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Issue 117 - A third step

Whisky Magazine Issue 117
February 2014


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A third step

We investigate the process of triple distilling

Various whiskies around the world are distilled twice in pot stills, with far fewer examples of triple distilling. Ireland is thought to have started this tradition, and the largest number of triple distilled malt whiskies are Irish, including Bushmills, Tullamore Dew and Jameson. Additional examples around the world include a malt whisky in Scotland, Auchentoshan, and a Bourbon in the USA, Woodford Reserve. So what opportunities does triple distilling offer to influence the character of the new make spirit, and what issues does this raise for the ageing process?

Triple distilling typically means using a set of stills each dedicated to one particular distillation, with the first distillation in a wash still, the second in a feints still, and the third in a spirit still. The wash still is ‘charged' with the wash which typically has an alcoholic strength of around 8-10% abv. Once distilled this results in low wines, with a strength of around 25% abv, or higher.

Distilling the low wines in the feints still entails three distinct phases. The first and final phases, known as the heads and tails respectively, are of an unsuitable character and quality, and are collected to be redistilled in the next distillation run within the feints still. The middle phase of the distillation run, known as the ‘spirit cut,' is collected separately, and typically has an alcoholic strength of around 70% abv. “This distillate has quite a full-bodied character, with fruit, cereal and spicy no...

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