What Are Congeners?

What Are Congeners?

What the heck is a congener? The easy answer is that they are the flavor bits that yeast leaves behind after “digesting” sugar during fermentation.  Yeasts are the wonderful little micro-organisms that are responsible for alcohol!  We would not have beer, wine, whiskey or any other fermented beverage without it. The more complicated answer is that it was a term invented by Harvey Washington Wiley between the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 and the Taft Decision in 1909. Though it was concocted for a political purpose over a century ago, it is a term still in use today. It is, therefore, worth putting aside the politics of the word and understanding what we mean when we use the term “congener” in a modern, distillery setting. Yeasts...

Why Do Copper Pot Stills Look So Different?

Why do copper pot stills always look so different? Every still produces a different whiskey. Alembic stills (the ones that look like copper cauldrons with elephant trunks…) have been around since the Egyptians were using them to make perfume! The mixture of water and grain that has been fermented to create distiller’s beer is loaded into the base (cauldron) and heated to separate the alcohol from the solution through evaporation. It’s pretty simple, actually. The boiling point of alcohol is lower than water and the rest of the mixture so that will evaporate first. The mash (fermented grains) go in at about 8-10% alcohol and come out after the first run through the still at 25-30% alcohol. That 25-30% alcohol solution that comes out of the first run is...

Springbank, 2 1/2 Times Distilled Whisky

We know American whiskey and scotch are usually distilled twice, and Irish whiskey is often distilled three times, but 2 1/2 times? Springbank whisky is distilled two and half times. The first distillation goes through normally to produce low wines. Then some of those low wines are distilled a second time, but there are no cuts taken, it is just raising that alcohol level and removing more congeners from the distillate. That second run of the low wines is called the feints. Those feints are then blended back in with the remainder of the original low wines. This is what the distillery considers 1 1/2 times distilled. That blend goes through a final spirit run, a hearts cut is taken, and the final distillate is used for barreling. Hence the 2 1/2 times. Springbank...