Whiskey connoisseurs love to talk about all things whiskey---one thing that they banter back and forth about in front of the fire with their tumblers full of amber elixir is the superior way to distill this favorite brew.
There is quite a bit of attention paid to the way whiskey is brewed. Even the most casual whiskey drinker is likely to drop some barrel info on you when engaged in conversation, yet it is the stills that make the most significant mark when brewing up a batch. The following information will demystify the stills---how they came to be developed, what their role is in creating delicious whiskey, and the different processes that make your enjoyment possible.
Pot or column stills?
A pot still is, at its most basic, a large copper vessel that is heated from the bottom. In a pot still, alcohol is boiled off a mash solution and collected in a condenser for later processing. Colum distillation is a different process altogether--mash enters near the top of the still and begins to flow along the inside of the column. This brings the mash closer to its heat source; once it has reached near-boiling temperatures, vapor rises via a series of partitions called stripping plates. Each succeeding plate strips away some more byproduct of the distillation process, leaving alcohol to be collected near the top of the column once more.
Pot stills operate on a batch by batch basis, while column stills can be run continuously, as vapor can be collected at all times. Column stills also boast an impressive 95 percent ABV, (alcohol by volume), which is a feat that few of the best pot stills can achieve.
Pot stills are typically made from copper because this metal is known to pull sulfuric byproduct away from the mash. Column stills can be comprised of stainless steel and copper, the copper top being the only part of the still that actually comes into contact with alcoholic vapor. In both cases, the fact that copper is used to draw out sulfur compounds is a significant and important part of the distillation process.
Many distilleries today use a hybrid pot/column still, offering them the flexibility to produce different types of spirits and produce them in a more efficient manner.
History of stills…….and modern production
Whether you are talking about Coffey stills, patent stills, or column stills, the mechanism is essentially the same. While others came before him, the Coffey column still is the one that many modern column stills are built upon. The evolution of each design built upon the strengths of a previous model, increasing their efficiency and upping production, and it is still a preferred design in use by many prominent distillers today.
Specifications and differences
Exact specifications of stills have a significant impact on how a spirit tastes. When established distilleries wish to expand production, they do not order the biggest and best stills, but exact replicas of ones that are currently in use, down to the last measurement and detail. This ensures the integrity of the spirit’s flavor profile and ensures that each batch remains the same in taste and quality.
Distillers are very particular about stills that they become fond of; a craft distiller might have 30 smaller stills that are all firing at the same time, but they have come to know and love the distinct flavors and essence that each batch takes on, and they prefer working with what they love, rather than messing with flavor differences and risking dissatisfied customers.
Worldwide style and practice
Whiskey distillation practices vary widely in theory and practice---some distillers insist that batches must be double, or triple distilled for best results, while others make a single run and call it done. Others argue over the type of mash that must be used for truly unique taste and flavor, regardless of how it’s done, the result is a delicious, savory beverage we have come to know and love. It’s these little differences in production that give our favorite whiskey its signature flavor and defining characteristics, elements of uniqueness that keep us filling glass after glass.
Palmetto Distillery: Superior flavor, exceptional distillation practices
Using an exact replica of a copper still that was used when Palmetto Distillery was in its infancy, we remain steadfastly loyal to our bootlegging ancestors that came before us. Lip-smacking recipes, time-tested distillation methods, and a commitment to quality ensure that you are getting one seriously tasty beverage in your hands. If you want to taste what we are talking about, visit our website today to place an order; you won’t be disappointed! Visit www.palmettodistillery.com for more information.