A reference book of beer & whisky
Acetone – An organic compound with the formula (CH3)2CO. It is a colourless, volatile, flammable liquid, and is the simplest ketone. Familiar household uses of acetone are as the active ingredient in nail polish remover and as paint thinner.
Ale – Ales are beers fermented with top fermenting yeast. Ales typically are fermented at warmer temperatures than lagers, and are often served warmer. The term ale is sometimes incorrectly associated with alcoholic strength
Angel’s Share – The loss in volume due to evaporation of whisky from a cask as it matures [often calculated as an average of 5% volume in the first year then 2% of the remaining volume per year thereafter]. Actual loss will vary from cask to cask due to their individual properties.
ASB [American Standard Barrel] – ASB’s are oak containers of 200 litre capacity, made from charred, virgin oak wood they are used in the maturation of bourbon and subsequently employed for the maturation of Scotch whisky.
Barley – A cereal grain derived from the annual grass Hordeum vulgare. Barley is used as a base malt in the production of beer and certain distilled spirits, as well as a food supply for humans and animals.
Blend – A mixture of whiskies from different distilleries. If all components are Malt whisky then a Blended Malt is produced, a mixture of Malt and Grain whiskies produces a Blended Whisky, if produced in Scotland then it is known as Blended Scotch.
Blending – The process of mixing whisky from more than one distillery. Blending is an art form executed by expert blenders, mostly done by nosing of the component whiskies and having an wealth of knowledge and understanding of how the component parts will behave and be perceived when mixed together.
Bourbon – An American whisky produced using a minimum of 51% or more corn, distilled to no more than 80% ABV, aged in new, charred oak barrels at no more than 62.5% ABV and bottled at no less than 40% ABV.
Cask Filling Strength – The alcoholic strength at which spirit is interred into the cask. Commonly spirit is diluted from still strength down to 62.5% or 63% ABV before filling into the cask. Rarely Still Strength spirit is used undiluted and less commonly Marrying Strength casks are filled at 68% ABV.
Cask Strength – The alcoholic strength of whisky while it is maturing within the cask. Bottling the whisky without the common dilution to a standard ABV (e.g. 40%, 43% or 46%) would result in a cask strength (or Barrel Proof) bottling.
Column or Continuous Still – A large industrial apparatus used for the continuous distillation of grain whisky. Continuous stills consist typically of two columns, named the Analyzer and Rectifier. Operating like a long tube of pot stills, the alcohol/water mixture is purified by introduction of steam and passing through several porous plates. The resultant alcoholic vapour extracted can be as concentrated as 96% ABV.
Condenser – Attached to the Lyne arm, the condenser functions to return the vapour to its liquid phase. This is achieved by running cold water over the condenser tube. Traditional ‘worm tub’ condensers consist of a spiral tube immersed in a tub of cold running water. More modern tube-in-tube condensers (either horizontal or more commonly vertical) consist of a wide bore tube through which the vapour travels whilst cold water is run in a counter-current through numerous smaller tubes within it.
Cut – The middle part of the distillation run between the Foreshots and Feints, also known as the Heart of the run. This contains the most desirable alcohols and runs from 80% down to 60% ABV during the run, giving an average ~ 70% ABV.
Draff – The remains of the milled grain after the mashing process, mostly husks and coarse grits. This material is low in sugar but high in protein and traditionally was sold to local farmers as cattle feed. Most nowadays is collected and used in the manufacture of processed/pelleted animal feed.
Dunnage – A traditional type of warehouse for the storage of whisky, constructed of thick stone or brick with low walls, slate roof and and earthen floor. Casks are usually stored stacked no more then three-high and are hand-moved.
Finishing – A specific maturation technique where whisky is matured in one cask type and then transferred to a second, different cask type to obtain the properties from the ‘finishing’ cask (commonly ex-bourbon followed by ex-sherry, but any combination is possible).
Foreshots – The initial distillate off of the still during the distillation run, containing the most volatile and undesirable alcohols (e.g. Methanol), these are normally returned and mixed with the feints for further distillation.
Grist – Milled grain in preparation for the making of beer or whisky. Grist is composed of the husks and coarse grits, fine grits and flour. The majority of sugars released are present within the flour. The presence of the other components however helps with the mashing process by allowing percolation of the water through the grist while the sugars are dissolving.
Kiln – A large furnace or oven used for drying germinated (malted) barley grains. Traditionally peat-fired giving the resulting malt and whisky a peaty, smoky flavour. Traditional kilns have a wirecloth floor and a distinctive pagoda roof chimney.
Low Wines – Following the first pot still distillation run, the wash is commonly concentrated from 8% ABV to a distillate from the Wash Still of 20% ABV termed Low Wines. The Low Wines are then charged into the Spirit Still for a subsequent distillation to 60-70% ABV.
Lyne Arm – The tubular structure attached to the top of the neck of the pot still, through which the vapour is carried to the condenser. Both the size, shape and angle of the Lyne arm will affect how the vapour escapes and subsequently the nature of the new make spirit produced.
Malt – Or Malted Barley, germinated barley cereal grains. Using water and heat, dormant cereal barley grain is tricked into germinating, a biological process during which Maltese enzymes are released and breakdown of the cereal starch stores into maltose occurs. Malting is halted before the sugar is utilised by heating and drying in a kiln. Whisky produced from 100% malted barley is also known as malt whisky.
Mashtun – A large tank or vessel in which the milled malted barley (or grist) is washed with typically three volumes of water at increasing temperatures in order to extract the dissolvable sugars released by the malting and milling processes. Normally the first and second water are saturated with enough sugar to become Wort and be used for fermentation in the Washback. The final and hottest wash is usually too weak in sugar and so is reused as the first wash for the next batch.
Pot Ale – The residue resulting from the distillation of wash in the copper pot still, commonly also sold as animal feed. Pot Ale requires to be cleared out of the still and the still cleaned after each batch distillation.
Pot Still – A traditional copper pot still is a large copper kettle or alembic in which alcohol/water mixtures are boiled. As the alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, the early vapours are enriched in alcohol and thus fractional distillation is achieved. Most whisky is either double or triple distilled, undergoing this process either two or three times and reaching a higher alcoholic purity with each distillation. The size and shape of the still will affect how the vapours rise and purify, hence affecting the final nature and flavour of the new make spirit produced.
Receiver – A large closed vessel used for the receiving of distillates from the stills, typically a Low Wines and Feints Receiver and Intermediate Spirits Receiver are employed during double or triple pot still distillations
Spirit Safe – A large, glass-walled and secured container which allows the distiller to manage and analyse the spirit coming out of copper pot stills without coming into contact with it. Traditionally made of brass and visibly barred and padlocked with keys held by both the Distillery Manager and the Customs and Excise Officer.
Vintage – Denoting a single specific year in which a cask or batch of casks of whisky were distilled and laid down for maturation. A bottling of such casks can claim that year as its Vintage (similar to wine).
Washback – A large vessel in which wort and yeast are mixed and fermented to produce an alcoholic beer, typically of around 8% ABV and termed wash, for further distillation. Washbacks typically hold tens of thousands of litres and traditionally were constructed from Scots Larch or Oregon Pine, more modern examples are made from Corten or Stainless Steel.
Worts Cooler – A heat-exchange device used to cool the Wort, typically from 60-70 degrees Celsius as it leaves the Mashtun to a more yeast-friendly temperature below 40 degrees so as not to kill the yeast added for fermentation. Efficient worts coolers can be used to transfer heat from the Wort back into future waters for the Mashtun.