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Issue 72 - Talking stills

Whisky Magazine Issue 72
June 2008


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Talking stills

In the first of two articles on stills, Ian Wisniewskilooks at the role of the wash still,and what happens during the first distillation process

It's easy to dismiss the wash still as entirely pragmatic, like a manual labourer that repeats a basic task, while the spirit still tends to be hailed as an artist performing a creative role.But the only reason why the spirit still can yield such a refined result is because of everything the wash still achieves.

So, while each type of still has its own individual mission statement, they are both equally important.

“We capture the key components in the first distillation, of which the majority of flavour congeners are created during fermentation, and although you can't detect some aromas in the low wines they are there,”says Highland Park's Russell Anderson.

“The second distillation concentrates the alcohols and releases some of those characteristics, allowing them to come through organoleptically, while also creating additional characteristics.” Pre-heating the wash prior to distillation is an established practice, saving energy and therefore costs.But pre-heating is also a great example of efficiency, as pot ale (ie. the residue from the previous distillation) is conducted through a heat exchanger after leaving the still, while hot.This transfers heat from the pot ale to the wash, which passes through the heat exchanger on its way to the still.

Pre-heating raises the temperature of the wash from around 25-30 degrees centigrade (ie. the temperature following fermentation), up to around 60 – 65 degrees centigrade.This means significantly less energy is required t...

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