How Stills Influence Whisky Distillation
Early in the process of crafting whisky, barley is milled and mixed with hot water to produce a mixture known as wort. Distillers then add yeast to this mixture, converting it into what is known as wash. This ‘wash’, which by now is lightly alcoholic, is then inputted into stills where the true process of distillation begins – ‘distilling’ in the true meaning of the term, to purify a liquid by heating and cooling.
The distiller heats the whisky still. This allows the alcohol vapours to rise and condense in the pipes, as the vapour contacts metal surfaces cooled by cold water. Alcohol is able to rise more readily in this way, rather than water, because of its lower boiling point. Typically, this process occurs twice, or even three times in the instance of some triple-distilled whiskies as stocked at Heritage Lounge – before the whisky runs off into a spirit safe and is subsequently casked for maturation.
Typically made of copper, the type, shape, and size of a still can have a dramatic impact on the constitution of the finished dram, as outlined below:
- The oldest type of still is known as the pot still, which is typically favoured by distillers of single malt Scotch, the speciality of our Parramatta whisky bar, Heritage Lounge. This is typically round at the bottom and leads to a tapering swan neck. This design enables the liquid to emerge in a steady stream, providing the distiller ultimate control over which parts of the liquid to exclude in the interests of highest possible quality. The column still is an alternative option, prized for its efficiency. It enables control over flavour and strength, by enabling the distiller to use various vertically stacked plates.
- Pot stills typically have a swan neck, and the precise shape of this neck can influence what vapour makes it through, and what is retained within the still. The process of ‘reflux’ refers to vapour meeting a colder surface in the still, inducing it to convert back to liquid and falling back within the still. A still that encourages reflux may produce a whisky that is light and delicate. A still that does not encourage reflux may produce a more complex dram.
- A tall still is more likely to make a lighter spirit, as the vapour must travel further and there is more surface area for it to catch. A shorter, smaller still may produce a stronger whisky.
Mortlach Whisky is a prime example of the influence of stills, and the process by which a clever distiller can manipulate stills to produce unique whiskies. This distiller is known for their varied stillroom, containing six post stills of differing variety (wash versus spirit stills), all of unique size and shape. Here at Heritage Lounge, our Vault Menu features the Mortlach 1974 47-year-old.
To experience the influence of stills on whisky distillation, the only option for the genuine connoisseur is to sample a variety of whiskies at a Parramatta bar such as Heritage Lounge, a leading whisky bar, cocktail bar, and pillar of the Sydney nightlife. Book online or visit us at Level 1/215 – 217 Church St, Parramatta NSW 2150.