Irish Whiskey Rules!

Introduction

Irish whiskey is on the rise! But there are strict rules on labels and definitions. This iStill Blog post clarifies what’s what in Irish whiskey and how you, as a craft distiller, can comply. Spoiler alert: it is more than just the geographical indication of it being made in the Republic of Ireland and/or Northern Ireland. You know what? As a little extra side-dish, this post also explains how iStills can help you out make even better Irish whiskey, both consistently and efficiently.

Categories of Irish whiskey

There are basically four labels of Irish whiskey:

  • Irish whiskey;
  • Pot still Irish whiskey;
  • Malt Irish whiskey;
  • Grain Irish whiskey.

Let’s see what the requirements are, to meet a certain label. The law distinguishes between brewing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. Since the requirements for fermentation and maturation are the same for all categories, we’ll deal with those first, so that we can focus on the actual differences between categories a bit further down the road.

Geographical Indication (all categories)

All categories of Irish whiskey must be produced on the island of Ireland.

Fermentation (all categories)

For all Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, malt Irish whiskey, and grain Irish whiskey:

  • Fermentation takes place by yeast and natural enzymes only;
  • Fermentation takes place at the same site where brewing and distillion happen.

Maturation (all categories)

For all Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, malt Irish whiskey, and grain Irish whiskey:

  • Maturation takes place in wooden casks no bigger than 700 liters;
  • In a tax warehouse for a minimum time of three years.

So far, it is easy: fermentation and maturation are the same for every category. From here onwards, we’ll zoom in on what differentiates the various categories, and focus on brewing and distillation.

Irish whiskey

In order to call your whiskey Irish whiskey, these are the brewing requirements:

  • The mash bill contains malted cereals with or without whole grains added;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled.

Making Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can mash, ferment, and distill Irish whiskey;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Pot still Irish whiskey

To label your spirit as Pot Still Irish whiskey, here’s what’s required for brewing:

  • The mash bill contains at least 30% natural, raw, non-peated malted barley;
  • And a minimum of 30% unmalted barley;
  • A maximum of 5% other unmalted cereals like oats or rye
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a copper potstill.

Making pot still Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as pot still Irish whiskey, use one or more of our copper stills;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger iStill  with a smaller one or by using one iStill, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Malt Irish whiskey

Do you want to make malt Irish whiskey? Here’s what’s required for brewing:

  • The mash bill is made from 100% natural, raw, peated or non-peated malted barley;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a potstill.

Making malt Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as malt Irish whiskey, use our potstill design;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Grain Irish whiskey

Do you want to make grain Irish whiskey? Here’s what’s required for the brewing phase:

  • Mash is made from maximum 30% natural, raw malted barley and other whole cereals;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a column still.

Making grain Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as grain Irish whiskey, use our standard column design;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Summary

Due to the number of categories and the various rules, there can be some confusion on how to make which category of Irish whiskey. This article explains the do’s and don’ts and creates clarity.

The various categories of Irish whiskey all have the same requirements when it comes to fermentation and maturation, It is in the brewing and distilling processes, that they differ.

The iStill product portfolio of stills, fermenters, and mashers is there for you, as an Irish craft distiller, to use and create better spirits in a more controlled, fully repeatable way.

For Irish whiskey and grain Irish whiskey, all you need is a standard iStill. Malt Irish whiskey is made on an iStill with potstill column lay-out. For pot still Irish whiskey, we have our special operations department building you a specific copper still.

For more reading on the GI of Irish whiskey, see: WebPage

What’s next? A clear and unbiased interpretation of the Scottish whisky rules.

Pot still Irish whiskey iStill 5000 …

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http://www.iStill.com

Extended due to success!

Introduction

Because the iStill University Complete and Certified Distilling Training we organize in Denver from October 21st to 24th sold out in just a few weeks, we planned a new one from October 28th – 31st. If you want to participate, please know we have (at this moment) about 10 more tickets available. For more information, reach out to Jason@iStillmail.com. For registration, contact Veronika@iStillmail.com.

