The wort is then transferred to one of our 6,000ltr 'washback' vessels. Yeast is also added which begins to turn the sugars into alcohol. This is the fermenting process and we allow ours to ferment for 90 hours to maximise quality. The fermentation process converts the 'wort' into a 'wash' of about 8% ABV. It's a bit like a strong beer at this point.
We distil twice and this is the first distillation point where our 5000ltr 'wash still' extracts the alcohol; a bit like a very big kettle. Copper is used to build the wash still as it is an excellent conductor of heat. Copper has also been found to be the best material for removing impurities from the spirit as it is being distilled. All stills are the same in principal, though different shapes will give a different flavour and character to the final spirit. Our stills have been specially made for us with a particular character and flavour in mind.
At this point the alcohol is vaporised and rises up the neck of the still. The 'distillate' is collected by the stillman at pre-determined cut points to result in a spirit of 20% ABV; we call this 'low wines'.
The 'low wines' are then drawn into the condensers where they are cooled and converted back into liquid. We use both copper and steel condensers, each of which give a different character to our spirit. The liquid 'low wines' now move to the ‘spirit still' for a second distillation.
This is the second distillation of the spirit using our 3500ltr spirit still. Again the spirit is vaporised then condensed once more turning the 'distillate' back into liquid spirit. The spirit is then split into three key elements:
This is the spirit from the beginning of the distillation. It has a very high alcohol level and is very pungent.
This is alcohol from the end of the distillation. It is weak but also very pungent.
It is only alcohol from the middle, or 'heart', of the distillation that is used and skilfully removed and collected by the stillman. The foreshots and feints are then mixed with the next batch of 'low wines' and re-distilled.
The middle cut, the 'heart' of the distillation, is collected through the ‘sprit safe’. The 'heart' has an alcoholic strength of between 65% and 70% ABV. It is this cut of the 'new make spirit' which will mature into The Lakes Single Malt whisky.
The purpose of the spirit safe is also to allow analysis of the spirit from the outside without actual access to prevent siphoning-off spirit in any attempt to avoid paying duty to Her Majesty's Customs and Excise!