Home' Bars and Clubs : BAC MayJune 2015 Contents Scotland was "eye-opening",
allowing him to accumulate
a large amount of material,
impressions, photos and
more to form ideas about
the shape of the stills he
According to Edwards,
still owners tend to be
rather cagey about their
dimensions, but Bailly is not
one to be put off easily.
"He went around trying
to find the perfect still
dimensions," he says. "So
he was trying to get the
dimensions of 20, 25 of the
most famous stills in the UK."
After recreating them
from the photos that he
collected on his trip, Bailly
now has a range of still
options that he can offer to
"He's sketched these stills
and, knowing what styles
of whisky they produce, he
can think about the flavour
profile you're looking for
in your whisky, how that
then translates back into
the shape of the still,"
It's a complicated
process, with every detail
carefully thought out and
articulated to create the best
possible whisky. Though
it should be noted that
the urban legend about
the Scottish distilleries
recreating every bump
and dent from an old still
into a new one is just that
-- a legend. With the price
of stills already at eye
watering levels, there is no
sane person who would
deliberately damage a brand
new copper still.
While Edwards says that
his still "took a year less
a day to build", the initial
consultation period can add
time -- especially if a new
distiller hasn't really settled
on the style of spirit they
want to produce. Bailly says
that with most clients also
MIXING IT UP
Pot distilled spirits add a whole other
dimension to your cocktail repertoire.
We chatted to Richard Angove, St Agnes
Brandy, about the process, selling pot
stilled spirits over the bar, and how to
add them to your cocktail repertoire.
How does pot distilling influence the flavour and quality
Unlike continuous stills in the pot still there are many
small reactions. The Maillard reaction (a reaction that
produces a myriad of attractive flavour compounds)
takes place in the pot during distillation producing many
different compounds, some desirable in flavour and
some not. Using a pot still allows us to make the correct
cuts for heads/hearts/tails, this is the most important
aspect in determining end spirit quality. This starts with
assessing the base wine prior to distillation and gives the
distiller the opportunity to manipulate the projected cuts
to take best advantage of these desirable compounds.
Factors to consider here are product style and the degree
of complexity desired -- i.e. a light versus heavy spirit,
ester concentration, palate weight/smoothness/richness,
and even the length of time it's destined to mature. The
small batch nature of pot distilling means we can be
very targeted in the style of spirit we create. Our style is
a lifted, fragrant brandy, elegant while at the same time
having power, richness and a smoothness that allows it to
be mixed as well as enjoyed neat.
How does it compare to the use of the column still?
Pot stills can be considered small batch, artisanal, it is a
relatively long slow process giving a high quality spirit
with high ester concentration. Column still continuous
distillation is quicker therefore cheaper and more suited
to mass production of a consistent style of spirit but lacks
some of the flavour compounds found in pot distillation.
A column still can run pretty much automatically with
little input from the operator, once in equilibrium, and
maintained in that state. Pot distillation is much more
hands on and requires constant tweaking to maintain
a quality end product. Running speed, ambient
temperature, reflux, and even the individual operator all
play a role in affecting the composition of the finished
spirit. These variances makes pot still spirit unique with
each batch differing slightly to the next from the same
feedstock. It is a true craft that requires patience and time
What makes pot distilled spirits more mixable?
Pot distilled spirits generally give a complete spirit that
has layers of flavour. Unlike many spirits that are column
distilled, brandies -- and gins for that matter -- which
are pot stilled have loads of flavour and can seriously
add to the taste, complexity and texture of cocktails.
We do not aim to strip out flavour which is often the
case with continuous still spirits like some vodkas, we
aim to enhance and concentrate it through the pot still
distillation process. Drinks, like food, are all about flavours
and pot distilled spirits generally have a lot of flavour to
contribute to the drink.
What makes pot distillation so unique?
As a pot still is a small batch, crafted process, and is very
much hands on, the craft of the distiller on show.
This is very similar to a bartender, where each bartender
will add their personal touch to the mixing of a cocktail,
the distiller will add their character to the spirit through
the pot distillation process. Many pot stills will even be
named and that gives character as well. Pot distilled
spirits take on fantastic flavour through the distillation
process and that adds to the cocktail the customer is
buying. Unlike vodka and some other spirits where the
aim is to strip out flavour and create a neutral spirit,
distillation of wine to make brandy in a pot still results in a
spirit full of rich fruity grapey flavour, perfect to mix with
as it adds so much more than just alcohol to the cocktail,
it adds flavour.
What are some suggested serves for St Agnes?
The St Agnes Sazerac for a strong drink -- 60ml St Agnes
XO, 10ml sugar syrup, four dashes of Peychauds Bitters,
one dash of Angostura Bitters and a splash of absinthe.
It's proof that the new does not always equal better.
Commonly seen today as a whisky drink, the original
Sazerac is a comeback 140 years in the making and was
once made with Cognac (aka brandy). Chill your finest
crystal tumbler with crushed ice. In a second glass,
combine sugar, bitters and St Agnes XO; stir until chilled.
Empty the first glass and rinse with absinthe; pour off
excess, strain the chilled mix into the first glass and
garnish with citrus.
Or for something more simple -- St Agnes XO or VSOP
over ice with a dash of ginger beer, either alcoholic or
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