There are many components of the whisky production process that contribute to the whisky’s overall flavour. We often hear discussion on grain varietals, types of stills, and fermentation times when talking flavour creation. Today, I’m going to dig a little deeper into flavour exploration and talk all things wort. What is it, is cloudy or clear better, and can I taste it in my whisky?
What is wort?
Simply put wort is the liquid extracted from the mashing process. If you have ever been to a distillery and peeked inside of mash tun, you will have seen the oatmeal like soup being “stirred” with a rotating rake. This is where the conversion of starch into fermentable sugars takes place, and at the end of the process, leaves a sugary liquid called wort. The liquid that is left over is either clear, or cloudy. One is not better than the other, it is the preference of the distillery in their flavour creation process.
Japanese whisky has been known to produce only clear wort, but there are distilleries in Scotland and beyond who do as well. Clear wort means that there are less grain particles suspended in the liquid. This is achieved in a few different ways, such as slower rake rotations in the mash tun, transferring the liquid to a lauter tun, or redistributing the liquid over the grain bed in the mash tun to simply further the filtration process. Clear wort typically attributes to a fruity, more ester forward new make spirit, and can be found from distilleries such as 35, 39 and 77.
Cloudy wort simply means that more cereal particles have been suspended into the liquid. This is where we find higher lipids (fats) and more nutty cereal profiles in the new make spirit, which can result in an oily, more viscous mouthfeel. This can be achieved in few ways such as the milling specifications, or simply the speed of the rake inside of the mash tun. Distilleries such as 66, 68, and 80 all produce a cloudy wort from mashing.
Which is better?
Well, this is up to each distillery, and you! Many factors that influence flavour come into play after the mashing and fermentation process, like distillation and maturation. The quality and character of the new make is important as it carries through the remainder of the flavour creation process to eventually become Scotch whisky. I guess you’ll have to taste through a few distilleries that use both clear and cloudy wort to find out!
Cask 9.208 'Ahhh yes' hails from a distillery known for using a clear wort. Full of orchard fruit baskets and baking spices, this sweet treat is one luxurious sip! And for a dram from a cloudy style wort, Cask No. 35.286 'Xanthous symphony' is a viscous earl gray and tropical malt pastry explosion, full of notes to excite the palate!
I hope all this talk of wort has you more excited about whisky and the steps it takes to get this beautiful liquid into our glass. While wort may not be the most exciting thing to think of when sipping your whisky, it does play a role in the overall flavour creation of the incredible Society drams you enjoy, and that’s worth raising a glass to!
Sláinte and happy sipping,