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Issue 74 - That's the spirit

Whisky Magazine Issue 74
September 2008


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That's the spirit

In our latest in our series on whisky terms we look at the second part on the letter S,and the role of the spirits still in Scotch whisky production.

At Glenrothes it's known as the Cathedral.Some have argued that it should be known across the industry as the gallery.But whatever words you use to describe it, the still room is the buzzing heart of the whisky making process, the place where the magic of malt making is most manifest.

Wonderful as the aromas of a maturing warehouse are,and dramatic as fermentation in the washbacks may be, nothing in a distillery quite matches the aesthetically pleasing sight of towering copper pot stills in all their glory.

Milling, mashing and fermentation are where the artisanal skills of whisky making lie; maturation is where the magic happens.But it's in the still room, and particularly through the operation of the spirit still, that art, practical technique and magic come together and each distillery's unique properties are most clearly defined.

Distillation is the process by which alcohol is separated from water.After malted barley has been fermented into distiller's beer by the addition of yeast, the alcohols can be separated from the water by heat and condensation.

Each time the liquid is heated and recondensed it will retain less water,be more concentrated,and have a higher alcoholic strength.

Normally the process is carried out twice in Scotland.After the first distillation the liquid, known as low wines, will have an alcoholic strength in the low 20s ABV.This is mixed with stronger, recycled alcohols from the previous distillation to form a charge for distillation in the spiri...

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