There are five main things to look out for when distilling, that can influence the quality you achieve.
- The type of still you use.
Pot Stills collect all the 'condensate' from boiling and condense it, while Reflux Stills have a separate chamber which further purifies the condensate before condensing. This produces a distillate that is more concentrated with fewer impurities than pot stills and is why they produce a better quality spirit.
- The degree of carbon treatment and type of carbon.
You should always use a reputable brand of carbon that has been designed specifically for the job, and be aware that charcoal varies greatly in quality. To increase quality, distillate can be run through 2 or 3 filters, but they have to be new each time for best results. If reusing the same filter, the unwanted components picked up at the first run may released in the second run and third runs respectively however should still be better than a single pass.
- The type of wash you use.
If you want to maximise the quality of your end-result, it is essential to use a high quality yeast and nutrient to produce the wash and maintain the correct fermentation temperature. Distilling unwanted or excess spirit will lead to poor taste and quality and may cause equipment damage or failure.
- Storing and ageing.
Stockpiling in a cool dark place some of the spirit you produce in glass for a long period of time will lead to favourable mellowing. Some home distillers age their spirit in oak barrels to imitate the commercial brands but you can easily replicate this process by adding oak chips or oak chip flavourings to the spirit, then letting it rest for a specified time to achieve an excellent result.
- The final alcohol percentage.
An important determinant of quality is the actual percentage of alcohol in the final result.
For best results, and for the sake of your health, Still Spirits recommends that you do not drink spirit at more than 40% alcohol by volume. You should water down alcohol if necessary - see packs for details.
Caution: If you consume alcohol over 60% by volume, alcohol poisoning will occur leading to death or serious permanent injury.