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Issue 150 - The Illusion of Water

Whisky Magazine Issue 150
April 2018


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The Illusion of Water

How much water is used to make our whisky, and where is it from

Whisky can have some questionable, forgotten, even misleading historical truths. When scrutinised under a modern lens with new information, insight and analysis can reveal a different, interesting and sometimes surprising explanations on the past and its legacy in the present.

Havenít we all been enchanted by promotional whisky literature romantically informing us about their brandís connection to place and its special water source.

ëAll year round spring water bubbles in the glen.í ëPure and soft.í The longer copy paints word pictures of the bucolic rugged Scottish countryside and clear streams of iron-free water in Bourbon country. It gives the distillery and its whisky a terrestrial connection to place. It can also be the most elusive and enigmatic element in whisky.

So how important is water and what role does it play in our whisky? There are two ways we can understand water in whiskies we drink; weíll call it quantitative and qualitative water. The quantitative method informs us just how much water is used and how much will make direct contact with the whisky in our bottle. Qualitative looks at where the water comes from and to what degree some whiskies can claim their geographic water credentials.

Lots of water is needed to make whisky, but very little makes contact with the whisky we drink. This is called process water. There are only a few points in the distillery where process water interacts with whisky.

The first point of contact is brewing wh...

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