Water is an integral ingredient in many processes that go on to produce spirits. After all distilled alcohol is known in Latin as aqua vitae or “water of life”. Even the word “whiskey” is an anglicization of the Gaelic word uisce meaning “water”. Water is where all spirits begin.
August is National Water Quality month, a time to focus on the importance of protecting our rivers, lakes, and oceans across the country, as well as the water we consume.
Happily, Tamworth Distilling sits between the White Mountains and it’s snow runoff and the Lakes Region. This natural water is used to break down grains and nourish our yeast with food and minerals, who in turn give us alcohol and flavors that give us a sense of place. It also makes up 60% of a 80 proof finished spirit, we go to great lengths to further filter and purify our aquifer water.
Water is crucial in the biological process of mashing and fermentation, where it is the medium that extracts carbohydrates and sugars from the grains and allows for yeast to float around eating the sugars to create ethanol and the various flavors we attribute to spirits. This grain, water, alcohol mixture (called wash) is distilled, pulling off the alcohol (for further distillation) and water is left behind. This alcohol and water (now called low wines) is redistilled a number of times to leave behind more water and further purify the alcohol. In the case of our vodka, gins and many infusions, the initial amount of water after multiple distillations is <5% (95% ethanol).
Furthermore, water is used to bring that high percentage of alcohol to a bottling strength, called proofing. This proofing, in our case, is treated like an ingredient in the process and we use a UV/Reverse Osmosis filtered White Mountain water in our spirits before bottling. This is the step that takes a 95% alcohol distillate down to a 40% Alcohol by volume Vodka. The other 60% of that bottle is Reverse Osmosis mountain water.
Water is also used in the process of cooling and heating our production equipment, such as steam for our still and cooling jacketed tanks. We recognize how lucky we are, and take great strides to preserve Tamworth’s naturally abundant fresh water. While our distillery runs on water for many uses in our production, we took an creative approach to reclaim as much as possible. Our entire distillery water usage is less than a 6 bedroom household.