How to Distill Whiskey

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Whiskey is a general term for any alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. It is distilled to increase the alcohol content and usually aged in oak casks. Whiskey can theoretically be made from any grain, but commercial production is limited primarily to barley, corn, rye and wheat. The following steps will show how to distill whiskey.

  • Mash the grain, and add water and yeast. This mixture is known as "mash" and allowed to ferment. At this point, the liquid is called "wash" and will be about 5 percent alcohol. Wash is similar to beer except it does not have hops and is not boiled.

  • Make whiskey with a pot still. A pot containing the wash is directly heated. Because alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, the vapor has a higher concentration of alcohol than the liquid.

  • Condense the vapor from the pot still. This first distillation has an alcohol content of about 30 percent by volume. The process may be repeated to produce whiskey of up to 70 percent alcohol.

  • Distill the wash in a column still, also known as a Coffey still. A patent still consists of two columns. The first is called the analyzer and allows the wash to descend while steam rises through several levels. Each level of the analyzer is cooler than the one below it, causing the vapor in each level to become increasingly more enriched with alcohol.

  • Allow the wash from the analyzer to accumulate in a second column called the rectifier. The wash circulates here until it condenses to the desired concentration of alcohol. A column still can achieve an alcohol content of 96 percent.

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