Why do you distill alcohol?

Answered by Jason Smith

Distillation is a crucial step in the production of alcohol as it serves several important purposes. The main reason for distilling alcohol is to purify and concentrate the desired components, while removing unwanted impurities. This process allows for the production of a final spirit that is smoother, more refined, and of higher quality.

One of the key objectives of distillation is to separate alcohol from the fermented liquid in which it is produced. During fermentation, alcohol is produced along with various other compounds such as water, yeast by-products, and impurities. Distillation allows for the separation of alcohol from these substances, resulting in a more concentrated and pure form of alcohol.

Distillation is also important in removing unwanted flavors and aromas that may be present in the initial fermented liquid. These flavors can arise from the raw materials used in fermentation, such as grains, fruits, or herbs. By subjecting the liquid to distillation, these unwanted flavors can be separated and discarded, leaving behind a more desirable taste profile.

Another reason for distilling alcohol is to increase its alcohol content. The initial fermentation process typically produces a liquid with a lower alcohol content, often referred to as “low wine.” Through distillation, the alcohol content can be significantly increased, resulting in a higher proof spirit. This is particularly important for spirits like whiskey, vodka, and rum, which are typically enjoyed at higher alcohol strengths.

Distillation methods can vary, with two of the most commonly used stills being continuous stills and pot stills. Continuous stills, also known as column stills, allow for a continuous process of distillation. These stills consist of multiple stages or plates, which help separate the various components of the liquid. Continuous stills are often used in large-scale commercial distilleries due to their efficiency and ability to produce high volumes of alcohol.

On the other hand, pot stills are traditional and more artisanal in nature. These stills are made up of a single pot or boiler, where the liquid is heated, and vapor is produced. The vapor then rises and condenses in a separate chamber, resulting in the separation of alcohol and other compounds. Pot stills are favored by craft distillers who value the ability to produce spirits with unique flavors and characteristics.

The process of distillation plays a vital role in the production of alcohol. It helps to purify and concentrate alcohol by separating it from unwanted impurities and flavors. Distillation also allows for the increase in alcohol content, resulting in a higher proof spirit. Whether using continuous stills or pot stills, the distillation process is essential in creating a final product that is of higher quality and more enjoyable to consume.