Glossary: T

Tahona

The tahona is a huge, heavy wheel used to crush agave. They are typically made of volcanic stone and can weigh up to two tons, although some of the older ones are made from wood. Before the modern machinery, distillers would use donkeys to pull the wheels around in a circular pit filled with roasted agave piñas. Be it by donkey, horse, tractor or steam powered machine the process is the same - by crushing and squeezing them under the heavy weight, the tahonas convert them the piñas to pulp, ready to be fermented.

Every Artisanal Mezcal uses a tahona to crush its piñas. Traditionally tequila was also made using them, but the industry moved to mechanical extraction (like shredders and diffusers) with all but a few traditional distillers still using tahonas today.

Toasting

Similar to charring, toasting is a way of treating (burning) wood to prepare it for ageing spirits. The various levels of heat and burn have different effects on the compounds, and therefore, the type of flavours the oak imparts to the maturing spirit as well as the pace at which the interaction is happening. Toasting is considered to be the lightest form of heat treatment that is done to a cask. 

It’s unusual to find American Oak (Quercus Alba) that has only be toasted due to the preferences and practices of the Bourbon industry. Toasting is quite a common level of preparation to apply to European oak (Quercus Robur) used for the likes of Cognac however, which only requires a light touch to enable the type of influence the distilleries require.

See Charring

Terroir

Terroir is how a particular region's regionality (typically the climate, soils and terrain) affect the taste of a spirit. 

It’s an overused term at the best of times, and it’s debateable just how appropriate it is for distilled spirits given how much the process of distilling, the apparatus used to do so and the people influence the end product. 

In this context, many spirit’s “terroir” is derived not by the terrain or the soil, but by the distilling traditions of a region, the history of a category and if an aged product – the climate. 

Some spirits have more evident 'terroir' than others, such as Mezcal and Eau De Vie, where all these factors are palpable. Their extensive use of native yeasts and wild, open air fermentations (which play a huge role in shaping the flavour) mean that there’s also a good argument that could be made around how bacteria and microbes should also be counted as being a part of a spirit’s regionality too.

Tails

Many refer to tails as being synonymous with ‘Feints’, 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 producers 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. This is not the case for Gin. It’s is simply undesired to the distiller in their recipe due to either flavour or ABV, but not necessarily unpleasant. 

For gin makers ‘tails’ are seldom recycled into subsequent batches, while in Whisky, Rum and Brandy ‘feints’ are often returned 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. 

Twist (cocktail)

A twist is a piece of citrus zest used to garnish a cocktail. It’s not just decoration, adding a twist will release citrus oils and impact the flavour of the drink.

When a Martini is served ‘with a twist’, it means that a peel has been zested over it (as opposed to being served with olives).