New Make Spirit ‘Whisky’ DNA – 01.04.20
by Tim Foster – Sales Manager, Lindores Abbey Distillery
A short while back I committed a social media sin, allowing myself to get dragged into a raging New Make Spirit debate. We’ve all been there right!?
So, what was it that so incised me to yield my keyboard sword? Well, it was the notion that new make spirit* is a flavourless liquid which tastes the same no matter what the substrate is. The final blow, a claim that all the flavour comes from maturation. Being a self-confessed maturation geek, the tension mounted and I regrettably waded in.
Regardless of the type of cask chosen to mature spirit, it’s DNA runs through every expression – the new make spirit or NMS. The clear spirit that flows from the copper stills, gushing into the spirit safe has had no contact with wood – it is the one true indication of the true spirit of the distillery. But the flavour comes from the cask you cry! Yes, the cask does impart flavours, some new, some a combination of new and existing and some which disappear altogether. But the upstream process in the distillery is unique to every distillery.
Operating a single malt distillery is like playing a giant booze producing synthesiser, think Ric Wakerman at the spirit safe. There are lots of valves, levers, controls and dials to play with – each imparting flavour, aroma and mouthfeel. Let’s look at the synth:
Peated or unpeated? How many PPMs**? What was the quality of the malt from the harvest/maltster. What varietal (have a look on Twitter to see how excitable this debate can get. Also check out Waterford Distillery).
Is it raked? If so how often? How much wort recycling? Is your wort clear or cloudy? Would sir care for a fruity or nutty malt?
Without even considering playing with different yeast strains, are the washbacks wooden, open, closed or stainless? Those little Yeastie Beasties like to jam with others, have we got a little microflora party going on? How long is the fermentation? Longer fermentations can and do give us more fruity esters, shorter ones – not so many.
STILL SHAPE / OPERATION OF THE STILLS
What size is the still? Dumpy, tall & thin? How hard are they run? Slow and light? Fast? Does your line arm point up, down or flat? Are we charging the entire low wines and feints? What’s our cut point?
Each one of those processes has a marked effect on the spirit character and the combined set of processes define the character of each distilleries single malt. The operators and distillery managers orchestrate all of these processes to produce totally unique NMS, with vastly different flavour and aroma qualities.
To end the new make spirit debate, for me at least, to say that NMS is a flavourless liquid, is simply not true. It is the finger print, the framework… its DNA.
We are absolutely delighted to say we were officially recognised as the BEST SCOTCH NEW MAKE 2020 by the World Whiskies Awards last week. We could not be more proud of Gary and the distillery team. You can get your own award winning New Make from our ONLINE SHOP
*New Make Spirit – the clear spirit produced at the end of the distillery process, which is filled to cask for maturation
**PPM = Parts per million. The measure of peatyness/smokieness.