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Issue 86 - Whisky,worts and all

Whisky Magazine Issue 86
February 2010


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Whisky,worts and all

Ian Wisniewski asks, why do some distilleries have clear wort and some have cloudy wort, and what significance can this have?

The usual conclusion is that cloudy wort promotes a richer style of new make spirit, compared to clear giving a lighter, fruitier spirit. This conclusion therefore suggests that the nature of the wort (ie the sugary liquid that drains from the mash tun) is a definitive factor. That would be very convenient, but it's also too simplistic. The nature of the wort is only a subtle influence, and just one of several factors which together determine the character of the new make spirit.

These other factors include the size and shape of the stills, the type of condensers, and the spirit cut.

Slimmer, taller stills for example, promote lighter, fruitier new make spirit than rounder, shorter stills.

Similarly, the more modern shell and tube condensers encourage a lighter spirit than worms, which are the more traditional type.

Meanwhile, the spirit cut can also select lighter, fruitier characteristics and avoid richer, heavier notes.

Consequently, these factors can mitigate, or override the influence of the wort, which means that its nature doesn't in itself guarantee the character of the new make spirit.

This brings us to the question of what makes the wort clear or cloudy, which is the level of fine particles suspended within the liquid. This in turn takes us back to the milling process at each distillery.

Milling the malt (ie grinding it through rollers) produces three different grades of malt, known as husk, grits (or ‘middles,' ie. medium ground), and flour (or ‘fines,' ...

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