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Issue 73 - That's the spirit

Whisky Magazine Issue 73
July 2008

 

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That's the spirit

In the second of two articles on stills,Ian Wisniewskilooks at the critical role of the spirit still during the second distillation

There are essentially two ways of explaining distillation, either in detail, or not.The latter approach was traditionally preferred by some stillmen, which explains why eager young recruits asking them,“How does it work?”would be told,“It goes in there, and it comes out there, laddie.” Well yes, it does, but there's plenty to discuss about what happens inbetween.

The spirit charge (ie. liquid to be distilled within the spirit still) is a combination of low wines (the result of the first distillation) together with foreshots and feints, which are the initial and concluding stages of the preceding second distillation.

Teaming up specific wash stills and spirit stills that have a balanced ratio,where for example the low wines from one wash still are combined with the foreshots and feints from one spirit still, prior to being re-distilled in the same spirit still, is a standard approach termed ‘balanced distillation.' An alternative option, known as ‘unbalanced distillation,'means collecting a certain volume of low wines from a number of wash stills, which is blended with a specific volume of foreshots and feints from a number of spirit stills.

Consequently, a consistent new make spirit is maintained by using the same volumes.

The alcoholic strength of the low wines is typically about 23 to 25% abv, while the foreshots and feints are around 30% abv.When combined this gives a spirit charge of around 24-28% abv.

“Foreshots and feints is great recycling.This allow...

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