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The Production Process - Distillation

蒸餾

Distillation refers to a process of utilizing differences in boiling point temperatures to separate alcohol from water, in other words, to concentrate alcohol and flavors.

Malt whisky is batch distilled in pot stills whereas grain whisky is continuously distilled in column stills.  We shall focus on batch distillation in this article. 

A pot still is a large, hand-crafted pot with curved sides that are 5-10 millimeters thick.  Copper is used because it is easy to shape and is an effective heat conductor.   Moreover, copper acts as a catalyst to produce various flavor compounds as well as to eliminate and separate unpleasant flavor compounds by reacting with the sulfuric compounds in alcohol vapor.

Types of Stills

Different sizes and shapes of pot stills will result in different styles of spirits.  There are bulge, straight, and lamp-glass-shaped stills.  The straight-shaped pot stills produce strong, heavy spirits.  The bulge-shaped stills have a ball-shaped structure in the mid section of the still whereas the lamp-glass-shaped stills look very similar to an hourglass; these stills produce lighter flavors than a straight still.  But this alone does not determine the character of the spirit.  The height of the still, the angle of the lyne arm (the horizontal component on top), the method of heating and even the type of condenser make a difference.

Heating Method

There is direct-fire distillation and indirect steam distillation. The character of the spirits likewise differs greatly depending on the method of heating.

Direct-fire distillation: Heat is applied directly to the bottom of the pot using a gas or coal fire.  It is easy to burn the inside bottom of a still so a rotating chain inside the pot is used to prevent burning.  Direct-fire distillation is less common these days. This method tends to produce whisky with a strong, toasty character.

Indirect steam distillation: Heat is applied to the wash by running steam through pipes inside the pot. The character of the spirits produced is lighter than that of direct-fire distillation.

The role of the Condenser

The condenser cools the vapor that reaches it through the lyne arm and liquefies it. It too is made of copper. There are 2 types of condensers.

Worm tub: Alcohol vapors are cooled as they pass through a coiled copper tubing inside a water tank.

Shell and tube: With a completely opposite construction to a worm tub, in a shell and tube method, cool water flows through copper tubes, cooling and liquefying vapor as it comes in contact with the surface.

 

First Distillation

The first distillation extracts flavor compounds from the wash and raises the alcohol content to around 20 percent.  Approximately one-third of the wash becomes low wine, the remaining two-thirds is pot ale and draff, which is processed and used to make animal feed and fertilizer.

 

Second Distillation

The low wine is transferred to the spirit still and distilled once more to further concentrate the alcohol and flavor compounds.  Distillate from the condenser during the second distillation is divided into three stages in the following order: the heads, the heart and the tails.  Only the heart (i.e. the new make spirit) is transferred into casks for maturation.  Collecting the heart, which includes the distillates most desirable flavor compounds, is the important part of the second distillation. It will contain approximately 65-70 percent alcohol content. The heads and tails are combined together and with the next batch of low wine to be distilled. These cut points are controlled using a spirit safe.

 

 

蒸餾是利用沸點的差異,將酒精和水份分隔的過程,換言之,它將酒精度和味道濃縮。

一般來說,麥芽威士忌都是在壺式蒸餾器分批次進行蒸餾;而穀物威士忌則在柱式蒸餾器中蒸餾。這次我集中講分批次蒸餾。

壺式蒸餾器是一個大型手工製作有彎曲面的壺,厚度約5-10毫米。壺式蒸餾器都是銅製的,一來它易於成型,且是有效的導熱體。 銅也是理想的催化劑,在蒸餾過程中生產出各種味道的化合物,同時與蒸氣中的硫化合物產生化學反應,消除了一些味道不好的化合物。

 

 

蒸餾器的類型

不同尺寸和形狀的壺式蒸餾器直接影響威士忌的風格。 有些中間部分是隆起的、有的是筆直的、有些形狀像燈籠般。筆直型的蒸餾器生產出強烈、酒體重的威士忌;中間隆起像球體般的蒸餾器,以及燈籠狀看似沙漏般的一類,生產出的威士忌風格相對較輕盈。當然,單是形狀只能影響風格的一部分。蒸餾器的高度,橫臂管的角度(蒸餾器頂部的水平導管部分),加熱方式甚至冷凝器的類型,對威士忌的最終風格都有所影響。

 

加熱方式

加熱方式有直火蒸餾和間接蒸氣蒸餾之分。加熱方法對威士忌最終呈現的個性也有很大影響。

直火蒸餾︰在蒸餾器底部以氣體或煤生火直接加熱。這樣加熱容易燒焦蒸餾器內部受熱的部分,因此蒸餾器內部通常設有攪拌器減低燒焦的機會。直火蒸餾今天已較為少見,一般會生產出酒體較重、帶多士味道的威士忌。

間接蒸汽蒸餾:通過管道內的蒸汽加熱,所生產的威士忌比較輕盈。

 

冷凝器的作用

蒸氣從橫臂管通往冷凝器然後液化。冷凝器也是由銅製成的,可分為兩種。

蟲管式冷凝器:酒精蒸氣通過彎曲密集的銅管,整個銅管被水箱包圍著。

殼管式冷凝器:跟蟲管式冷凝器剛好相反,冷水在銅管內流動,蒸氣透過跟銅管外壁接觸而冷卻然後液化。

 

首次蒸餾

首次蒸餾將酒精濃度提升至20%左右,同時濃縮了酒液中的味道。約三分之一的麥芽汁會轉化為低度酒;其餘三分之二變成酒糟和酒粕,經處理後用作飼料或肥料。

二次蒸餾

低度酒轉移到第二個壺式蒸餾器,進行第二次蒸餾,以進一步濃縮酒精和味道。 在二次蒸餾期間,從冷凝器餾出的餾液會按照以下順序分為三個階段:酒頭,酒心和酒尾。 只有酒心(即新製成的原酒)會被引流到木桶中進行陳化。 酒心是二次蒸餾的重心,包含餾出物中最理想的味道,酒精度在 65-70%左右;而酒頭部和酒尾則會混合起來,與下一批低酒度一同進行蒸餾。酒頭,酒心和酒尾的分段位受到烈酒保險箱控制。