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Whisky Words: Spirit Still

Whisky Words: Spirit Still

Vic Cameron, one of our whisky lecturers says: “A spirit still is the second still used for making single malt Scotch whisky. Most single malt Scotch is made using double distillation. You have the wash still first and then the spirit still second. The spirit still can be run faster because it's not as gassy as the wash. And it is from the spirit still that we get foreshots, spirit and feints.” 

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Understanding the spirit still is important for Scotch whisky lovers for several reasons:

Distillation Process

The spirit still is a key component in the distillation process, where the alcohol from the wash (fermented liquid) is concentrated and purified. It is the second distillation step in a typical Scotch whisky production, following the wash still. This stage refines the alcohol and helps develop the final flavour profile of the whisky.

Flavour & Character Development

The design and operation of the spirit still significantly impact the flavour and character of the final whisky. Factors such as the shape, size, distillation methods and cut points (the separation between different fractions of the distillate), all influence the final product. Distilleries often have unique still designs that contribute to their signature styles.

Quality Control

Understanding how the spirit still operates can give insight into the quality control measures taken by a distillery. The careful management of the distillation process, including the precise control of temperatures and timings, ensures a high-quality spirit. Knowledgeable whisky lovers can appreciate the skill and craftsmanship involved in producing a consistent and superior product.

Historical & Technical Appreciation

The spirit still has a rich history and technological evolution in whisky production. Understanding its development and the innovations in distillation technology can provide a deeper appreciation for the craft and tradition of whisky making. This historical context enriches the overall whisky experience for enthusiasts.

Distillery Tours & Experiences

Many distilleries offer tours that highlight their unique distillation processes, including the iconic copper pot stills. Being knowledgeable about the role and importance of the stills can enhance these visits, making them more informative and enjoyable.

In summary, understanding the spirit still is crucial for Scotch whisky lovers as it plays a vital role in the distillation process, flavour development, quality control and overall appreciation of the craft. This knowledge enriches the tasting experience and deepens the connection to the traditions and techniques of whisky making.

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