Whisky Magazine Issue 125
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Ian takes a detailed look at the workings of a pot still
A pot still comprises various components, each of which plays an influential role. But what really matters is how all these components interact and work together, as the profile of the new make spirit is the result of team work. ‘Standard design' pot stills are available to order, in several different sizes. However, the usual approach is to commission a specialist, such as Forsyths, to design individual pot stills for a distillery's specific requirements (the starting point being the production capacity required).
Pot stills are made of copper, which offers significant advantages. Being highly malleable, copper complies readily with the shapes of pot stills stipulated by distilleries, however idiosyncratic. Copper also offers excellent thermal conduction properties, enabling the stills to be heated very efficiently (saving energy).
The standard method of heating the stills, and consequently the charge (i.e. liquid being distilled) is to use steam. This is conducted through copper or stainless steel coils within the pot (i.e. base of the still). An alternative to coils is using stainless steel cylinders known as ‘kettles', also termed ‘pans' and ‘percolators'. Steam is conveyed to each kettle along small pipes that branch off a central coil, with 4-5 kettles the usual total. Whichever option is used it's vital that the heating elements remain ‘submerged' beneath the surface of the charge.
Adjusting the flow of steam only means opening or closing a valve, equiva...