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Issue 134 - It's All About the Angle of the Lye Pipe

Whisky Magazine Issue 134
March 2016


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It's All About the Angle of the Lye Pipe

How significant is this length of pipework?

The focus of distillation is usually how the size and shape of the pot still influences the character of the resulting spirit. The condensers are usually a secondary consideration, although the type used (traditional worm tubs or more modern shell and tube condensers) also influences spirit character. But the lye pipe, as it's generally known, though technically the lyne arm, is rarely mentioned. This conveys alcohol vapours from the pot still to the condenser, which seems entirely pragmatic. However, being made of copper, the lye pipe helps to influence spirit character, and whether the lye pipe extends upwards, downwards, or is horizontal, also has an effect.

The significance of copper is that various reactions occur when alcohol vapours are in contact with it (the full extent of these reactions is still being researched). For example, when acids and alcohol within the alcohol vapours meet on the copper surface, complex interactions between them form esters (fruity notes). Ester creation is greater in the still, which provides a far larger surface area of copper, but additional esters can form in the lye pipe.

The longer the lye pipe, the greater the degree of contact with copper. However, this also depends on the distillation rate, which is determined by the degree of heat applied to the stills: the greater the heat the faster the rate of distillation.

“We distil very slowly to allow the vapours to travel slowly and have the maximum copper contact. If we distilled...

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