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Issue 99 - Shaping Copper

Whisky Magazine Issue 99
October 2011


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Shaping Copper

Ian Wisniewski asks what are the options for a distiller when ordering a pot still, and what does the process entail?

Distillers can buy ‘standard design' pot stills which are available off the shelf in several different sizes. The usual route is commissioning one of several specialists such as Forsyths, Vendome or Kothe Consulting, to design individual pot stills for each distillery's specific requirements.

“The first thing to establish is the production capacity and how many litres of alcohol you want to produce in a year, then we size the stills accordingly.

“Sometimes we are also asked to factor in the potential to increase production capacity, which may be projected in five years time, to avoid having to buy a whole new set of stills,” says Richard Forsyth, chairman of Forsyths, based in Rothes, Scotland.

Another key decision is the shape of the still as taller, slimmer stills typically produce lighter spirit while shorter, rounder stills produce a richer spirit.

This is because richer flavour compounds have a higher boiling point than lighter flavour compounds, and when flavour compounds rise up the still the temperature becomes progressively cooler.

Consequently, the longer the neck the greater the reduction in temperature, which results in a greater proportion of richer flavour compounds condensing and returning to the base of the still.

Meanwhile, the temperature (even with a longer neck) is sufficient for lighter flavour compounds to remain in a vapour form and continue to the condenser.

Once the size and shape of the stills is agreed, detailed drawings are produced ...

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