Whisky from the past (Part 2)
15.05.20 by Tim Foster – Sales Manager, Lindores Abbey Distillery
Having spent an age discussing the raw material of historic whisky in Part 1, you might be glad to know that we’re actually stepping inside a metaphorical 19th century distillery this week… yay!
Right, so we’ve got the malted barley. Now we need to process it. No surprises, the process is pretty much the same today as it was then… ish.
First up is milling the grain. These days, we use roller or hammer mills which are fine-tuned by experts and are very accurate, we run them on electricity. Rewind a couple of hundred years and the milling was done with a stone, usually rotated by a human but sometimes a horse. Unsurprisingly this wasn’t as accurate as it is today. I’d hazard a guess that there was a lot more husk and quite a lot of unmodified grain – which could have given the spirit a more nutty flavour due to the added proteins.
Next up – Mashing
By all accounts, 3 waters was common. But not the only method. There were variants, which included resting, alongside the addition of cold water. In some cases they’d produce a wort of a lower gravity which was fermented and distilled separately. These more unusual methods are akin to something called decoction mashing, which is not standard practice in today’s whisky making world. By all accounts the brewing side of Whisky making was quite varied back then. Sounds quite fun to be honest. If that’s your bag.
According to Yash, our Whisky forefathers did not really understand what was happening during fermentation. And having sat through a good number of fermentation lectures I can tell you that I’m not surprised. A lot of stuff can go wrong during a fermentation, ask any brewer.
The dudes from the past had a handy nomenclature for their wash
We can assume the following;
1 Vinous = good fermentation, smells fruity and wholesome.
2. Acetous = Had turned to vinegar, or was headed that way (think Saison beer perhaps).
3 Putrid = doesn’t really need a an explanation – utterly rank and quite probably lethal.
So there was some varied and potentially rank stuff around. But equally there was probably some delicious and pretty ‘funky’ spirit too.
Next episode we look at distillation and bottled product. Make sure you stay tuned for the next instalment of this high velocity Whisky journey. In the meantime, stay safe and well.
Cask Ownership at Lindores Abbey Distillery
The distillery is of course currently closed but you can still chat to Elliot, our Cask Custodian about our cask ownership scheme and what is involved. We still have a lot of exciting projects going on with different types of casks coming through – but they are all very limited so get in touch if you would like to explore different opportunities within the whisky world. You can contact Elliot on firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more at https://lindoresabbeydistillery.com/welcome-lindores-abbey-distillery/cask-ownership/