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Distilling whiskey from grain mash with a modern still?


Jonathan Forester

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In the past I have used a traditional alembic pot still for making rum and gin, and if my old distillery had progressed I was going to make a wash and distill from that. The traditional stripping run, then spirits run.

Now I am shopping for modern stills for my new distillery and I am getting lots of conflicting information.

When using a modern still with 4-6 plates; can, and should, you make whiskey in one run, as opposed to a stripping run and a spirits run?

Some still manufacturers are suggesting traditional stripping runs, then spirits runs. While others are saying just do one run.

So, those of you out there with DSP's (as opposed to the home distillers who shouldn't be on this board) who are making whiskey commercially, what are your thoughts? How do you make whiskey, and why?

thanks,

Jonathan

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Bill Owen's book explored this topic some in his Modern Moonshine Techniques. It's a fascinating question. In the end, wouldn't you say that it comes down to proof and pudding? What is the difference in how they taste?

Many are using Carl and Holstein still these days. I'm curious to see how they'll weigh in.

So, those of you out there with DSP's (as opposed to the home distillers who shouldn't be on this board) who are making whiskey commercially, what are your thoughts? How do you make whiskey, and why?

thanks,

Jonathan

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Based on my experience and reactions from our distributors, retailers, and customers, I'd say it's all in the still. Some (pot) stills require two runs to make a product that is a proof that is not too low. Others can do it one run. It all depends (as said by the last response) in the proof, imho. We make four different grain-based distilled spirits, all distilled at around 120 proof, and I believe that we're doing an outstanding job as far as the quality of our products go. Now if you want to make a vodka and a whiskey I would purchase a still that will allow for both.

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I don’t know if I qualify to answer but I have done it both ways.

A single run with 3 plates was giving clear cuts with lots of flavors left but is very labor intensive as you distill an about 8% ABV batch, additional you can play a little with the dephlagmator cooling.

The advantage of the stripping run gives you higher ABV in the additional spirit run (less time to attend the still for cuts) but results in fewer flavors if you use the same spirit still configuration.

I tried 2 plates in the spirit run instead of 3 (I can disable plates in my still) and got almost the same result in congeners than running it only once without stripping.

I wouldn’t recommend using more than max 3 plates for single whisky runs, but that’s just me, it depends on your still and the final product you want to archive.

Joe

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We're using a Carl 3 plate side column still. We have always done a stripping runs first and as above, have had great results with one or two plates engaged and low reflux to the column. Because our stripping still is roughly 3 times the size of our whiskey still, one stripping run gives us a full charge of low wines for the whiskey still. This relationship works great.

We've made bourbon style mashes, corn whiskey, and rye this way and the results are always better when we disable a plate or two. I prefer to run higher cooling at the beginning to concentrate the heads and then open it up for hearts.

Best,

John

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Most of the microdistillers I know are doing it in one run.

The macrodistillers all do two. It has nothing to do with proof, as they can achieve any proof they want in the column still. They tell me they double (the second run, in a pot still) to 'polish' the spirit. More specifically, it lets them get rid of a few of the peskier high boilers. Or maybe it's low boilers. I forget.

Many of the macros have experimented with single run distilling for bourbon and a few have practiced it for long periods of time, but at the moment everyone is doubling.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi,

I just came across this post and it is interesting to see some discussion on the topic of single vs. double distillation.

If you look at the history of plates, they were designed to avoid the process of double distillation. Actually, in distillation theory each plate counts for an extra distillation. I am aware that there are multiple plate designs out there and they will all give you different results.

At Kothe, we are strong proponents of single distillations - for all spirits. If you distill properly (right distillation velocity and right dephlegmator setting) you can get an extraordinary spirit from a modern potstill with plates that is unreachable with doubel pot distillation. Double distillation also means double heat up and loss of aromatic compounds. I come from a family with double pot distillation tradition, but technological advancements have made it obsolete.

@JohnD - I just came across a study of dephlegmator temperatures again. It was focused on fruit spirits but the effect on grain should be the same. Cooling adjustment during distillation and lowering the dephlegmator temperature too much will have a negative effect on your hearts.

All the best,

Robert

Robert Birnecker

Kothe Distilling Technologies.

Award winning handcrafted German engineered potstills for the production of high quality fruit and grain spirits, as well as bioethanol. “Kothe Destillationstechnik” uses patented technology to specially engineer each still with solid quality and energy saving compounds to meet the particular needs of each distiller. Kothe Distilling Technologies is the sole representative of “Kothe Destillationstechnik” in North America, Canada, and Mexico.

--------------------------------------------------------

Kothe Distilling Technologies Inc.