Where?

This iStill University Training takes place at the award winning 52Eighty Distillery in Denver, Co. You will be trained in an actual distillery that makes its own whisky, vodka, gin and brandy. We reserved a number of rooms in a hotel nearby. Veronika and Jason know more.

The training takes place at the award winning 52Eighty Distillery …

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What?

The training is a combination of theory and practice. It is very hands-on and aims to make you a better distiller. You will teach how to mash, ferment, and distill. We’ll educate you in still design and distillery set-up. You will see how the owners and master distillers at 52Eighty Distillery make their spirits. You will be making brandy, whiskey, gin and liqueur on the smaller recipe development stills we have available. We’ll teach you how to evaluate spirits, how to find mistakes, and how to improve them. Odin of iStill will be there to inform you about his industry-changing theories of distillation. And he’ll do so in such a way that you can apply them, in the pursuit of making the best drinks possible.

Practicing distilling and having fun at it …

Why?

The iStill University Complete and Certified Training is considered the best education on offer in the industry. Participants rate the 4-day training at an amazing 9.7 out of 10. The iStill University trains over 200 students per year at dedicated distilleries in Australia, Europe, and the USA.

As a student at the iStill University, you become a member of the iStill University Facebook Group. A worldwide network of distillers that help each other out and provides much needed support in day-to-day craft distillery operations.

For more student feedback, please see: https://istillblog.com/2019/06/10/tom-grzelinsky/

For more information, also check out: https://www.istilluniversity.com/

Make your own spirits on the iStill Mini …

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See you soon in Denver!

 

Making rum low wines for UK rectifiers!

We are boosting the production of rum low wines for the UK market! The rum low wines are in high demand among distillers with a rectifier license. They cannot make their own alcohol, but they can buy in our low wines and make their own rum from that. Personalization takes place via the distiller’s decisions on cuts, ABV, dilution water, aging, and packaging.

See how fast those ferments go? That’s just the yeast, not the agitator …

https://www.lowwines.com

Copper is medicine for a bad ferment!

Whiskey making: the procedure

If we exclude grain handling and aging, traditionally, whiskey is made in three steps:

  1. Mashing (converting starches into fermentable sugars by using enzymes);
  2. Fermenting (converting the fermentable sugars into alcohol with yeast);
  3. Distilling (concentrating the alcohol and harvesting the right flavors).

In order to create the best possible whiskey, both in terms of yield and taste, all steps need to be optimized. The end product is the sum of how the various parts are performed.

If mashing is sub-optimal, the major loss you face, as a craft distiller, is yield. You will create less alcohol. A failing fermentation will, above all, have impact on flavor creation. That’s because over 80% (as a rule of thumb) of taste molecules are made during fermentation. Bad distilling procedures can affect both yield and flavor composition of your new make spirit.

Whiskey making: historically

Historically, whiskey was made in small batches. Small mashes are easy to handle. Small ferments do not generate a lot of heat. Small, copper stills were the norm, because copper was available, affordable, and bendable.

In the 1870’s the industrial revolution found its way into the distilling industry. A lot of the whiskey production became bigger and more centralized. A declining number of remaining distilleries that, each on their own, saw a steep increase in production output.

Small batch traditionally allows for good control and therefore good whiskey …

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Batch size growth associated problems

As distilleries grew bigger, mashing basically scaled up from small batch to big batch, and yield didn’t suffer. Fermentation scaled up from small batch to big batch as well, and this did created a major problem.

Fermentation creates heat, and the bigger ferments created more heat. The warmer fermentations stressed out the yeast and produced multiple unwanted flavor compounds in the base beer, of which sulfur was (and is) the most important.

In short? As distilleries got bigger, mashing didn’t get compromised, but fermentation did. Yield didn’t suffer, but flavors did. Interestingly enough, it took a few more decades for distillers to realize they actually had a problem.

