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Pure Pot Still Whiskey


Published: 03/16/2011

by Whiskey.com


Pure Pot Still Whiskey


Pure pot still whiskey is unique to Ireland, and is so called because it is whiskey produced from spirits that are distilled in and taken from a pot still. Pure pot still whiskey resembles single malt whiskey in that it is not blended with other grains, and only comprises of barley. It differs, however, in that the mash in pure pot still whiskey is comprised of barley that is malted and unmalted, the latter tending to dominate. Single malt whiskey, on the other hand, is made of malted barley only.


The start of Pure Pot Still Whiskey

The pot still was the sole means of distillation of whiskey in Ireland for a number of years. Pure pot still whiskey dominated the British Empire in the 19th century and was considered the most popular drink at that time. Pure pot still whiskey sold in abundance, and was enjoyed because of its unique and subtle flavor. When the continuous still was invented, it made whiskey-making much more practical and efficient and resulted in greatly reduced numbers of pure pot still whiskey distilleries. Today, only one pure pot still whiskey distillery is still in operation, located in County Cork, Ireland. It produces the only two pure pot still whiskeys in existence: Redbreast and Greenspot.


Most modern distilleries employ continuous stills, but because pure pot still whiskeys have garnered high praise from modern whiskey critics, it is a method of production that has been revived. Some would even claim that modern whiskey enthusiasts favor pure pot still whiskeys over column still whiskeys, even though it’s debatable whether there is a real difference in taste or quality.


Modern Pot Still Whiskey

The modern pot still is used in batch distillation, meaning that the pot holding the whiskey itself is heated. The alcohol-rich vapor evaporates and flows through a coil, where it is condensed at approximately 30% alcohol by volume. This flows into a second still and undergoes another distillation to produce a transparent spirit that is approximately 70% alcohol by volume. Brown color is developed by aging for a number of years in oak barrels. The product is bottled and known as pure pot still whiskey. The column still operates like a group of pot stills stacked vertically in a tube.


Pure Pot Still Whiskey and Single-Pot Still Labels

Modern distilleries have dropped the term “pure pot still whiskey” to “single pot” to indicate that the whiskey was made from one distillery. Redbreast, one of the two pure pot still whiskeys sold today, is transitioning from the “pure pot still whiskey” label to the more consumer-friendly “single pot still” label. Irish law permits any whiskey distilled in a pot still to be called “pure pot still whiskey.” The phrase is not a legally protected one and therefore has no clearly defined meaning, so it is sometimes used inaccurately, unlike the phrase “single malt,” which denotes whiskey made from malted barley only. Some advertisers actually use the phrase “pure pot still whiskey” even if their whiskey was produced partially in a column still, or even if no unmalted barley was used in its production.