Author - Kira Kamateras is a final year student on the brewing and distilling course at IT Carlow. He has written the following piece on the sampling & disgorging process which was recently used at Flying Tumbler.
Sampling is a method that is used in the whiskey industry to collect a small taster from the already aged whiskey that is stored safely in the oak barrels.
It all begins by opening the barrel at its bung hole, where a device known as a bung puller, is attached, and twisted clockwise to remove the bung that is used to seal the hole on the side of the barrel.
Samples are then almost ready to be taken using a ‘whiskey thief’, which is a long copper rod that allows for whiskey to be drawn out.
The whiskey thief is stirred, nose down, in the barrel, agitating the spirit to make sure that the whiskey is evenly distributed.
It is then removed, making sure to leave behind any whiskey that it captured while we were stirring. It is then placed back into the barrel and a new sample is taken, placing our thumb over a hole of the thief, making sure that the whiskey does not drain back into the barrel, giving us our sample.
Individual small bottles are used to collect the whiskey samples that have been taken out, and then are ready to be sealed and distributed!
Sampling plays a large role in the production of a good whiskey, as it allows for the distillery to test their products before they are either ready to be blended with another whiskey, or to be bottled for sales. After it has been tested, the distiller can then decide if it is ready to be used, and if so, sample bottles can be taken out to be distributed to the public on a small scale.
A centrifugal pump that has two hoses attached that are seen as the intake and an outtake, is used to remove the spirit. The intake hose is then fed into the bung hole of the cask, by once again removing the bungs in the same method that we used in the sampling of the whiskey.
The hose is allowed to almost reach the bottom of the barrel, but careful attention is paid to make sure that it does not disturb any sediment that is resting at the bottom that could cause any suspension of the debris, but also making sure that the opening of the hose is always submerged in the spirit.
From here, the outtake hose is placed into an IBC container, using a funnel that is fitted with a filter that ensures all the whiskey that is removed is free from any unwanted natural particles that can come from the casks.
Once the set up is ready to go, we can turn the pump on and begin draining the barrels into the containers! The distiller will keep a careful watch, often checking the casks, making sure that the level of whiskey doesn’t drop below the intake hose, preventing any air reaching the pump.
We do this until each barrel has been drained of the spirit, and now is ready to be blended together to create a harmony between the two whiskeys.