Glossary: F

Feints

Many refer to feints as being synonymous with ‘Tails’, and while we agree that in principle there is little to separate the two terms, we deliberately use both in different ways. Feints is a term almost always used by Whisky or Rum makers, while Gin use the term Tails. 

In the context of Whisky - Feints is the name given to the third fraction of the distillate received from the second distillation in the pot still process. Feints contain many compounds with high boiling points of over 115°C, and these often have undesirable flavours such as Acetic Acid, which has a distinct pungent vinegar aroma.

The second difference between the terms are that for gin makers ‘tails’ are seldom recycled into subsequent batches, while in Whisky, Rum and Brandy ‘feints’ are often returned to the Spirit Still when it is recharged with the next batch of Low Wines. 

It may be splitting hairs, but we differentiate the two to help those trying to understand the process of each category, which is why you will find both being used on this site depending on the spirit. 

Fusel Oils

Fusel oils is a collective term for the bitter compounds found in the feints or stillage of a distillation. Comprising of propanol, butanol and amyl alcohols fusels alcohols have an oily consistency, hence they are popularly termed ‘fusel oils’.

Finishing

Finishing (also sometimes known as double matured) is the process of taking a whisky from one cask and then transferring into a second cask of different origin for a couple of months. There is no minimum or maximum time period for finishing, although typical finishing period is between six months and two years.

This 'secondary maturation' is undertaken to add complexity to the whisky. Typically, the first cask is an American oak barrel formerly used to mature bourbon, while the second cask may be one that has been used to mature some sort of fortified wine such as Sherry, though sometimes casks for Port, Madeira, or even Red or White wine casks or former Rum barrels are also used.

One of the reasons it makes such an impact isn’t just the changing of oak from American to European has on the spirit, 2-4% of the previous contents of the cask will remain in the wood after it’s emptied, allowing for the previous occupant to blend with the whisky that’s being added in as well.

Foreshots

Foreshots are the first vapours to boil off during distillation, usually containing compounds such as acetone, methanol, and aldehyde volatiles. Distillers always discard the foreshots and never allow them to be part of the final product. Depending on the base material used to make the spirit and the apparatus used, foreshots can be 2% to 5% of the overall volume collected.

We always consider foreshots and “heads” as separate parts of the early spirit collection, as for spirits like Gin (or others who are redistilling Neutral Spirit) foreshots are likely to contain the dregs of the previous run left in the tubes. They may also contain some harmful compounds and are always discarded, while the heads are perfectly potable spirit, but simply an undesirable flavour for their recipe. 

As the risk of collecting nasty compounds is low when redistilling a pure Neutral Spirit, for gin makers, foreshots are often just 0.1 - 0.2% of the total run, while the heads can be a further 1-3% depending on the recipe. In this case heads are collected separately, added to tails and sometimes used to make other products. 

Many distillers who are starting from a wash (i.e. not rectifiers transforming previously distilled Neutral Spirit) such as Scotch Whisky makers and Moonshiners, do not make that distinction and simply separate the distillate as foreshots, hearts and feints.

Flips

Flips are a type of cocktail made with a distilled spirit, egg and sugar, shaken with ice and strained into a glass. They are similar to Egg Nogs but while Egg Nogs contain milk or cream, Flips don't.

The term was first used in 1695 to describe a mixture of beer, rum, and sugar, heated with a red-hot iron. The iron caused the drink to froth, and this frothing (or "flipping") was where the style of cocktail got its name. Over time, eggs were added and the proportion of sugar increased, the beer was eliminated, and the drink ceased to be served hot.