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Single vs. Double Run Whiskey

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It seems that most whiskey is made using a double run method through a pot still, but why not a single run through a plated column? This seems like a simple question, but I haven't been able to find a good answer anywhere. What are the effects on flavor? How many plates would be necessary to distill a 9-10% wash up to 130 proof in a single run? 

I am trying to configure our first distillation setup and am weighing the usefulness of a 4-5 plate column still. It seems like doing a single run would be much more efficient with both time and energy. 

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1 hour ago, MaconBooze said:

It seems that most whiskey is made using a double run method through a pot still, but why not a single run through a plated column? This seems like a simple question, but I haven't been able to find a good answer anywhere. What are the effects on flavor? How many plates would be necessary to distill a 9-10% wash up to 130 proof in a single run? 

You can. Depends what you are distilling from. If you are distilling from fermented mash, rather than clear beer, you might have to worry about fouling the first plate. But since you mentioned you are using a wash, that might not be a problem, especially if you use antifoam. More of a challenge might be getting below the 160 proof for a whiskey, but getting the desired flavors. Our still, with 10% wash, will produce over 175 proof with 4 plates. I can drop down to 2 plates and get down to 160, but I won't get a clean enough product or good enough separation on cuts. By doing a double or triple run method, since you are usually rediluting the product between runs, you can stay below 160 proof on the final distillate, but get a cleaner, better separated product. YMMV.

BTW, when making product that does not have the 160 proof limit, we usually do run our still with 4 plates and a single run. But for our whiskies, we remove the plates, and double distill. Again, YMMV.

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I've seen a few stills with plates that can be removed/turned mid-distillation and I read that with some Rum producers, will plate during the heads for good separation, then let them go wide open for the hearts. They then close them  back up and reestablish equilibrium for a tighter tails separation. Seemed like an interesting concept. Just wondering what proof doing a single-heart run like that would produce.

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With or without bypasses is the question.

5 plates may be too many without bypasses - you may struggle to get the aggregate proof below the 160 max.  Even passive reflux might make things challenging.

3-4 is the sweet spot for single pass whiskey.

We run 4 plates, no bypass, reflux control - we can easily dial in anywhere from 135-160.

 

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9 hours ago, MaconBooze said:

It seems that most whiskey is made using a double run method through a pot still, but why not a single run through a plated column? This seems like a simple question, but I haven't been able to find a good answer anywhere. What are the effects on flavor? How many plates would be necessary to distill a 9-10% wash up to 130 proof in a single run? 

I am trying to configure our first distillation setup and am weighing the usefulness of a 4-5 plate column still. It seems like doing a single run would be much more efficient with both time and energy. 

Depends on the type of whiskey being talked about. A lot of American & Canadian whiskey is produced on continuous column stills often with a doubler.  Then you can look across the pond and see massive pot stills of different shapes being used in Irish and Scotch type whisk(e)y which are batch driven.  There is of course overlap in both regions.

The question I would ask is what kind of whiskey are you trying to make? 

Is there a goal or target profile in mind?  Is there even a style of whiskey being considered?

Delicate or full bodied? Meaty or cleaner spirit?

Do the above questions matter or are you willing to just produce something/anything and call it your own? Does it matter if you are producing something very similar to the guy up the road or in the neighboring town or do you want to make something different that will be unique to you in your area?

See what I'm getting at?  There is a world of difference in how you would ideally want to make a Wild Turkey bourbon like product vs a Glenmorangie vs a Macallan vs a Jameson.  Of course your rough geo/location will come into play as well in how the spirit will age or even what type of barrels will be allowed to be used.

Do you already own equipment or in the planning stages? Going to produce only whiskey or other type spirits as well using the same stills?

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@DrDistillation We're still in our early planning stages and I'm doing my research now decide what equipment we need to be pursuing. Ideally, I would like our still to be versatile enough to handle multiple product types so I was leaning towards a pot still with a 4 plate column. I'm also developing Gantt charts to try to understand how our production schedule would work and how equipment size/combinations effects production. 

