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Issue 93 - Have you got Worms?

Whisky Magazine Issue 93
January 2011

 

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Have you got Worms?

Ian Wisniewski ask what role do condensers play when producing malt whisky

Condensers play a dual role. One is very practical, as vapours rising within the still during distillation are conducted to the condenser, in order to condense into a liquid.

However there is a creative role as the type used, and the way it is operated, influences the character of the low wines (the result of the first distillation), and the new make spirit (from the second distillation).

Two different types of condenser are used. A worm is the most historic, though still used at distilleries such as Pulteney, Cragganmore, Talisker and Mortlach. Shell and tube condensers were developed in the late 19th century, and are now used by most distilleries, including Highland Park, Glenfiddich and The Balvenie.

A shell and tube condenser comprises a large vertical chamber, with long copper pipes (typically up to 100 pipes) running the length of the chamber.

Cold water is continuously pumped into these pipes, at the base of the chamber, cooling the pipes while rising through them, with the water discharged from the top of the chamber.

Meanwhile, vapours are conducted from the still to the top of the chamber, and then descend through the chamber (being ‘pushed down' by more vapours arriving from the still). The vapours are cooled as they come into contact with copper pipes (carrying cold water) and condense on the surface of the pipes. The resulting liquid descends along the pipes to the base of the chamber, where it drains from the condenser and collects in a separate vessel.

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