View Full Version : Water and distillation

02-12-2005, 20:08
Water is always indicated as a key component of almost any distilled product, however, I have a question: Is the water used at a distillery the same as can be found in the local public water supply? If so, how does water treatment affect the distinctive quality of the "spring" water? Considering chlorine, flouride etc. on taste and whether the "key" minerals from a particular strata are still present. They are not using softened water...unless it is natural limestone softened. I recall a beer brewery tour guide saying that the water didn't make any difference as it was all distilled anyway...just marketing hype.

02-12-2005, 20:20
Is the water used at a distillery the same as can be found in the local public water supply?

We have our own processing water station with two massive holding tanks. No regular "straight from the tap" water is used in any manner. Even on "wash out's" (cleaning the lines to the filler, back to the tanks) we use the demineralized water.

Bettye Jo

02-12-2005, 21:07
I recall a beer brewery tour guide saying that the water didn't make any difference as it was all distilled anyway...

While I doubt the veracity of this statement, my knowledge of the distiller's art is not great enough to dispute it. I can assure you, though, that the quality of the water counts for a great deal when the time comes to dilute the barrel-proof bourbon down to bottling proof.

02-12-2005, 21:47
Bettye Jo, do you mean only distilled (demineralized)water is used? Or do you mean, other than clean out, the actual distilling process uses water from straight from a spring or private company well is used without any "treatment"? Demineralized suggests (equals) distilled water to me...or is there a difference?

02-15-2005, 21:58
There is a difference between demineralized and distilled water. Distilled water is distilled, by the same process used to make spirits, with the intention of producing "pure" H20. Demineralization is done with reverse osmosis and is more akin to what a home water softener does. It knocks down the disolved solids but it doesn't eliminate them altogether. Someone with more science than me probably can point you to a detailed description of the output of the two processes, but they are not synonymous.

02-16-2005, 05:51
Distillation, deionization, and reverse osmosis are all demineralization processes.

From the Code of Federal Regulations, title 21, part 165.110:

(iv) The name of water that has been produced by distillation,
deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes and that
meets the definition of "purified water" in the United States
Pharmacopeia, 23d Revision, January 1, 1995, which is incorporated by
reference in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 551(a) and 1 CFR part 51. (Copies
may be obtained from the United States Pharmacopial Convention, Inc.,
12601 Twinbrook Pkwy., Rockville, MD 20852 and may be examined at the
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition's Library, 5100 Paint
Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740, or at the Office of the Federal
Register, 800 North Capitol St. NW., suite 700, Washington, DC), may be
"purified water" or "demineralized water." Alternatively, the water
may be called "deionized water" if the water has been processed by
deionization, "distilled water" if it is produced by distillation,
"reverse osmosis water" if the water has been processed by reverse
osmosis, and "------ drinking water" with the blank being filled in
with one of the defined terms describing the water in this paragraph
(e.g., "purified drinking water" or "deionized drinking water").

02-16-2005, 07:22
Is the water used at a distillery the same as can be found in the local public water supply?

I overlooked one word in your question. Distillery...I work in the bottling plant not the distillery http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

I called our Chemist http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif He told me that yes all the water used in the "bottling plant" is demineralized. I asked him about the water used at Bernheim (our distillery). He said, that the water they use to make the bourbon (at Bernheim) is filtered http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif to remove any taste.

Sooooooo the answer is...No http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif they don't use water straight from the tap.

Bettye Jo

02-17-2005, 11:06
This file is in PDF...

It gives good information on the differences between demineralized (deionized) and distilled water http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Bettye Jo

02-18-2005, 22:11
Ahaa...and I thought this would be a silly Q! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Actually, if deionized water is used...that was not distilled...certain non-electrically charged elements will pass into the distillation process. Do any become vaporized and pass up the still column to become a flavor element? I would assume so...but how much impact and what kind of elements/compounds are they? Another Chemist question...or are the details a company secret?!

02-19-2005, 01:45
I seem to recall a discussion once at Jim Beam to the effect that minimally-treated spring water is used for distillation. Demineralized water is only used for dilution of the spirit to bottling proof. The more I have thought about it as this discussion has proceeded, while I can imagine the distilleries that use city water for distillation needing to remove chlorine traces and such, the removal of dissolved solids seems like something they would not want to do, since dissolved solids--the right ones in the right proportions--are what make water (and bourbon) taste good.

02-22-2005, 21:49
If Jim Butler's posting info is accurate for the whiskey distillation business...it seems the source of water is a non-essential element. Therefore, the claims may harken back to earlier days of distillation w/o treatment and may today be mere marketing. I hear the old beer commercial..."From the land of skyblue waters...(Hamms)"

02-23-2005, 13:48

The thing Jim posted was just a standard of identity. If you call water X it has to be Y. That doesn't tell you anything about the water used by distilleries. All he was doing was showing that, at least as far as the federal regs are concerned, some of the terms we were wondering about are, in fact, synonymous. It's a misreading of that, of this thread, and of the facts as we know them to conclude that "the source of water is a non-essential element." Nothing could be further from the truth.