I am still hazy on the benefits of having both a stripping still and spirit still. I understand the additional flexibility having both could offer, but if capacity isn't the issue, what would the other benefits be other than increased cost and maintenance?

As far as our product lineup goes, we're still trying to pin that down. Of course we will start with Vodka (likely from NGS base) and Gin (in-house) but want to be able to offer a bolder Rye, complex Straight Whiskey, and a Bourbon. I'm still debating on the future of single-malts (peated or not). I could definitely see us producing some liquors as well. That's a lot of balls to juggle on a single system. 

11 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

 

3-4 is the sweet spot for single pass whiskey.

 

We run 4 plates, no bypass, reflux control - we can easily dial in anywhere from 135-160.

@Silk City Distillers Thanks for the info! In your experience, is there a noticeable different in flavor profile between a single-run whiskey and doing a double run? Do you do single runs for all of your whiskeys? 

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So with 4 plates, if I load the kettle up with a few strip runs, it's impossible for me to stay under 160.  Even with the reflux condenser completely off.  Just passive reflux alone will keep the plates loaded enough to keep the proof very high.

We do this with white rum - with even a touch of reflux, she wants to run 180-190.

 

 

 

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I would certainly not purchase any equipment until you know exactly what type of spirits you intend to make.  The type of spirits being made should dictate the type of equipment used vs the other way around IMHO.

I realize you want versatility, but that may call for a compromise still compared to a dedicated still built to task.  Vodka from GNS is easy and the most basic pot still will do the job for Gin.  It's the whiskey's and/or rums that I'd spend time deciding what exactly you like and want to produce.  By this I mean, spend some time looking at the equipment being used by the distilleries of products you know, like and want to produce something similar to.  If for example you wanted to make a malt whiskey like many of the fine drams from Scotland then look at the style of still used to produce it.  Likely it will be a fat pot with swan neck, big lyne arm and made of all copper.  The width and height of the swan neck will give a clue to the flavor it will produce.  That type of flavor would be very difficult to match on a flute style still (pot with plates) with out a lot of work and nearly perfectly dialed in run with just the right amount of additional reflux (if you can do it at all). And if you can, at what speed will it produce at vs a still made specifically for that task that will be easier to run for that spirit?

There are tons of videos online these days from many different distilleries throughout the world. Spend a couple of days and watch them looking at the equipment being used and overall techniques they use. What are the fermenters made of? What do the stills look like (wide and/or tall), copper or stainless? Worm or tube style condenser?  You might find the products you like best are distilled at close to 160 proof or could be double or triple distilled right at barrel proof of around 120.  You might find the spirits you want to make are done on plated stills.  Or the spirits you like could be a blend of pot and column produced spirits. This is an exercise you should do if you haven't already.

If you think you know the brand of still you want to go with source some bottles produced by a couple different distilleries at retail and try them.  Do you like it? Is it the type of spirit you want to make or did you have something a bit different in mind?  Would you be happy to have your name on the bottle?

Would 2 or 3 smaller stills be better than one bigger still if they are producing simultaneously?  Vodka can be made via AC filtering from GNS without ever touching a still on your premises. Gin could be made in a small still compounded then mixed back with your vodka.  For example 3x botanicals used in the smaller still then mixed back with an additional 2 parts of vodka after the run.  With multiple smaller stills could you mash and still at the same time?

Most of the spirits you mentioned except for Vodka can be made with a pot still, and no plates or reflux required, assuming you'll make vodka from GNS via filtration.  This is what I was getting at by asking what exactly do you want to produce.  Work the problem backwards starting with the products you want to make!

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It's definitely time for us to get our menu nailed down. Part of the issue is that we just have too many good options! The more I think about it, I think a traditional pot still may be the direction to go. I think if I had my way I would just make Japanese style single-malts, but I'm afraid I don't have the experience nor the time. @DrDistillation I've definitely been doing lots of research on setups by visiting local distilleries, but I like your idea about using video as a resource. 

