Is New Make Spirit a Whisky?
Whisky is the glorious combination of a grain based spirit, a barrel and time - well at least three years according to our local regulations. So what exactly is this new make spirit?
New make is the young spirit that is the direct product of the final distillation step in the whisky making process. It comes directly off the still. It has quite a high alcohol content, which usually lies in the range of 55 to 75% alcohol (depending on how it was distilled). This spirit is the heart of the whisky and shows its basic aromatic character. As a large part of a whisky’s flavour comes from the wood (together with colour), new make shows the grain character in its purest form. These flavours are imparted by the selection of malts and grains, along with the yeast's fruity esters and earthy phenolics. These base aromas are refined and augmented by the shape of the copper still, and also by the way the spirit is cut in the final step. Whiskies made from peat smoked malt will also carry over those peaty flavours.
New Make Spirit - Not Just for Distillers
For many years new make spirit was deemed to be an odd collector's item, or only for people working in the distilleries. Most people believed that a whisky spirit is only drinkable after years in a cask. Now, more and more distilleries, including us, proudly showcase their New Make Spirit as part of their product offerings. Since barrel maturation significantly changes a whisky’s flavour, drinking new make is a fantastic way to discover the true identity of a distillery - its malty DNA. Here at the Helden Distillery we believe only a great new make can make a great whisky!
Why should I consider buying some New Make?
Well, should you consider buying a new make spirit? Besides the obvious advantage of packing more alcohol in the same volume of bottle, let's try to demystify the overall value of acquiring this great product.
First off, you are supporting the production of aged whisky from the spirit, which is a good start. A new distillery is a large investment and requires a large number of years before it becomes profitable from its primary whisky product. Acquiring a bottle of limited release new make from a new distillery is a wonderful way to show your support while we all wait for those whiskies that are more well-aged.
Secondly, you become part of the whisky's journey. It shows you some of the distillery's character and points towards where the whisky is heading in the future. Through this you will surely expand your whisky knowledge. Once you really know the new make profile, understanding the wood impact of the aged whisky character becomes easier to identify. Besides enjoying the spirit right now, you can keep it to compare it with the distillery's releases over time.
Lastly, and certainly the most important: New make can be delicious! It brings its own richness and young aroma to be enjoyed on its own. As most new make is bottled at production strength it is also truly a multi-level experience. You can try it neat at the high proof, or systematically add small amounts of water to open it up and discover the hidden layers of aromas. It can even become a highlight in some of your creative cocktails - who knows the limits?
Our distillery staff should not be the only people to enjoy our new make spirits. When I present whisky tastings, I am always surprised at the number of requests for our Innovate New Make Spirit.
So now you can get your hands on it as well. Our Innovate Range's New Make Spirit is bottled at 65% abv and is made from a selection of local and specially roasted malts. It is distilled through our pot and column still (with four effective plates), resulting in a truly smooth, rich and interesting young spirit.
You can get your truly South African new make here.
You can read more about the rise of new make spirit on scotchwhisky.com.
by Pieter van Helden
Founder and Lead Distiller at the Helden Distillery