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Issue 76 - Whisky worms

Whisky Magazine Issue 76
November 2008

 

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Whisky worms

In the final part of our series looking at whisky terms we look at the final letters of the alphabet, and in particular worm tubs and yeast.

Every group of enthusiasts has its own collection of in-jokes, and whisky is no exception.

Tour a distillery with a group of ‘experts' and invariably they will ask the guide if he or she has worms. Not the funniest of jokes, but always good for a titter or two.

Laughter aside, though,worm tubs are a source of intrigue and fascination to the aficionado.

Traditional and in many cases dispensed with years ago, they have been reassessed in recent years, so much so that at least one distillery has considered reintroducing them.

The normal way these days to convert distilled spirit back in to liquid is for the spirit to pass through a condenser which surrounds the copper piping and through which cold water is passed.

The worm tub does the same thing. Normally sited outside the distillery, it consists of a pool of cold flowing water through which the pipes zig-zag across the bottom – hence the name worm.

Worm tubs take more space than a condenser and require considerable work to maintain,and they are hostage to the vagaries of the weather because if the water warms condensation is difficult and potentially impossible. For this reason they have largely been replaced.

Now, though, as distillers look at ways to develop new flavours within the rigid guidelines of malt, the way condensation takes place in worm tubs has come under the microscope. Conversion from spirit to liquid is slower through a worm and many believe this gentle approach adds a robust element to the flavour ...

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