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RickWrightson

Vodka in pot stills or column?

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In practice, at least among major distilleries, GNS becomes vodka through filtering, not redistillation. And chemical-tasting vodka becomes water-tasting vodka through multiple filterings.

The rest is fancy bottles.

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so it would make more sense for a gin producer to filter their NGS before use, rather than redistill it (if being super pernickety).

does anyone know of a gin producer who does this in practice?

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Are you suggesting that gin makers redistill GNS to remove congeners from it before they add their botanicals? Does anybody do that? If anybody does, they should explain it because I can't.

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on the gin section of this forum i pointed out two london-based micros that 'do'. i.e. re-distill NGS before doing a proper gin run.

when i say they 'do' this, i am not sure if they actually do it, but i have read interviews/other marketing info that says so.

but it is a mixed process: in that they re-distill the NGS to make 'vodka', and they then use some of this 'vodka' to make the gin (bottling the rest).

indeed, one of these micros bought a 190 litre Carl column still purely to re-distill ("improve") NGS to make their vodka (as they also bought a 190 litre alembic pot for the gin).

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Harking back to the original question, if you're going to redistill GNS to remove congeners, are you going to use an alembic?

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Why not? In my opinion GNS is going to improve from an extra distillation cycle. As long as you make cuts. GNS is usually made (at least over here) in a continuous still. This means you get all sorts of alcs in there. Some aceton, a little bit of methyl, some ethyl acetate, some propanol, furfurol, butanol, etc. By distilling it again, pot still or columnwise, you can draw these of by taking a heads and tails cut.

My experience: it will definately improve your product.

Edwin.

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thanks edwin.

do you mean that from your experience it actually tastes better/different?

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I've run GC analysis of lots of NGS and it doesn't have any congeners in it if the producer has done their job properly. There may be some sloppy stuff on the market and I've smelled NGS that was shipped in a tote that had kerosine in it and was fouled, but you're getting 96% ethyl alcohol with almost nothing else. That's not to say that distilling it doesn't change the mouthfeel and flavor of NGS, it absolutely does but this is probably because the spirit has never seen copper and so has sulfur compounds in it. Those are removed by copper contact which improves the sensory qualities but this is not a function of cuts.

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Question ; if NGS (or for that matter ones own vodka) is so "pure" as some have stated here, and there is no need to produce in any other manner than for example a continuous column, then why do distillers place so much emphasis on filtering ? Sometimes multiple filters.

What are they filtering out, if they have produced a 96% congeners free distillate, they why not go directly to the bottle ?

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Question ; if NGS (or for that matter ones own vodka) is so "pure" as some have stated here, and there is no need to produce in any other manner than for example a continuous column, then why do distillers place so much emphasis on filtering ? Sometimes multiple filters.

What are they filtering out, if they have produced a 96% congeners free distillate, they why not go directly to the bottle ?

Exactly.

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The very term 'pot still' is problematic since a pot with a rectifying column on it is still, technically, a pot still. Better clarity can be achieved by talking about alembic stills and column stills, including both continuous and batch-type column stills under the colum still heading.

And to make things even more confusing, I did the tour of Wild Turkey with some of you at the Louisville conference. Our guide said they used a "pot still". When I asked her to explain, she said during its travels through the distillery the spirit dropped onto some steam coils in a vessel that looked like a pot- ie a continuous pot still. (ps.I have noticed that some distillery guides don't always know the answer but will give you an answer anyway)

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There is language in the CFR about NGS and filtration. It's not something I understand but many people seem to be of the impression that some process is necessary to re-designate NGS as vodka. They often accomplish this through carbon filtration. I remember reading something about it but again, I don't really get it.

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The rules don't really say that. You can bottle NGS without any filtration and call it vodka. The rules permit filtration, they don't require it.

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Maybe a little off topic... and a newbie question... but if one does redistill NGS... would it be diluted before re-distilling it? If so, does it have to be returned to 190 proof to still call it vodka? what if it were diluted with a fermented product? Meaning, what if NGS and some sort of 10% wash were mixed and distilled... would that have to get back up to 190 to call it vodka?

Thanks, I've been enjoying reading this forum... lots of good info.

Tom

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Maybe a little off topic... and a newbie question... but if one does redistill NGS... would it be diluted before re-distilling it? If so, does it have to be returned to 190 proof to still call it vodka? what if it were diluted with a fermented product? Meaning, what if NGS and some sort of 10% wash were mixed and distilled... would that have to get back up to 190 to call it vodka?

Thanks, I've been enjoying reading this forum... lots of good info.

Tom

As Cowdery says, NGS is already "vodka" when you buy it. As long as your subsequent processing of the NGS does not change its class and type (e.g. filtration, redistillation, waving a magical stick over it, etc.) it's still "vodka" even if your redistillation doesn't bring it back up to 190 proof. At least that's how I read the CFR.

Many on this forum will caution against filling your still with a high-proof spirit for safety reasons, and I personally believe that the chemistry of the water that you use to dilute the NGS prior to redistillation has a noticable effect on flavor.

As for adding mash to NGS and redistilling it... if you're using a pot still, my guess is that the mash is going to add significant flavor to the resultant spirit and therefore destroy its neutrality. In my understanding, this would be changing the class and type of the NGS from "vodka" to something else. If you're using a column still and getting back up to 190 proof, it's only "vodka" if it is without "distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color". In order to achieve neutrality, a carbon filtration subsequent to distillation may be necessary. My guess is that the mash is going to cost you a hell of a lot more than the NGS, so one wonders what the point of adding it would be anyway...

Nick

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Thanks Nick, i appreciate the response. I know adding mash to NGS might seem silly, and will likely change the character of the NGS after redistilling, and that would sort of be the point... Well, I suppose there are more reasons than that, but that would be one of them... As many have mentioned over in the "character vs neutral" post, having a touch of character to your Vodka is seen as good by many (including myself)... this method seems it might be a cost effective way to have a vodka with a character that I enjoy - without having to distill from the ground up - and take it all they way up to 190.

Thanks again....

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No problem. I look forward to hearing what you decide to do with your process, and tasting the result!

Nick

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Since the US TTB definition is "Distilled to 190 proof or above", a mixture of anything with 190 NGS would then need to be redistilled to 190 proof again to meet the definition. Straight 190 NGS, even if it is diluted and run through a pot still does not have this requirement, as it has already met the definition.

DGP

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Since the US TTB definition is "Distilled to 190 proof or above", a mixture of anything with 190 NGS would then need to be redistilled to 190 proof again to meet the definition. Straight 190 NGS, even if it is diluted and run through a pot still does not have this requirement, as it has already met the definition.

DGP

Don is right, NGS diluted and run through a pot still does not need to be brought up to 190 proof a second time to be called "Vodka," as it was already vodka to start with. However, a reason some distillers run NGS through their still is so that they can legally claim that the product was "distilled by" their xyz-micro-distillery. But to make the claim that a vodka was "distilled by" xyz-micro-distillery, it needs to be brought above 190 in a still at xyz-micro-distillery. So, if somebody wants to run NGS through their still and sell it as vodka, and legally claim that they actually distilled the vodka at their distillery, then their still will need to bring it above 190 proof. If it does not go above 190 in a still at xyz-micro-distillery, then it is not vodka "distilled by" xyz-micro-distillery.

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Since the US TTB definition is "Distilled to 190 proof or above"...

I feel it is appropriate to clarify that merely distilling something to 190 proof does not necessarily mean that it is vodka. It must also be somehow rendered (via distillation or otherwise) into something entirely without "distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color".

Nick

P.S. I think that many on this forum would do well to heed the sage advice that you append to your posts, Don!

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