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Issue 29 - As esay as one, two, three?

Whisky Magazine Issue 29
March 2003

 

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As esay as one, two, three?

Peter Mulryan looks at the increasingly rare art of triple distillation

The theory is simple. You put your wash into a pot still and gently turn up the heat. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, so it's the first to evaporate. This liquid is collected and the process happens all over again, then again. In other words it does exactly what is says on the tin; the wash is distilled three times, rather than twice. In Ireland that second still is called the feints still, in Scotland the intermediary still.

What comes out the far end is a more alcoholic new make spirit, usually between 80 to 85% abv, as opposed to the 68 to 70% typical of double distillation. But if that's all there is to it, then this article would end here. And clearly it doesn't.

Historically, this kind of distillation has been associated with Ireland and the Scottish Lowlands. Both, coincidentally, locations where the whisky industry suffered greatly during the first part of the 20th century.

The Scottish Lowlands, with a softer landscape, typically produced a softer whisky than the Highlands or islands, and in the Glasgow area a lot of it was triple-distilled. Barnard visited 36 Lowland plants, but these days just three remain; Glenkinchie, the doughty Bladnoch and Auchentoshan, Scotland's last remaining distillery to practise the ancient art of triple distillation.

“I wouldn't say we're the last of a dying breed, more that our continued existence is a sign of our success,” says Ronnie Learmond, Distillery Manager at Auchentoshan. “Personally, I believe that ...

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