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Getting to 190 proof for Vodka

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#1 Chrismass



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Posted 12 January 2013 - 08:14 PM

Okay so I haven't been posting anything for the last few months as I have been going through the threads (Probably more than 300 different ones) for the last few months and researching and trying to learn as much as I can. I am already very close to the building phase of my distilleries development, and we are in the process of obtaining our loan. The whole process is still moving very rapidly, and all that's on my mind are the many hundreds of finite details that must be addressed.

That was just a very quick background on what I am doing. One of the things that concerns me currently is getting my spirits to 190 proof so I can legally call it vodka under TTB regulations. The catch here is that I want to use strictly pot stills, and will not have a reflux still on my distilleries premise. My reasoning for this is not only because of me, but it is because of my fathers preferences as well. His background is engineering for Hasbro, contracting for large estates and buildings, and building/repairing specialty retail stores throughout the U.S. Our family has been rooted in alcohol production since the era of prohibition when the Italian side of my family ran a Queens based winery (It got busted) and a speakeasy.

My reasoning for providing this information is because I do not want anyone to convince me of my errors as I have gotten messaged about before. Often it is assumed that I do not understand reflux stills, and why they're the best choice (The stripping will be done via pot still). I know that a reflux column is extremely efficient and produces the highest proof spirits when compared to pot stills. One of my families obsessions is to keep things traditional. The old method of using pot stills to produce vodka is the only method we would like to use. The only thing we are doing to the vodka processing wise is putting it through a regiment of carbon filtration. I am trying my hardest to stay true to the older methods in production, and I can retain 100% of my pride/bragging rights that come along with this method.

I understand that additional problems will arise when trying to use a pot still to gain a spirit at 190 proof. A quick explanation of our process: We are planning on doing 5 distillations per batch. Carbon filtration will be the only processing post distillation, or in-between distillations depending on our experimentation results. Our pot stills will have jacketed steam coils welded to the bottom of the still. Obviously we will be using a steam boiler to heat it, so we will have extremely good control over the level of heat.

Any recommendations or suggestions to achieve the 190 proof goal more easily or differently would be appreciated!


#2 nick jones

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 09:00 PM

One of the things that concerns me currently is getting my spirits to 190 proof so I can legally call it vodka under TTB regulations....

One of my families obsessions is to keep things traditional. The old method of using pot stills to produce vodka is the only method we would like to use.

The TTB's definition of vodka is not traditional. Therefore, I don't believe that you will be able to produce a traditional vodka under the TTB's definition.

Any recommendations or suggestions to achieve the 190 proof goal more easily or differently would be appreciated!

One option would be to string all of your pot stills together vertically. Use a single pre-condenser at the top of all of your pot stills, and a single heat source at the bottom. It will likely take a few more than five of them to reach 190 proof, though. Perhaps you have already considered this.

Best of luck on your adventure. Personally, I would prefer you to produce a "traditional vodka" that is delicious and unique, and only worry about the labeling after you've gotten your amazing product's recipe taken care of.


#3 Mash


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Posted 12 January 2013 - 09:41 PM

Pride can be expensive, but good luck. Have you figured the cost of production and energy? If so can you sell your vodka at a competitve price and be profitable?

#4 bluestar


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Posted 13 January 2013 - 08:58 AM

The traditional "modern" vodka first done in a pot still was the swedish renat brannvin that later became what is today branded "Absolut". This was the famous "ten times distilled" brannvin. If you have a pot still with good head reflux, maybe a dephlegmator, you should be able to do it in ten or less, but five is unlikely. If you would also consider adding a doubler to the pot still, you might do better. Would you consider multiple doublers/thumpers instead of a plated column? Would that be "traditional" enough?

#5 Roger


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Posted 13 January 2013 - 09:40 AM

I have read your original post, and appreciate the concepts of heritage, and family in your venture. I then did some follow up research on the Heritage side, to see if as I suspected there was perhaps some form of "error in historical context" that may be driving you towards an end that is not necessarily feasible.

What is perhaps happening here is that you may be trying to produce vodka defined in purity, content and process in current TTB terms, on equipment or with process that was around at a time before vodka was really pure in today's conventional TTB terms, or for that matter even late 18th century Russian terms. The real question here would seem to be: what date in history do you feel "vodka" became "vodka" ? 1100 - 1400 - 1796 - 1813 ?

The term Vodka from the old Russian sense, and again depending on when, is more often relative to final product, vs process. In fact if in 1795 "vodka" was made to 70ABV by 3 distillations in pot stills then placed in a charred oak barrel then filtered through sand, then cut with water to 40ABV it can not be called Vodka in today's TTB environment. It simply can not happen.

If however you want to "wait" until the early 1800's when plate and column stills were invented, then you will see alcohol distillations getting near the numbers that the TTB requires to be a Vodka base.

Perhaps a better route would be: how do you make an old school product that you can call Vodka, or some derivation therein given the TTB constrains you find yourself in? I suggest a look at what Jack Daniels seems to be doing with their unaged rye, which is somehow magically a "neutral spirit" that has only been distilled to 70ABV.

If you could get the TTB to let you use that same theory, it would be easy to get to 70ABV with your Pots, then convert that "Netural Spirit" into some type of Old School Vodka.

I can feel you pain here, but you can't duplicate that which never existed, I.e. 95+ABV in pot stills. It never happened, and that's not what old school vodka was. Old school vodka was essentiall a 40ABV product, that got there by means of 70ABV +/- distillation, followed by various filtration processes. Failing that, talk to Tito :)

Best of luck.

#6 American Made Stills LLC

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 03:34 PM

A conventional pot still will not make 190 proof. I would start with what will fit into your definition of a pot still. Even a pot still will have some reflux action. Reflux columns can vary considerably in their efficiency. Onion dome shape and lyne arm angle create some passive reflux as compared to forced reflux using a dephlegometer, (partial condenser or reflux condenser) If you will not have a still that uses forced reflux on your property you will not be able to make vodka. I have built stills that have a very low HETP using packing that could be made to look very classic. If you want to maintain a “Traditional look” you could do that by building the right still.

I would sugest that you do what I have been told some people are doing. Buy NGS and batch distill it making good cuts. You could create a very nice product. You could go from there to flavored recipes or gins.
My two cents.
Good luck.

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