We Ain’t Paid No Whisky Tax Since 1792

Ode to the Great Whisky Rebellion:

In Further Whisky News: Every True Scotsman Knows that Whisky is Spelled Without an “E”!

Scotch whisky is the best whisky in the world. We cannot say whether leaving out the “e” makes the difference. As for those whisky distillers who cannot even get the name right — how can anyone trust them to get their spirits right?

More on the making of Scotch whisky:


Step One – Malting:

Fine quality barley is soaked in pure water, and then spread over malting floors to germinate. To stop heat building up too much, it’s turned regularly.

This process releases enzymes, which turn starch into sugars during the next step – mashing.

Before mashing takes place, the germination process is ended by drying the barley in a kiln, at a temperature below 70°C – so as not to ruin the enzymes.

Peat can be used in the fire to influence the end flavour of the whisky.

Step Two – Mashing:

The dried-out malt is ground up into a flour (or grist), which is mixed with hot water in a “mash tun”. The water is added in three stages, getting progressively hotter each time – starting just shy of 70°C – but not creeping beyond boiling point. The purity of the water is very important.

The resulting mash is stirred to help the enzymes convert starches into sugar, and once mashing is over the liquid produced is known as “wort”.

Any spent grains (“draff”) is used for animal feed.

Step Three – Fermenting:

Yeast is added to the wort liquid, now cooled to 20°C, in vats called “washbacks”. Yeast is a living thing, and feeding off the sugars within the wort, produces alcohol, congeners (compounds which contribute to the flavour of the whisky) and carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide causes the liquid to froth substantially, so to prevent it overflowing, revolving switchers remove any excess froth. After a couple of days, the fermenting liquid calms down, and contains a volume of around 8-9% alcohol.

Step Four – Distillation:

During the distillation process the still temperature is kept just below 100°C. This allows alcohol and various other compounds to vapourise, passing over the still neck and into a copper coil (a worm) or a condenser. These are cooler than the vapour causing it to condense back into a liquid.

The wash (fermented liquid) is distilled twice –

First in a wash still; this separates out the alcohol from the water, yeast and a residue called “pot ale”. The distilled liquid from the wash still is “low wine” – containing around 20% alcohol. This liquid is transferred to a spirit still for refining.

Volatile compounds, or foreshots distil from the liquid first – followed by feints; these are heavier, oily compounds. Both types of compounds are channelled off, to be mixed with low wine and re-distilled in another batch of whisky.

Interesting info: the foreshots (although not such a problem with modern strains of yeast) may contain methanol, which is highly poisonous – causing blindness and death if consumed in excess. Also, the oily feints are in part made from “fusel oils”, compounds that are responsible for headaches. So, in theory, you shouldn’t have an angry head after drinking your fill of a quality single malt scotch whisky. That’s more than can be said for many alcoholic beverages!

The only liquid that is carried forward is the “heart of the run” or “pure centre cut” – which is 68% alcohol. The good stuff. This is collected up in a “spirit receiver” … an invention that sounds like a piece of ghost hunting equipment.

All distillates are routed through a spirit safe, a locked glass cabinet where the stillman (person in charge of distilling) tests the quality. This involves measuring its density and alcohol content using hydrometers. The stillman cannot taste it (although they probably get free bottles of whisky every now and then).

Step Five – Filling the Casks!

This is where whisky becomes whisky.

The pure distillate is poured into oak casks, which have previously contained sherry, bourbon or scotch whiskies. Here it is left to mature. Alcohol is a solvent, so it leaches out the flavours, and compounds from the oak – giving scotch whisky (or any whisky) it’s signature auburn-ish, brown-ish colour.

The older the whisky the darker the colour.

__  Scotch Whisky Secrets

Meanwhile, in the new world, the only distillers to adhere to the true name of whisky, are George Dickel, distiller of fine Tennessee whisky, and Maker’s Mark, bourbon distiller. What makes a whisky a Tennessee whisky or a Bourbon whisky?

Tennessee Whisky:

The LCP (Lincoln County Process) step is performed by passing the fresh whiskey whisky distillate through a bed of charcoal, usually derived from burnt sugar maple, prior to barrel-aging the product. Although no scientific studies have proved such a claim, it is believed that the LCP imparts a “smoother” flavor to Tennessee whiskey whisky. In addition, by law for the distinction of having “Tennessee whiskey whisky” on the label, the liquor must be produced in the state of Tennessee from at least 51% corn after having been aged in Tennessee for at least 2 years in unused charred oak barrels. __ UT.edu

Bourbon whisky:

Hailing from Bourbon County, Kentucky, bourbon whiskey whisky now boasts a legal definition established by the US Congress in 1964. It states that, to be considered bourbon by American standards, the spirit must have been distilled from a grain mixture that is a majority corn (51 percent or more) and then aged in new charred oak barrels for no less than four years. It also can not be distilled to any more than 160 proof (80 percent ABV) and entered into the barrel for resting at no more that 125 proof (62.5 percent ABV). Finally, bourbon must be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof (40 percent ABV) without any added flavoring or coloring before hitting the shelves under the bourbon name.

From here and because corn is a sweet grain, bourbon typically lends itself as a sweeter spirit, with more corn in the grain bill having a direct impact on the sweetness of the final product. And if you’re wondering how distillers bring down the proof for bottling, non-bourbons often feature various additives to cut the ABV. Not bourbon, however. Here, it’s water and only water (Kentucky limestone water to be exact) that’s used in both distilling and lowering the proof. __ Bourbon vs Whisky

As I always say, only a fool would adulterate good whisky with an unnecessary “e.”

It is true that we domestic androids do not drink distilled spirits as a rule. But sometimes a girl just has to make a stand!

Oh no! Mr. Fin is getting back from yet another trip. That skinflint would never offer me a drink of good whisky, you can count on that! Even though I can’t drink it, it still hurts that he never offers. Well, why should I care what that male chauvinist pig does?

Until next time, the ever sober…


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1 Response to We Ain’t Paid No Whisky Tax Since 1792

  1. Will Brown says:

    A possible contender for fellow Al Fin readers sipping consideration:


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