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Slow Distillation by Hubert Germain-Robin

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By using ancestral methods of distillation, when time was not such a pressing issue, one would conduct the distillation at a slow pace to be able to separate with precision the different components, to make clean cuts and to respect the temperature during the gathering of the distillates. With today’s hurried approach, many of these parameters are undervalued or even ignored by craft distillers.

https://distilling.com/distillermagazine/slow-distillation/

 

 

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7 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

So you can't make good spirits using a continuous still?

You can't make spirits as good as what can be made with a pot still.  Continuous stills never remove all of the heads.   An honest manufacturer of continuous stills will tell you that.  I asked that question of a Vendome salesman to see if he would give me an honest answer and he did. 

They make great strippers but a continuous finishing still will never produce spirits as good as a well run pot still, where the distiller is diligent with his cuts.  

 

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This forum section was literally made for, and consists of the post that you linked in your post.

 

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One would think I would have checked the literal only post. One would be wrong. But hey - the formatting is nicer on the distiller page. 

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I'm not sure there's been any real discussion on the subject. So let's discuss:

While I highly respect Mr. Hubert Germain-Robin, I find his writing to be hard to understand. He states something is great, but rarely says how or why. I've read his books and this article is the same. So ok, slow distillation is awesome, but why? It tastes better - ok, but why?

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1 hour ago, Foreshot said:

I'm not sure there's been any real discussion on the subject. So let's discuss:

While I highly respect Mr. Hubert Germain-Robin, I find his writing to be hard to understand. He states something is great, but rarely says how or why. I've read his books and this article is the same. So ok, slow distillation is awesome, but why? It tastes better - ok, but why?

I would agree that the article appeals much more to the romantic notion of tradition and 'true craft' rather than the logical reasons behind slow distillation/maturation. I'm not saying the former is better than the latter or vice versa, it just seems to fall short on delivering a true argument for slow distillation. After reading the article several times, it seems to me that the message he is trying to convey is a lot of modern distillers simply do not care about the craft aspect. These distillers, some with no real training in the field, value time as money. This leads to poor cuts, short maturation times, and a flood of subpar or sourced product on the shelves. 

For me, I see working knowledge as most important in our field. Sure, this sometimes can be seen as slow distillation/maturation, but the QA/QC of each step is of the utmost importance. I also think as an industry, we can't be blinded by 'tradition' and the 'good ole days'. If that is how you want to run your distillery, more power to you, but continuous innovation in the field is what is going to expand to endless possibilities. 

My counterargument would be, instead of focusing on slow distillation/maturation, take pride in your craft.  Seek to continually improve in a way that fits your distilling interests/experiences.

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Adam Stumpf,,what say you about whiskey produced on a continuous rig that also renders finished product?

 

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36 minutes ago, smaug said:

Adam Stumpf,,what say you about whiskey produced on a continuous rig that also renders finished product?

 

I do think it is about taking pride in what you do and taking steps necessary that you are producing as high quality of a product as possible.

At this point, we've run 4 different pot/pot-column hybrid stills in our distillery, as well as the continuous whiskey still from StillDragon. What I can say is that with all things being equal (or as equal as possible), and using the still as the only variable, I 100% prefer the clear spirit that is coming off of the continuous still. Our blind tasting panels concur. 

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12 minutes ago, Stumpy's said:

What I can say is that with all things being equal (or as equal as possible), and using the still as the only variable, I 100% prefer the clear spirit that is coming off of the continuous still. Our blind tasting panels concur. 

To be fair though, the other variable at least in terms of the pot still, is the distiller operating the pot. Maybe the distiller was operating the pot very effectively and the blind panel likes heads. 

Just playing devil’s advocate here ;)

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To further add to the devil's share, "to make good whiskey, you have to put it up a little dirty" is what a pretty skilled whiskey maker said once or twice.

Zero heads + zero tails = insipid.

Throw that insipid into an oak barrel and you've got yourself toothpick flavored insipid. 

Not everybody likes Lima beans...

 

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3 hours ago, bierling said:

To be fair though, the other variable at least in terms of the pot still, is the distiller operating the pot. Maybe the distiller was operating the pot very effectively and the blind panel likes heads. 

Just playing devil’s advocate here ;)

Certainly possible, but not probable.

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a properly built and run continuous still can separate heads just as well as a pot still. Ive run multiple continuous stills and submitted samples from those stills for chemical analysis, and they were well below the limit for both America and EU standards on methanol content.  

@bierling have you ever operated a continuous still?

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56 minutes ago, Silk City Distillers said:

The irony of arguing about a heads cut in a topic started by a brandy distiller.

Heads?  That's not heads, that's flavor.

Yep.

The assertion is sophomoric at best.

EDIT: blanket assertion 

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Posted (edited)

We have a really bad tendency to equate all spirit production as the same. So when we get into discussion like this we miss one point that we really need to say: Different flavor profiles are made with different tools and processes. We know this we just seem to ignore it for our own point of view on our on products. What's best for a lightly flavored Brandy is different than a heavy rum or whiskey or a neutral. Who's going to use a 40 plate stainless steel still to make a scotch style whiskey? Who's going to use a copper pot still to make a neutral? Can you do it? Yes - but it doesn't mean it will do it well. 

I like where this thread is going but when you reply remember to explain a little bit as to your thinking. It's important to let the readers understand why you say what you say so they can make better decisions and better educate themselves. 

Edited by Foreshot
I AM HORRIBLE AT ENGLISH.

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22 minutes ago, Foreshot said:

We have a really bad tendency to equate all spirit production as the same. So when we get into discussion like this we miss one point that we really need to say: Different flavor profiles are made with different tools and processes. We know this we just seem to ignore it for our own point of view on our on products. What's best for a lightly flavored Brandy is different than a heavy rum or whiskey or a neutral. Who's going to use a 40 plate stainless steel still to make a scotch style whiskey? Who's going to use a copper pot still to make a neutral? Can you do it? Yes - but it doesn't mean it will do it well. 

I like where this thread is going but when you reply remember to explain a little bit as to your thinking. It's important to let the readers understand why you say what you say so they can make better decisions and better education themselves. 

100%

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Appeals to tradition usually make me laugh. While I certainly enjoy studying traditional methods and means and even own a few great traditional tools across the various trades I’ve studied, they are almost always made better with application of new technology and knowledge. 

 

Sure, I might like a Brown Bess musket and respect her place in history and her capabilities but even in that same form factor I can now have better barrel steel, stronger lock and trigger, better more efficient projectiles, cleaner faster powders, better sighting systems, and stronger more durable stocks. 

 

In every way I can make that new rifle perform like an old one, if I wanted, but now it’s capable of so much more. 

 

Understand how and why it was done and what the effects were, but then apply that knowledge with better tools. 

 

That said, the emotional experience I get shooting a 200year old musket could never be replaced with an AR-15. 

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2 hours ago, FijiSpirits said:

Understand how and why it was done and what the effects were, but then apply that knowledge with better tools.

That ^

Our industry SUCKS at sharing knowledge on a larger scale. Walk up to a distiller and (s)he'll tell you nearly everything you need to know. Very few people write stuff down in order to share it. We need to be better at that. This forum is a great tool for that but we tend not to get that deep into things. We get stuck with people taking umbrage at perceived slights and ruining threads. (This isn't directed at anyone in particular, we've all done it.) That makes it so we don't share quite as much or as honestly as we could. We get stuck not being able to share our insights as to why we do things or why we think things work the way we do for fear of causing a problem or having someone crap on you. In the end we don't really know why we do what we do. We're just guessing. And that sucks.

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