinds of malts, but USA craft distillers like Westland and Corsair do. This is why I like to hunt those styles of whisky and see how they differ!

So, Malted Barley as a congener is “usefull” in the sense that you could spot it on a whisky, if you have been lucking enough to smell malted barley. If you haven’t been to a maltster or a distillery go to a home brewing store and just buy a small bag of whatever malt you would like to sniffle at!

The Feature Image is by Steve Crane. Please see his Flickr page for more excellent photo’s.

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