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  • Gemma D.

Boann Distillery Changing the whisky game with Nanocopper

During the latest edition of the Art Of Drinks, I ran into Alex Witt, Head Distiller at Boann Distillery and we had a lengthy discussion about the latest technology in whisky making. So sit back and let's get into nanotechnology, copper particles and Italian patents that have changed the game for Boann Distillery.


You read it right, nanotechnology is being utilized in the whisky industry to improve the quality of flavors in the stills. As the first Irish distillery in the country to use this technology, Boann is ahead of its time. Alex: “There are a few other distillers out there, one in the UK and even Barbados. The response we get when we talk about nanotechnology is very positive. People are very interested and impressed. It’s usually something they’ve never heard of before.”

Italian developer Green Engineering offers this patented technology after year long research on the topic of copper nanoparticles. The goal? Increase the effectiveness of copper and to remove the undesired compounds that affect the spirit.

So what does it do?

As most of us know, in whisky distillation the size of the still plays a pivotal role in shaping the flavor. A larger still typically produces a lighter and smoother spirit, while the smaller stills yield richer and more complex flavors. The difference is due to the interaction of alcohol vapor with the still's copper surface area. The larger the still, the higher the copper contact, which can then remove impurities and result in a milder taste. In contrast, a smaller still offers less contact, allowing more of the flavorful compounds to be retained, creating a fuller bodied whisky.

With the Green Engineering nanoparticle technology used by Boann, who has smaller stills, it is possible to create the same amount of copper contact, without having to invest in larger stills and separate locations if your current distillery is too small.

How it works

What this technology does involves using tiny particles of copper (nanocopper). By creating a "rougher" surface, it significantly increases the contact surface area and enhances chemical reactions without affecting the established thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. This results in distillation surfaces that are highly efficient at removing the unwanted compounds. The nanoparticles are sprayed on the inside of the stills and based on the distillery set up there are three different technologies that can be used.

Back in 2017 the new stills were installed and from day one, the nano technology was applied. Alex: “Normally, when distilling spirits, you can detect some sulfur. A third distillation can usually remove a lot of these odors. With nanotechnology, I believe we can remove 100% of these odors, which leaves you with this nice clean spirit and esters.”

Slow Flow

Alex: “At the distillery we also have a fairly slow distillate flow rate. Around 650 liters per hour, which is about 11 liters per minute.” The flow rate is of course dependent on the size of the distillery but competitors mostly have higher rates. “One of the slower ones I know has a flow rate of 14 liters per minute.”

Does it really work?

There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism when people talk about unique innovations however this patented technology has proven itself according to Alex. “In the past we’ve had an inspection of the fitness of our stills. This is done with something like a portable ultrasound machine. Various points of the still are tested and the reading of the neck and the lyne arm, where the coating is, came back N/A. He couldn’t get a reading.”

“Also,” Alex continues, “once a month we need to remove the pipe that flows in the flow meter and back flush it. The copper sulfate that builds up in the pipe and on the top plate can actually block the stills. We’ve pulled out blocks as big as my fist.”

Future whisky to wait for

Being a lover of whisky, the best question to ask is: What’s your favorite whisky and where can I find it? Alex: “One of my favorites was a whisky we made with these vintage mashbills a couple of years back. 40% malted barley, 30% raw barley and 30% oats. The oats give the spirit this delicate sweetness like powdered sugar.” Unfortunately for us, this whisky is still on cask. “Probably for another two years.” Alex says. So something to look forward to!

Though at the moment the distillery is closed to the public, Boann is working hard on building a visitor center! Keep an eye on their socials such as Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date on their latest developments and when you can go see the nanotechnology in action!

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