In whiskey making, distillation is the critical process where the simple ingredients are transformed into the complex spirit we know as whisky. But how does this magical transformation work and what role does distillation play in creating the whiskey's unique character? Read on to discover the mysteries of distillation.
What is Distillation?
Distillation is a method of separating substances based on differences in their volatility in a boiling liquid mixture. In whiskey brewing, this process is used to concentrate alcohol and select specific flavor and aroma substances from the fermented liquid.
Distillation step in whiskey production
First distillation (Wash distillation): After fermentation, the alcoholic "wash" is heated in a wash still. Here, alcohol and other volatile substances evaporate, which are then condensed into a liquid called "low wines".
Second distillation (Spirit distillation): "Low wines" undergo further distillation in a spirit still. During this process, the distillate is divided into three main fractions: heads, heart and tails. It is the heart fraction that is mainly used for storage, as it contains the desired alcohol percentage and flavor profile.
The Influence of Distillation
Shape of the still: Different shapes of stills can result in different flavor profiles. Traditional pot stills often produce a richer, more robust flavor, while column stills can produce a lighter spirit.
Intersection: The exact point at which the distiller chooses to transition from one fraction to another (for example, from precursor to heart) greatly influences the character of the final spirit.
Temperature: Precise temperature control ensures that the right compounds evaporate at the desired times, influencing the final flavor profile.
Distillation is the heart of whiskey making, a key process that transforms a simple fermented liquid into the complex and nuanced drink we know and love. Through this process, the character of the whiskey is shaped, defined and refined, giving us the deep and multifaceted experience that whiskey lovers around the world appreciate.