Bigger, uncontrolled ferments generate bad flavors that copper catalyses …

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Houston, we have a problem!

In the 1960’s new metallurgic innovations found their way into the distilling industry. As growing distilleries needed bigger stills, traditional copper stills were replaced with more modern stainless steel set-ups. And guess what? All of a sudden the whiskey they produced had bad, sulfur associated flavors in them!

What had happened, was the following: copper reacts with sulfer. The traditional copper stills had managed to polish-up the bigger, overheated, sulfur-rich whiskey beer! Copper, it turned out, was a really good medicine for a bad ferment.

With SS stills, sulfurs no longer got catalyzed, and bad ferments got exposed …

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The traditional solution

The switch from copper to stainless steel stills brought to light a major problem: bigger ferments created off-flavors. The solution the industry rallied toward, was to switch back to copper stills. The copper catalyzed the sulfuric compounds to below the taste threshold, and the problem was solved. Or wasn’t it?

Bigger ferments, left unchallenged, grow too hot, stressing the yeast into making multiple unwanted flavor. Sulfur is the most significant of those and copper does a good job at cleaning up these sulfuric flavors, and at hiding the poorly managed ferments.

So the distilling industry switched back to copper stills …

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Compromised solution

Using copper stills, to counter bad ferments, is a treatment of effects, not a root cause solution. By allowing for non-optimized whiskey production via copper stills, the following set of new problems occurs:

  1. Uncontrolled, overheating fermentations create more bad flavors than just sulfur;
  2. The copper clean-up during distillation does not polish-up all of those;
  3. Copper stills oxidize, creating copper contaminated whiskey;
  4. Copper stills need extensive cleaning, making for longer working days;
  5. Due to oxidation and cleaning, copper stills need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years.

Even though copper stills are a medicine for bad ferments, they are not the ultimate solution. Bad ferments create bad flavors, and copper does not counter all of them. More so, copper is a heavy metal that is toxic to humans. Due to the reactive qualities of copper, the distillation equipment needs extensive cleaning. This cleaning, as well as the general levels of oxidation, severely hamper a copper still’s longevity.

The iStill solution

That’s why we started proposing a different approach. Here it is. Let’s call it the iStill solution:

  1. Mash in a controlled environment, to achieve maximum yield;
  2. Ferment in a controlled way, to achieve maximum flavor;
  3. Distill in a controlled way, to achieve maximum yield and flavor.

Our iStills are designed to mash with 0.1 degree temperature tolerance. This gives the distiller the opportunity to maximize yield, which helps optimize production quantities.

During fermentation, our technology brings temperature, pH, and SG under control. This ensures that the distiller maximizes the desired flavor development.

Finally, the iStills have perfect control over the distillation process. This helps the distiller in optimizing both flavor profiles and yield in the most efficient and repeatable way.

iStill gives you the control to make better whiskies …

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Design choices

Because we optimize fermentation, the creation of undesired, bad flavors is minimized. As a result, we do not have to build our stills out of copper. This way, we can deliver a still that is easy to clean, does not cause copper particle contamination in your spirits, and has tremendous longevity.

But if you decide you are going to do your fermentation quick & dirty anyhow, well, please know we have copper waffles that you can insert at the bottom of the column. It takes less than a minute to put them in place. It takes less than 10 seconds to take them out, when the run is done. They have the same surface area as a complete copper column, without the hassle.

iStill copper waffles: well-used …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

 

 

 

New Distilling Courses in the USA!

From October 28th till October 31st, we organize another iStill University Distillation Workshop. Where? At 52Eighty Distilling in Denver, Colorado. Theory of mashing, fermentation, and distillation and maturation will be combined with hands-on time behind the iStills. If you want to register, please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com. Please be quick! The other Denver iStill University Distillation Workshop (that will take place from October 21-24) sold out in just two weeks.

Pictures of the iStill University Distilling Courses …

That take place at the award winning 52eighty Distillery in Denver …

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https://www.istill.com/courses

iStill London Craft Distilling Expo 2019!

