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Issue 62 - By the letter

Whisky Magazine Issue 62
March 2007


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By the letter

In the latest in the series Dominic Roskrow looks at the letter ‘D'

That's the spirit. Distilling is, of course, the core part of the whisky-making process. We can – and I'm sure we do – sink many a glass of whisky and while away plenty of happy hours debating how important the barley, yeast and water are to the overall flavour of whisky, how much a long fermentation affects the spirit, and what slow maturation in the finest oak brings to the finished product.

But for me miracle of malt – or the black magic, depending on your religious outlook – hits top gear once the process reaches the copper.

Distillation doesn't need to be carried out in a copper pot still of course. The word, from the Latin distillare, to drip down, refers to any process where a liquid is boiled until it evaporates and then is condensed and collected, separating component liquids out from each other.

But there are two fundamental ways of carrying the process out for alcohol: the batch method, where you take an amount of liquid, distill it, keep the solution you want and either throw out or recycle the rest then you start all over again; and the continuous system, where liquid is added continually at one end of the process, and the finished product is collected at the other.

Here let's look at the batch method used for single malt whisky.

Although distillation may be carried out once, three times and in some cases even two and a half or four times the normal way of making Scottish single malt whisky is through double distillation.

The first still is called t...

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