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On 3/2/2020 at 7:29 AM, MaconBooze said:

It's definitely time for us to get our menu nailed down. Part of the issue is that we just have too many good options! The more I think about it, I think a traditional pot still may be the direction to go. I think if I had my way I would just make Japanese style single-malts, but I'm afraid I don't have the experience nor the time. @DrDistillation I've definitely been doing lots of research on setups by visiting local distilleries, but I like your idea about using video as a resource. 

MaconBooze,

If you purchase one of our Ultra Pro Vodka stills with Gin basket you can make any spirit that you like.  You can use it for stripping runs, Vodka runs, whiskey runs and anything in between all by just actuating the bypass valves and opening and closing the plates.  I really like the name of your distillery.  Are you in Georgia?  Anyway email me paul@distillery.com and I will quote you for what you need.

 

Thanks.

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I like doing stripping runs and a polishing run vs. a single, plated run. It saves you time if you plan out your production schedule, and I am able to make better cuts doing a polishing run from low wines vs. from a wash/mash. Some distilleries appreciate the uniqueness every run from wash/mash brings, and prefer to do single passes with plates. I learned how to distill that way and looking back on it, frankly, it was a pain in the ass. I can't imagine doing it that way with grain in mashes.

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Thanks for all the great input. The more I learn, the more I'm starting to chip away at all of the variables and start to find our way forward. I think it's going to be best to start with a tighter concentration, likely around gin, and expand as it makes sense. I'm looking forward to being inundated with new ideas in Portland and New Orleans!

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On 2/29/2020 at 8:10 PM, Silk City Distillers said:

With or without bypasses is the question.

5 plates may be too many without bypasses - you may struggle to get the aggregate proof below the 160 max.  Even passive reflux might make things challenging.

3-4 is the sweet spot for single pass whiskey.

We run 4 plates, no bypass, reflux control - we can easily dial in anywhere from 135-160.

 

Only comment is that it depends on your still design, and your starting ABV. I know there are many that can get below 160 with 4 plates, but I know many other stills that can't do so even with the bypass open. So, if you are planning to do this for a new operation, and have not yet purchased the still, make sure you know how that still performs under these conditions.

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Our Ultra Pro Vodka stills can distill from 25% to above 190 proof and everything in between.  Running low wines from a stripping run you can distill to 120 proof, 130 proof whatever you like 120 or above.

Our Ultra Pro Whiskeys stills will do the same as the above with the upper limit from two runs being 180 proof.  Below is one of our Signature Series, Ultra Pro Vodka Stills with Gin Basket.  

QQ图片20190823181115.jpg

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So just another question to add to this topic. While still trying to stay mostly on topic. 


Yield?

  If you do say 900 gallons of 10% wash and you do it in two stripping runs at 450 gallons each then a final  polishing run what sort of final yield (gallons) at 125 proof would you estimate?  And do you think (or have you found) that this final yield changes if your doing to single 450 runs?   I know tons of variables but just overall thoughts. 

 

 

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We do 750 gal bourbon batches and run both pot stills just about every day. 750/striping still 8.5 - 9 hour total run (slow and steady) our yield is typically around 32% and 119 pg.  Then a spirit run the next day in our sprit still we charge the still, reduce the proof (it’s good to figure this out yourself) 7.5 - 8 hour total run....... our yield typically is 67% and 105pg hearts.  I could never understand the need to do fast runs. Isn’t your yield going to age for many years. There’s sooooo much to do while the stills are churning out our gold at the distillery.  Crap I bet we move the same 3 pallets of glass around several times a week LOL. 

