The distiller of these products uses a simple pot still for batch distillation and this, as mentioned above, effects only a crude separation of the fermentation broth into heads, tails, and middle fraction. The skill in making a palatable whisky consists of: a) fermenting the mash under conditions which give rise to a certain mixture of chemicals followed by b) distilling the mixture and discarding a portion of the heads and a portion of the tails. The middle fraction, consisting chiefly of ethanol, will also contain the retained portion of heads and tails. It is these heads and tails which impart the characteristic flavour and aroma. At this point there is no colour. Colour is imparted by storing the spirits in oak barrels for a number of years, a process which also modifies the chemical make-up of the whisky to give the unique characteristics of a particular brand.
Clearly, the manufacture of a palatable whisky is a highly skilled operation since it involves the production of a complex but controlled mixture of chemicals followed by the selective removal of a certain proportion of them. This makes it easy to understand why the moonshine produced in the hills of Kentucky during prohibition days was such a rough and even dangerous product. The fermentation carried out under less than ideal conditions would have produced a witches brew of chemicals while the crude pot stills used without proper controls would have undoubtedly left behind a number of exceedingly unpleasant constituents. The same problems and dangers would face the amateur whisky-maker today without proper guidance.
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