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Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

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Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby Novice Scotch Fan » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:17 am

An acquaintance of mine who is very passionate about scotch whisky was over to Scotland this summer and through his contacts managed to get an "unofficial" tour of some distilleries after hours. He saw the use of anti-foaming agents in the washback or beer still phase. The fellow giving the tour explained that this substance is added to prevent foam from reaching the condensers (I think).

I was quite surprised to learn of this.

To my mind, I thought single malt scotch was made up of water, barley, yeast (and sometimes caramel for colouring).

Any body know anything about this?

I would think the addition of the anti-foaming agent could affect taste, but maybe not.
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby bredman » Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:06 am

Most distilleries use defoaming agents. Some may not - i'm not sure - but many have defoaming arms that rotate above the washbacks. At Springbank they suspend a bucket that tilts when the foam rises and lifts it, which applies the defoamer. I'm not certain of what agents are used and by whom, but many use non-perfumed soap flakes. Occasionally these distilleries produce soapy notes in the whisky (Edradour for example), and many feel the soap flakes are responsible. However, soap flakes are widely used by distilleries with no such issues, suggesting that the defoamers have no influence beyond distillation. As i recall defoamers are used in bourbon production also (i may be corrected).

I do have some info somewhere ...
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby Ganga » Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:15 pm

bredman wrote:Most distilleries use defoaming agents. Some may not - i'm not sure - but many have defoaming arms that rotate above the washbacks. At Springbank they suspend a bucket that tilts when the foam rises and lifts it, which applies the defoamer. I'm not certain of what agents are used and by whom, but many use non-perfumed soap flakes. Occasionally these distilleries produce soapy notes in the whisky (Edradour for example), and many feel the soap flakes are responsible. However, soap flakes are widely used by distilleries with no such issues, suggesting that the defoamers have no influence beyond distillation.


This is nothing new. I remember having this discussion when I was at some of the distilleries back in 2000.
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby Novice Scotch Fan » Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:44 pm

bredman wrote:Most distilleries use defoaming agents. Some may not - i'm not sure - but many have defoaming arms that rotate above the washbacks. At Springbank they suspend a bucket that tilts when the foam rises and lifts it, which applies the defoamer. I'm not certain of what agents are used and by whom, but many use non-perfumed soap flakes. Occasionally these distilleries produce soapy notes in the whisky (Edradour for example), and many feel the soap flakes are responsible. However, soap flakes are widely used by distilleries with no such issues, suggesting that the defoamers have no influence beyond distillation. As i recall defoamers are used in bourbon production also (i may be corrected).

I do have some info somewhere ...


Thanks Bredman. While I am sure the distilleries or the companies that own them would claim the soap flakes have no impact on the flavor profile, it would suggest their claims of using the purest of water near peat bogs, etc, wouldnt impact flavor so much either.

Bottom line: If the whisky tastes good enjoy it, and disregard all packaging that speaks of pure water, fine barley, etc, because who knows what else is added in addition to anti-foaming agents and caramel.
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby John Barleycorn » Wed Oct 03, 2012 9:38 pm

I've been told by many that work in the whisky industry that dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is added during the whisky making process and in large quantities too. :shock: You would think that the SWA would do something to regulate the use of such chemicals.
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby bredman » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:08 pm

Novice Scotch Fan wrote:Thanks Bredman. While I am sure the distilleries or the companies that own them would claim the soap flakes have no impact on the flavor profile


Tbh, i don't think they have much to say about it at all. Maybe they're worried about the attention it may attract. I was merely suggesting that blenders and experts etc. can't detect the flavour presence of these agents in the final spirit. But that's just flavour, i haven't come across any mention at all about any physical traces being present either.

One thing for certain is that during distillation, if the foam reaches the lyne arms of the stills the distillation is ruined. Iirc Charles MacLean calls it "foul distillation". It may explain the "large quantities" that John refers too.

Maybe it's less of an issue with taller stills, i don't know.
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby whiskynig » Wed Oct 03, 2012 11:08 pm

Gents.
I am fairly certain that this issue does not detract from your enjoyment of Malt whisky.
I have never taken any notice of what is written on the label, and pay little regard to official tasting notes. I have been in several bonded warehouses, and taken many distillery tours (some unofficial).
All I can say is, just enjoy the craic, and don`t take it too seriously. :smoke:
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby John Barleycorn » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:03 am

It's all well and good whiskynig telling us not to take it too seriously, but when you think of the amount of dihydrogen monoxide that the whisky industry uses plus the soap flakes, which bredman made reference too, as a 'defoaming agents', well I'm just surprised that many whisky producers don't find themselves on a slippery slope.
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby bredman » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:47 am

whiskynig wrote:All I can say is, just enjoy the craic, and don`t take it too seriously.


I feel no different now about any whisky as i did a week ago. None of this is new news to me. But we can't ignore the OP because it's possibly too serious for some people. Everyday is a school day. 8)
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby lockejn » Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:11 am

DHMO. Funny stuff.
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby bredman » Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:56 am

I'm going to join the efforts to have dihydrogen monoxide banned. :roll:
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby AdamMY » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:53 am

I also hear they rely on a large use of fungi in whisky's production. :lol:
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby Ganga » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:32 am

bredman wrote:I'm going to join the efforts to have dihydrogen monoxide banned. :roll:

I hear there is a replacement in the works: oxygen dihydroxide. :smoke:
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby John Barleycorn » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:07 am

Ganga wrote:I hear there is a replacement in the works: oxygen dihydroxide


That's just as bad. Did you know that this stuff can kill you if you inhale it. :shock:
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Re: Anti-Foaming Agent Use in Distillation of Scotch Whisky?

Postby dramtastic » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:30 pm

None of us are actually drinking whisky, it's the Matrix!
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