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6 hours ago, Sudzie said:

We do 750 gal bourbon batches and run both pot stills just about every day. 750/striping still 8.5 - 9 hour total run (slow and steady) our yield is typically around 32% and 119 pg.  Then a spirit run the next day in our sprit still we charge the still, reduce the proof (it’s good to figure this out yourself) 7.5 - 8 hour total run....... our yield typically is 67% and 105pg hearts.  I could never understand the need to do fast runs. Isn’t your yield going to age for many years. There’s sooooo much to do while the stills are churning out our gold at the distillery.  Crap I bet we move the same 3 pallets of glass around several times a week LOL. 

So out of a 750 gallon run you end up with about 85-90 gallons to put into a barrel at around 122 proof? 

 

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More like 110 proof

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16 minutes ago, Sudzie said:

More like 110 proof

so 85-90 gallons at 110 proof?  Do you go into the barrel that low of proof? 

 

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Yes that’s correct for our average.  We barrel as low as 103 to a max of 118

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22 hours ago, whiskeytango said:

so 85-90 gallons at 110 proof?  Do you go into the barrel that low of proof? 

 

You should try a few barrels at 100, 105, 110, 115 & 120 proof vs just 125 proof.  Then do a tasting every quarter and take notes how each barrel progresses. They will develop differently.  Lower proof will bring out more of the sweater flavors like caramels & vanillas while higher proof leans more toward nutty/earthy generally speaking with more astringency, dryness, and bitterness.  Of course you need more barrels when you put up lower proof spirits which is why a lot of companies only put in the max 125 proof as it saves overhead.  Part of this depends on your local climate as well as what the angels take more of from your barrel as well.  ie does your proof increase or decrease?

Maker's Mark put up barrels at 110 proof, Wild Turkey at 115. Michter’s Distillery does 103 proof barrels. Buffalo Trace determined their optimum barrel entry proofs are 115 and 125 in wheated bourbon and rye respectively.

Four Roses: 120 barrel entry proof
Wild Turkey: 115 barrel entry proof
W.L. Weller/Van Winkle: 114 barrel entry proof
Maker’s Mark: 110 barrel entry proof
Peerless: 107 barrel entry proof
MB Roland: 105 barrel entry proof
Michter’s: 103 barrel entry proof

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On 3/1/2020 at 8:17 AM, MaconBooze said:

@DrDistillation We're still in our early planning stages and I'm doing my research now decide what equipment we need to be pursuing. Ideally, I would like our still to be versatile enough to handle multiple product types so I was leaning towards a pot still with a 4 plate column. I'm also developing Gantt charts to try to understand how our production schedule would work and how equipment size/combinations effects production. 

I am still hazy on the benefits of having both a stripping still and spirit still. I understand the additional flexibility having both could offer, but if capacity isn't the issue, what would the other benefits be other than increased cost and maintenance?

As far as our product lineup goes, we're still trying to pin that down. Of course we will start with Vodka (likely from NGS base) and Gin (in-house) but want to be able to offer a bolder Rye, complex Straight Whiskey, and a Bourbon. I'm still debating on the future of single-malts (peated or not). I could definitely see us producing some liquors as well. That's a lot of balls to juggle on a single system. 

@Silk City Distillers Thanks for the info! In your experience, is there a noticeable different in flavor profile between a single-run whiskey and doing a double run? Do you do single runs for all of your whiskeys? 

Hi Friend,

I'm a quite small distillery, and only have a single still rather than both a spirit and stripping still.    The primary disadvantage of this, is that you cannot do both at the same time.   It works when you're still very small, but by the time we do our first planned equipment upgrade, our smaller current still will become the spirit still.   

 

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On 3/17/2020 at 11:49 AM, JonDistiller said:

Hi Friend,

I'm a quite small distillery, and only have a single still rather than both a spirit and stripping still.    The primary disadvantage of this, is that you cannot do both at the same time.   It works when you're still very small, but by the time we do our first planned equipment upgrade, our smaller current still will become the spirit still.   

 

When it's time for you to order your stripping still give me a holler: paul@distillery-equipment.com

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20 minutes ago, Southernhighlander said:

When it's time for you to order your stripping still give me a holler: paul@distillery-equipment.com

I'll definitely talk to you!

 

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