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, its 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.
The Vital Role of Water in Spirits Production
Water plays a crucial role in the biological processes of mashing and fermentation, serving as the medium for extracting carbohydrates and sugars from grains and facilitating yeast activity to produce ethanol and the diverse flavors found in spirits. During distillation, the mixture of grain, water, and alcohol (known as wash) is separated, with alcohol being distilled further while water remains behind. Through multiple distillations, the alcohol and water (referred to as low wines) are purified, with water content reduced to less than 5% (95% ethanol) for our vodka, gins, and infusions.
Moreover, water is essential for proofing, the process of bringing high-alcohol distillate to a bottling strength. At Tamworth Distilling, we consider proofing as an integral part of the process, using UV/Reverse Osmosis filtered White Mountain water to achieve the desired alcohol by volume (ABV). This meticulous step transforms a 95% alcohol distillate into a 40% ABV Vodka, with the remaining 60% comprising Reverse Osmosis mountain water.
Water also fulfills vital functions in cooling and heating our production equipment, including steam for the still and cooling jacketed tanks. Recognizing the value of Tamworth’s abundant fresh water, we are dedicated to its preservation. Despite the various water requirements in our distillery operations, we have implemented innovative measures to reclaim and minimize water usage. In fact, our entire distillery consumes less water than a typical 6-bedroom household.