Introduction

We are proud to announce that we will again be the London Craft Distilling Expo’s main sponsor for 2019! It is a great show, and if you are interested in distilling, it is a must go to. In this iStill Blog post we want to dive in deeper: the program, what we’ll take with us, and the special offer we have for you.

Program

There are a few distillery visits programmed for September 25th. The actual Expo, in the Boiler House, Brick Lane Road, East London, is on September 26th and 27th. That’s Thursday and Friday.

All right, how about the program in the Boiler House on September 26 and 27? Well, just check it out on the http://www.distillingexpo.com! Most importantly? Well, if you don’t mind us giving a sermon for our own parish … Odin talking about how gin distillers can now actually also venture into whisky and rum making is the one you want to watch!

We’ll be there with a stand, staffing and the iStill 500. We’ll bring some drinks as well. Imagine gin, whisky and rum …

Interested in meeting us in an informal setting? Please know we organize Beer & Burgers on the evening of the 26th. For invites, please check out our booth.

iStill Staff

William (Assembly), Veronika (Finance), Avian (The Wrecking Coast Distillery) and Odin will be manning the stand.

iStill Offer

Here’s why you should visit us at the London Craft Distilling Expo 2019:

  • It’s an awesome event with great speeches and classes
  • Odin will speak about opportunities for rectifiers to venture into whisky and rum
  • iStill’s stand is manned by customers that bring (and pour!) their own drinks
  • Avian will be there, sharing his customer experience as well as great gin
  • On the evening of September 26th, iStill hosts the yearly Beer & Burgers event
  • The iStill 500 NextGen is on display
  • If you visit our stand, take a picture, and post it on Facebook, with a reference to iStill, you will get a EUR 250,- discount on iStill equipment or spirits design

iStill Customers that want to join us at the show can get tickets for free. There is a limited amount of them. First come, first served. Please reach out to Veronika@iStillMail.com if you want tickets …

iStill London Craft Distilling Expo …

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https://www.distillingexpo.com/

Hongkong TV & Radio Interview!

Yesterday, a team from Hongkong TV & Radio flew in for an interview with Odin on gin. They were interested in the history of gin, how iStill helps distillers out with equipment, recipes, and contract distilling capacity. Most of all, they were interested in Perfume Trees Gin, which is made with Hongkong herbs by us at iStill HQ in the Netherlands.

Here is a short movie …

And a few pictures …

http://www.iStill.com

Wanna learn how to become an amazing distiller?

The iStill University offers the best educational program for the craft distiller. Students rate our course 9.7 out of 10. They praise the combination of sophisticated theory with the hands-on practical distilling experience.

Mashing whiskey at the 52Eighty Distillery Class earlier this year …

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During our 4-day workshops, you’ll learn about mashing, fermenting, and distilling. We’ll train you in making cuts for heads, hearts, and tails. We’ll teach you how to create and harvest the right flavors for your drink. You will make brandy, rum, whiskey, vodka and a liqueur yourselves.

Here is an impression video of the last course:

Complete & Certified Distilling Course – September 2019 – The Netherlands

Do you want to become an amazing distiller? Please know that we are organizing more courses all over the world:

  • At 52Eighty Distillery, Co, USA: October 21-24;
  • At iStill HQ, the Netherlands: November 18-21;
  • At the Earp Brothers Distillery, Carrington, NSW, Australia: January 20-23.

For more information or registration, please visit:

https://www.istilluniversity.com/

 

Craft Distilling Training in the Netherlands!

We just started another 4-day iStill University Distillers Training here at iStill HQ in the Netherlands. With 15 participants from Denmark, Norway, the UK, Spain, India, Ukraine, Far Oer Islands, and Japan. Our Japanese students brought presents!

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Would you like to be trained at the industry’s best educational facilities? Please know we still have a few places available at our USA and Australian classes. For more information, please check out:

https://www.istilluniversity.com/