Shene Distillery’s Single Malt Whisky is made from three natural ingredients – Tasmanian grown and malted barley, pristine Tasmanian Highland water and yeast.
But the real magic happens in the Cask. The Cask provides our whiskey with 100% of the colour and 70% of the flavour profile. Our environment (terroir) imparts unique characteristics on the maturation process.
Milling is necessary to expose the starch in the malt to the actions of the enzymes in the coming mashing process. The malted barley is crushed by a pair of roll mills into fine particles consisting of about 10% flour, 70% grits and 20% husks – this is called ‘grist.’
This process converts the starch and carbohydrates to sugars in the mash tun by mixing the grist and water at 64.5C. The mash is thoroughly stirred, and after one hour, the liquid – known as ‘wort’ – is run off into the fermenter. A second water at 70C is then mashed-in, and the wort is run off for a second time. 5,000 litres of wort is produced per 1,250 kilograms of malt mash. The wort is pumped through to the fermenter via a heat exchanger to cool it to the desired temperature that suits the yeast – usually between 15-25C. The spent grain still left in the mash tun is disposed of as cattle feed to our local farmer.
Fermentation is the break down of sugars by microorganisms (yeast) to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. The yeast that has been mixed in water is immediately added once the wort is about 50cm full in the fermenter to minimise competitive infection during fermentation. We ferment for 7 days – much longer than other distilleries. The reason is to allow the flavour compounds to develop during the primary fermentation process by the addition of our yeast. We find that the longer secondary fermentation phase also allows natural bacteria and aerobic yeasts to further develop and influence the character and flavour profile of our ‘wash.’ The residual yeast is disposed of as feed to local piggeries.
Distillation is the process of separating the components of a liquid mixture by boiling it to produce a vapour and then condensing the vapour and collecting it. A regime of double and triple batch-distillation is used in handcrafted Tasmanian made copper pot stills. The use of copper pot stills for distillation has an important effect on whisky aroma and flavour complexity and removes undesirable sulphury compounds. Copper has great properties of malleability, thermal conductivity, and corrosion resistance.
COPPER POT STILLS
At Shene Distillery, we boast four traditional copper pot stills handcrafted by a local Tasmanian master still maker. Our stills include a 4,500-litre wash still, a 2,000-litre first spirit still, a 1,100-litre second spirit still and a 300 litre Gin Still.
1st Distillation - Wash Still
The fermented wash is preheated via a heat exchanger from the previous day's hot discharging pot ale. The charge volume is only two-thirds of the wash still capacity to prevent accidental boiling over and froth overflow. The wash is heated, allowing the vapours to rise where they are condensed into a steady uniform flow called ‘low wines’.
The low wines are distilled again, further purifying the spirit - promoting smooth aromatic flavour compounds in preparedness for further development during the 3rd distillation. The fores and feints from the previous 2nd distillation are also added.
3rd Distillation - Spirit Still
The spirit still is charged with the 2nd distilled spirit and fores and feints from the previous spirit distillation. The master distiller separates the distillation into three parts:
2) Heart - Middle Cut
The foreshots are the first part of the distillation and contain a high proportion of highly volatile methanol compounds. The distiller will also nose and taste the new make spirit to determine when to ‘cut’ to the heart. The heart or middle cut is the new make spirit that will become whisky after cask maturation. The master distiller then determines the final cut point when the new spirit becomes feints. Although the fores and feints are used again in the next spirit distillation, the master distiller will discard the fores and feints from time to time.
MATURATION AND OAK
At Shene Distillery, our Oak Casks are predominately French, European and American Oak. Shene has its own Cooperage on-site, Tasmanian Tiger Cooperage, to manage all our Oak needs. In partnership with cooperages in Portugal and Spain, it has sourced the finest quality Oak Casks available to the world.
Oak Casks and the Maturation Process is the most important contributor to our new make spirit's evolution into whisky. The type of Cask used, the type of fortified wine/spirit held in the oak previously, the maturation time, the filling strength (63.4% ABV), the climatic conditions and the surrounding environment all influence the maturation process.