For a drink of such complex flavours and character, the core ingredients of whisky are very basic. They are; water, barley and yeast. It is what is done to these ingredients and how they are sourced that makes the process of making whisky so special.
Scotland is famed for its bad weather; however this high volume of rainfall has blesses Scotland with some of the purest waters in the world. This is a very important element of good whisky. Many distilleries in Scotland draw their water from rivers and lochs (lakes) situated nearby. Water is used several times during the whisky making process, each time contributing to the taste of the overall process, so it is vital that the water is of the highest quality.
Barley is a crop that is well suited to the climate in Scotland. It is the seed of the barley that is used to create the whisky. These seeds are soaked in warm water for a few days before being spread out on the floor of a malting house. This activates the germination process. Once the seeds start to shoot the germination is stopped by drying the seeds in a kiln. Once complete the barley, or malt as it is known at this stage, is ground down with husks and debris removed. The quality of the barley is very important to the quality of whisky that is produced. Traditionally it was the distillery owner who would select which barley was used to create their whisky, but nowadays distilleries generally look for a supply of barley that yields a high volume of soluble sugar.
Yeast is used to start the fermentation process which turns the natural sugars in the malt into alcohol. Again, the yeast used is vital to the quality of the final product and contributes to each distilleries unique tasting whisky. So there you go, three simple ingredients, but combined they make our favourite drink. To find out how these ingredients are used to make whisky, please read "How is whisky made?"