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"Pure Pot Still" Bourbon

J  Bennett Arnold

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I have been considering for some time working to set up a new distillery and I'm interested in the production method known as "pure pot still". In Ireland, this is a very popular method and I wonder if there is a reason that it doesn't happen often in Kentucky or Scotland. Even Willett pure pot still isn't really pure "pure pot still" whiskey.

Why is this not a more popular method in the United States? Is it a production issue?


Thanks in advance, I'm always amazed by your all you know here at ADI...


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I was reading recently how the EU was considering a new regulation on Irish Whiskey, defining "pure pot still" whiskey as a uniquely Irish Product. I found this interesting, and did some more investigation. I soon found that traditional Irish Whiskey (not Bushmills, a blended product that seems more influenced by Scotland) is usually made in batches in a single pot stil.

Wikipedia says, "Pure pot still whiskey is distilled by pot still. The term emphasizes that the whiskey contains only spirits produced from a pot still, without being blended with column distilled whiskey or neutral grain spirits. They are typically distilled from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley, and thus can not be called single malts."

Local whiskey educator Chuck says, "There is a new product on the market right now called Willett Family Pot Still Reserve. The bottle resembles a pot still owned by the Willett family, however the product inside said bottle was not made in that still nor in any pot still except, as with Hirsch, for the doubler used by the conventional American whiskey distillery that actually distilled the product....he goes on to explain a little more.

So, what I am really wondering is what is the major difference to corn whiskey when distilled by pot still and when distilled by a more modern column still? Does anyone use a pot still to make bourbon or have experience in this area?

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Most small distilleries use a pot still for their whiskey so I would say hundreds of whiskeys are "pure pot distilled" including mine. Check out adi directory for a listing of American craft distilleries and the list of products they make.

Are you confusing continuous column distillation with pot column distillation? Many of todays modern column pot stills have the ability to bypass the column if desired. But they are still pot stills meaning they require charging the still with each batch.

I hope this helps.

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"Pure Pot Still" is a specific product. It is not simply a reference to a pot distilled product (which all Single Malt Irish and Scotch Whisk(e)y is), but a specific type of tripple pot distilled whikey from a mash of both malted and unmalted barley, unlike Single Malt, which is obviously all malted barley. My understanding is that they are now calling these whiskeys "Single Pot Still," and that the EU is going to protect this name.

Some good info here: http://www.singlepotstill.com/spslanding.do

Also, we talk about this a bit on my first podcast: http://potentpotablespodcast.libsyn.com/webpage/episode-1-irish-whiskey

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WI Distiller is exactly right. Finger Lakes is making a pure pot still whiskey in the Irish style. I don't know that it necessarily has to be triple-distilled. The key is the mix of malted and unmalted barley and, of course, the use of pot stills. "Pure pot still bourbon" would be a mixed type, although I suppose if you used a combination of malted and unmalted corn, made it in a true pot still (no rectification columns, please), and aged it in new charred oak barrels you could could make a case.

Just to be clear, the U.S. rules have no standard for pure pot still anything. I'm just hypothesizing what a knowledgeable consumer would expect to get from a product labeled "pure pot still bourbon."

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  • 2 months later...

As an Irish Distiller I feel the need to comment

First- "Pure Pot Still" is out and "Single Pot Still" is in. As you have seen the use of "Pure" is not very specific.

Second- it is not the "pot" that makes it Pot Still. Pot still is a mix of malted and unmalted cereal in the mash. There is a minimum of 30% malt specified. The term pot was used to differentiate from the "silent spirit" being made with coffey stills. The Dublin distilleries all used a mix mash and had very large copper pots. They used the shape of the stills as an image for their product and thought it was superior so they called it "Pure". But today IDL use column stills and pot stills to make Single Pot Still whiskey.

Third, I think they are trying to make it only Irish. But I don't know if that door has legally closed.

From my own personal point of view. If you have a mix of malted and unmalted cereal in your mash, distill in copper pot stills at one distillery, and age it in oak cask for 3 years, then you are in the "Single Pot Still" category. But that is only my personal thoughts. But don't try and make single malt in a copper pot still and call it Single Pot Still.

Also there have been double and triple distilled single pot still over the years

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Please explain to me how Willett is not a "pure pot still" whiskey, and please define what you mean by "Pure"?

Actually, Willett's still is a pot still, full of valves and taps and multiple ways for manipulating the distillate. This will allow them to do some really precise custom distillations, should a customer wish to do so. Currently, however, they have all the valves closed and use the still as simply a doubler (for spirit produced by their column still) or as a basic pot still (for specialty spirits). Their original rye distillate was INTENDED to be doubled from the column still, but the column still wasn't working right, so they distilled it from the pot still, with no taps (i.e., simple, pot-still whiskey). THAT whiskey (which is still aging, y'know) is, indeed, pure pot-still whiskey. There wasn't much of it, and I wouldn't count on finding any of that in your local liquor store. The REAL Willett whiskey (which also won't be available for a few years) is column-stilled and pot-still-doubled. They have a regular doubler for the low-wine column still output, but they're using that wonderful copper pot still for doubling at this time anyway. These guys truly know what they're doing!


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