Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Lydia Martin
Distillation plays a big role in concentrating flavors, not just increasing alcohol content and improving its smoothness.
Double distillation is common for most hard liquors. But what about triple distilling? Do they triple distill to create strong whiskies with bolder flavors?
Before getting into that, let us answer the question, what does triple distilled mean? Keep reading to find out.
What’s Triple Distilled?
Simply put, triple-distilled whiskies are spirits that go through three distillations. A third copper pot still is placed in between the wash and spirit stills.
Unlike double distillation, triple distillation produces higher alcohol spirits which normally hits close to 80% ABV.
It is operated in single batch distillation. Triple-distilled Irish whiskey is very common though there are other variants.
Triple-distilled single malt Scotch is produced by Auchentoshan and Rosebank (both the historic brand and its newer distillery).
How Triple Distillation Works
Triple distillation is completed in three parts. It begins with the fermented wash being heated to a certain level to separate alcohol.
The alcohol is strengthened more during second distillation, where the head, heart, and tails (also called feints) are collected.
The flavor is also concentrated as soluble salts, and sulfur-containing compounds are dissolved during the process. Cuts of the heart, head, and tails continue to the third pot still.
The cuts depend on the particular fraction of aromatic and flavorful compounds the distiller wants to capture.
4 Methods of Triple Distillation
1. Two Cuts In The Intermediate Still
The intermediate pot’s process is still the same as how double-distilled works. However, in this method, the heart is not called as heart or middle cut but high wines. Heads and tails are now called strong and weak feints accordingly.
These strong and weak feints are still redistilled in the middle before it goes to the final, with the high wines.
Auchentoshan uses this with their single malt whiskies and other products.
2. One Cut In The Intermediate Still
This method is probably the simplest. Auchentoshan practices this method by taking the cut from the intermediate still, which has no distinction whether it is strong feints or high wines.
The difference is that the strong and weak feints are still redistilled in the second still and put into the third still.
For instance, Auchentoshan triple distills differently from Springbank’s Elburn because they want a tighter cut and a higher strength of alcohol, giving you a lighter spirit.
3. No Cut In The Intermediate Still
Springbank added triple-distilled whiskies to their roster using this triple distilling method.
Low wines are collected from the first still pot and go to the intermediate still, leaving 20% for the final distillation.
It is redistilled before combined with the foreshots and the feints collected from the third still.
Eighty percent of this combination is processed for final distilling together with the low wines.
4. One Cut Each In The Wash Still & In The Intermediate Still
Denis A. Nicol, an expert in whisky making and distilling, authored this particular method. From the intermediate still, blank runs are made then the strong feints are collected and brought to the spirit still.
However, the weak feints or the tails are also collected and redistilled. The recycled heads and tails will go straight to the final distillation stage.
Triple Distillation vs Double Distillation
Triple distillation has smoother compared to double-distilled whiskies. Multiple distillations remove heavy components. The most volatile congeners, called the heads or foreshots, are commonly removed first after the first distillation.
The least volatile congeners (2) are the tails or feints. When these two are cut out or redistilled, volatile components are eliminated. It smoothens the texture of the final spirit.
Triple distilling helps with the concentration of flavors. Triple-distilled whisky has a more savory taste since the distiller concentrates a size of aromatic and flavorful compounds.
It can be more costly than double or continuous distillation, but it has a smoother taste and is more complex.
Distilling the spirit thrice also lessens the acidity of the grains with the help of water-soluble compounds.
Triple-distilled single malt whiskies or other whiskeys processed thrice have a smooth, rich, and subdued finish.
They have no similarities with the flavor profile of whiskies that went through continuous distillation.
They also have the same finish spin-offs with a single pot distillation or on in huge stills.
Are all Irish whiskeys triple-distilled?
No, not all Irish whiskeys are triple-distilled. They also have whiskeys that were distilled twice.
However, claims about Irish whiskey products being smooth tasting could be true.
Three distillations on copper pot stills are very common for Scotch whisky brands, but Irish whiskey products came out first. But what makes Irish whiskey different?
Is there an American whiskey that is triple-distilled?
Yes, there are American whiskeys that are triple-distilled. Andalusia Whiskey Co. and ASW Distillery are known to triple distill their single malt whiskies.
Woodford Reserve also has various triple-distilled whiskey products. These are rye, malted barley, grain, or mixed mash bills.
Triple-distilled whiskeys are liquors that go through a meticulous distillation process to turn collected liquid into a smooth spirit. Like column distillation, intermediate distillation allows the reflux level to segregate the unpleasant flavors.
Additional time inside the cask’s charred layer gives the Irish whiskey, Scotch, or any smooth whiskey an even smoother texture.
The key to understanding how triple distillation works is to see that distilling the spirit multiple times increases alcohol and refines the texture while concentrating the flavors.