Whisky Magazine Issue 58
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The quality of a new make spirit is crucial to making good whisky. Ian Wisniewski delves deeper into the process
With various single malts offering a broader choice of ages, comparing a 12, 15, 18 or 21 year old from the same distillery shows how the balance between the distillery character, and the influence of oak aging, continually evolves.
Deliberating between different ages to see how both elements interact is a great way of ‘deconstructing' a malt, which also leads back to the beginning of the aging process: the new make spirit and the cask selection.
The character of the new make spirit tends to be attributed to the spirit cut, and as the distillate shows varying characteristics at different strengths, there are clear parameters for distillers to work with.
However, the spirit cut is only one way of determining the profile of the new make spirit.
Other influential factors include whether the heating method is ‘indirect' (steam heated coils), or ‘direct' (such as gas or coal); the rate of distillation, the size and shape of the stills, and type of condenser (shell and tube or worms).
Moreover, collecting new make spirit is a culmination of the preceding stages of the production process, and distilling low wines with consistent characteristics also depends on a reliable fermentation regime, which in turn relies on mashing and milling.
The first distillation in a wash still creates the broad character of the low wines, including the formation of esters. A second distillation in a separate spirit still refines, but also reduces the range of characteristics in the low wine...