Low wines are not wine in the traditional sense. The term “low wines” is used in the distillation process of spirits such as whisky, rum, and brandy.
When spirits are made from scratch, the process typically begins with a fermented wash, similar to beer or wine. This wash is then subjected to distillation to increase its alcohol by volume (ABV). However, the increase in ABV during the first distillation is relatively low compared to what occurs in subsequent distillations.
The product obtained from the first distillation is known as low wines. It is the raw material used for the second distillation, where the liquid is further transformed into the desired strength typically associated with spirits such as whisky, brandy, or vodka. Whisky and brandy, for example, typically have strengths ranging from 60-80% ABV, while vodka can have even higher ABV levels.
Low Wine: Not Your Average Wine Let’s start by debunking a common misconception. Low wines are not wine in the traditional sense. Instead, they are the initial product obtained from the first distillation in the production of spirits such as whisky, rum, and brandy. This liquid, far from being ready for consumption, serves as the raw material for further distillation to achieve the desired strength and flavors we associate with quality spirits.
The Distillation Journey: From Low Wine to High Wine In the world of bourbon distillation, low wine plays a crucial role. After the first distillation, where the wash is transformed into a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) version, the resulting liquid is known as low wine. The alcohol content and composition of low wine differ depending on the type of still used. For instance, in a pot still, the low wine will typically have a proof of around 40-50. In contrast, a column still can yield a higher proof, as seen in the case of Jim Beam Bourbon with its 125 proof low wine.
From this point, the low wine undergoes a second or even third distillation to further refine the spirit. The resultant distillate is referred to as high wine. In bourbon production, the high wine is often diluted with water to lower its proof, ensuring it falls within the acceptable range for aging in barrels. Proof plays a significant role in the flavor extraction process during maturation, influencing the final character of the bourbon.