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Water of Life

水命之水

Greetings from Scotland! I don’t usually start articles talking about the weather but I have to make an exception for this! Considering nine billion litres of rain falls on Scotland from which over nine hundred million litres of whisky is produced and I haven’t seen a drop in five days, I consider myself lucky! Water is essential in the creation for any whisky and more often than not it rarely enters the great whisky debate often overshadowed by the focus on distillation and maturation! Throughout the whole of the production process water plays an extremely important role from creating the spirit make up to even adding a splash of whisky to open up flavour for your enjoyment in a bar. Whilst it is an obvious essential in production how much does the water play a part in the overall enjoyment and uniqueness in each and every single malt?

Since whisky was first distilled in Scotland, water controlled the siting of a distillery. Not only was it essential to have access to clean, fresh process water but also in large volumes especially for the malting, mashing and the spirit condensing process. Rain continues to be the primary source for distilling but it is its unique journey to each distillery can affect the chemistry. If the rain falls on mountains that tend to be made of crystalline rocks the water will flow rapidly downhill as streams. Clay can also prevent the water permeating into the ground that prevents any interaction with rocks. As a result, the pace has little interaction with the rocks which will in turn have a lower mineral content.  The result …. A soft water that sits on the acidic side of the PH scale. Conversely if the rain’s journey flows through and permeates through joints or cracks in rocks which is more often than not lime or stand stone in Scotland it will yield water that is rich in carbonates or sulphates that will make the water neutral or slightly alkaline.

Two of my favourite single malts that use hard water are Glenlivet and Glenmorangie to produce their respective single malts. The Glenlivet takes great pride within its primary water source called ‘Josies Well’ that sits approximately 300 metres away from the distillery. Its interaction with limestone creates a water supply rich in minerals. As a result, distilling process can extract more sugar from the malt and high sugar content that can bring out definitive fragrances during the fermentation process. Glenmorangie on the other hands water source Tarlogie Spring has spent over 100 years deep underground filtered through sandstone and limestone imparting magnesium and calcium that leads to enhanced fruitiness and esters in the new make.

Whilst water is ever important within distillation where it is hotly contested is whether one should add water or not in the final product. The release of Usgie Source water has taken this debate to another level. Releasing a range of three different spring waters drawn from sources from Islay, Speyside and Highlands, their advice is quite simple ‘to pair your single malt with the source regional water.’ Is it as simple as this? No it is not. Does it make a difference? Yes.  Sitting down with Charles Maclean in Edinburgh, we put several malts through their paces taking different regional water to see if there were any notable changes.  The conclusion was very interesting not only making a notable difference on the nose, but however effected both the texture and viscosity on the palate significantly. For the Macallan Sienna, my preferences out of the three waters were the Highland’s which was a hard water high in magnesium and calcium. This would have also been impacted by the increase in European Sherry casks. The likes of Linkwood, Glen Grant and Glenfiddich were better enhanced by a soft water low in minerals Speyside water. Springbank, Talisker and Arran found that the Islay water that was naturally high in sulphate, potassium, chloride and sodium all had a rather positive impactful.

Water will continue to be the unsung hero of the whisky industry allowing distillers to experiment with barely types, the middle cut percentage or quirky casks to keep interest within the category. So the next time you are going to reach for the water think about what type it is and how it may impact your dram. 

 

來自蘇格蘭的問候! 我通常不會以天氣作開場白,但想到蘇格蘭每年有九十億升的降雨(其中九億升以上用作釀造威士忌),而過去五天竟然沒降一滴雨,難免感覺自己很幸運! 對於任何威士忌來說,水是必不可少的,然而人們總是嚴肅地討論蒸餾、陳化等過程,而鮮有討論威士忌中的水。 在整個生產過程中,水擔當著極其重要的角色,甚至在品飲過程中,有時也需加入水份以打開威士忌的風味。 人人都知道水的重要,但究竟它在每一款麥芽威士忌中的作用是甚麼?

威士忌都在蘇格蘭境內進行首次蒸餾,因此水源主宰了酒廠的選址。水源不僅在質方面需要潔淨、新鮮,量方面也不能少,特別是在發麥、糖化和冷凝過程都需要大量的水。雨水仍然是蒸餾用水的主要來源,但雨水經甚麼途徑到達蒸餾廠也需要考慮。如果雨水落在佈滿岩石的山坡上,水將快速流向下坡,形成溪流。粘土可以防止水滲入地面,減低水流與岩石之間的相互作用,形成酸度較高、礦物質含量較低的軟水;相反,如果雨水流經並滲透到石灰石中的接縫中,則會產生富含碳酸鹽或硫酸鹽的水,這些水通常較為偏向中性或略呈鹼性。

我最喜歡的單一麥芽威士忌中, Glenlivet和Glenmorangie就是採用硬水釀酒的。 Glenlivet以距離酒廠約300米外的「Josies Well」為水源。 這裡的水與石灰石相互作用而富含礦物質。 因此,在蒸餾過程中,水可以從麥芽中提取更多的糖,從而在發酵過程中產生更明顯的香味。Glenmorangie的水源Tarlogie在過去100多年,於地底深層經砂岩和石灰石過濾,賦予泉水豐富的鎂和鈣質,提升新酒中的果香和其他香氣。

在蒸餾過程中水顯然非常重要,但是關於應否在品飲中添加水份坊間總是爭論不休。 Usgie水的銷售將這場爭論推向另一層次。Usgie水聲稱從Islay、Speyside和Highlands等三個不同泉水採集用水,建議消費者「將單一麥芽與水源區域配對」。事情就是這麼簡單嗎?當然不是。但水的影響是肯定的。我曾跟愛丁堡的Charles Maclean坐下來討論,並把幾款麥芽威士忌放在不同區域的水中,看看是否有明顯的變化。結論非常有趣。不同的水不僅對威士忌的香氣有顯著影響,甚至也導致口感和質感上的差異。以麥卡倫Sienna為例,我認為配對來自Highland、富含鎂和鈣的硬水效果最佳。隨著歐洲雪利酒桶的比例增加,這種硬水更能發揮出其優點;而Linkwood、Glen Grant和Glenfiddich等一類的威士忌,則以Speyside的軟水配搭較為理想; 而當我們品飲Springbank、Talisker和Arran,則發現富含硫酸鹽、鉀、氯化物和鈉的Islay水,就具有正面的影響。

水將繼續擔當威士忌業的無名英雄,讓調酒師們嘗試不同的麥芽類型、酒心萃取率或古怪的酒桶。 所以下一次你接觸到水時,想想它是什麼類型,它又會如何影響你的飲品。