5121 N. Ravenswood Ave

Chicago, IL 60640

http://www.kothe-distilling.com

info@kothe-distilling.com

(312) 878 7766

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  • 2 months later...

@JohnD - I just came across a study of dephlegmator temperatures again. It was focused on fruit spirits but the effect on grain should be the same. Cooling adjustment during distillation and lowering the dephlegmator temperature too much will have a negative effect on your hearts.

Hello Robert,

Do you by any chance have a link to that article? Even just title/author would probably do it.

Cheers,

D.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Robert. Very interesting, I have been thinking a lot about this single vs double distillation process. It seems to me that you could theoretically produce in one distillation the same product that old-timers say you can only get with two. I'm curious about the differences your 'whiskey' stills give as compared to your 'standard' units. The standard, with its column, no doubt can give a purer product, but is this the only real difference?

Thanks,

CT

Hi,

I just came across this post and it is interesting to see some discussion on the topic of single vs. double distillation.

If you look at the history of plates, they were designed to avoid the process of double distillation. Actually, in distillation theory each plate counts for an extra distillation. I am aware that there are multiple plate designs out there and they will all give you different results.

At Kothe, we are strong proponents of single distillations - for all spirits. If you distill properly (right distillation velocity and right dephlegmator setting) you can get an extraordinary spirit from a modern potstill with plates that is unreachable with doubel pot distillation. Double distillation also means double heat up and loss of aromatic compounds. I come from a family with double pot distillation tradition, but technological advancements have made it obsolete.

@JohnD - I just came across a study of dephlegmator temperatures again. It was focused on fruit spirits but the effect on grain should be the same. Cooling adjustment during distillation and lowering the dephlegmator temperature too much will have a negative effect on your hearts.

All the best,

Robert

Robert Birnecker

Kothe Distilling Technologies.

Award winning handcrafted German engineered potstills for the production of high quality fruit and grain spirits, as well as bioethanol. “Kothe Destillationstechnik” uses patented technology to specially engineer each still with solid quality and energy saving compounds to meet the particular needs of each distiller. Kothe Distilling Technologies is the sole representative of “Kothe Destillationstechnik” in North America, Canada, and Mexico.

--------------------------------------------------------

Kothe Distilling Technologies Inc.

5121 N. Ravenswood Ave

Chicago, IL 60640

http://www.kothe-distilling.com

info@kothe-distilling.com

(312) 878 7766

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Sure, if you want to be like the big producers and have a batch version of a continuous still, then go ahead.

If the argument is about cost or efficiency, then the big producers will always win out. And your product will be more expensive and it will be very difficult to make it better than theirs. So why would Joe and Jane Doe buy your product?

If you want to hew to pre-Civil War (early Post Civil War) American whiskey making tradition, then a pot still is the way to go. And your whiskey will be different because it helps produce different flavors. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Joe and Jane haven't had this kind of whiskey in almost a hundred years. So there's an "oiliness" to the new make spirit that doesn't seem to be in column still whiskey. That's an opinion, not necessarily a fact.

I'm not anywhere near experienced as Ralph, Todd, Robert and all you others who've been in this business for years. So I probably don't know what I'm talking about. But I have a pot still. Plain Jane pot still with no plates or dephlegmator. And I like it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sure, if you want to be like the big producers and have a batch version of a continuous still, then go ahead.

If the argument is about cost or efficiency, then the big producers will always win out. And your product will be more expensive and it will be very difficult to make it better than theirs. So why would Joe and Jane Doe buy your product?

If you want to hew to pre-Civil War (early Post Civil War) American whiskey making tradition, then a pot still is the way to go. And your whiskey will be different because it helps produce different flavors. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Joe and Jane haven't had this kind of whiskey in almost a hundred years. So there's an "oiliness" to the new make spirit that doesn't seem to be in column still whiskey. That's an opinion, not necessarily a fact.

I'm not anywhere near experienced as Ralph, Todd, Robert and all you others who've been in this business for years. So I probably don't know what I'm talking about. But I have a pot still. Plain Jane pot still with no plates or dephlegmator. And I like it.

just tagging on

I think you should just learn to be the best distiller you can with the equipment you have. I have seen great mechanics that use haywire and pliers. I have also seen high tech shops with a team of mechanics that could not fix simple problems.

I don't think its the still so much as the skill and talent of the distiller that counts. So whatever tools you choose or methods you use just make the best spirits you can. If you find your tools lacking then upgrade. If you methods are not producing product you like for single runs then try doubling. Everyone has a reason for the methods and equipment they use. Just make your best and then keep trying to make it better a little at a time.

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