View Full Version : Multiple distillation (fad?)
Can anyone shed light onto why some producers distil their bourbon lots of times.
Is it fair to say that a bourbon distilled once, to 160 proof, is the same as a bourbon that has been distilled multiple times, again to 160 proof?
Does stepping up the alcoholic strength in stages really matter?
George before I answer your question let me suggest that you see if your library has either 'The Book of Bourbon' by Regan & Regan or 'The Book of Classic American Whiskeys' by Waymack & Harris. Both of these books contain a lot of good information on distilling and distillers. All whiskey distilleries either double or triple distil.
Modern continous beer stills or column stills as they are most often called are capable of distilling whiskey at 160 proof and beyond. The problem with single distillation is that the whiskey is far too harsh.High proof primary distillation also removes a lot of the cogeners that are crucial for good flavor. By distilling to a lower proof and then using a copper potstill as a doubler the whiskey gains far more character and smooths out those rough edges. There is also another type of potstill used for doubling and that is called a 'thumper'. If you dig up my tasting of Old Forester I give a fairly good description of the differences between a doubler and a thumper. Most distilleries do not distil as high as 160 proof. You'll find that 125 to 135 proof is most common. Wild Turkey distills out around 110.
The 'white dog' whiskey that is to become bourbon ( its not bourbon until it has been aged at least two years) cannot be barreled any higher than 125 proof.
Labrot & Graham is the only American whiskey distillery to use a triplet of pot stills rather than the common column still and doubler combo.
I was writing an article on stills but lost interest. I was having a hard time getting all of the information I needed so I stopped pursuing it. I may take the topic up again if I can gain the inside knowledge needed to write it correctly.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Much of the flavor of bourbon comes from chemicals that are not ethanol.
If you distill to 160 proof, you basically have vodka, and you lose most of the
character of the corn, rye, etc. that gives bourbon it's flavor.
The distiller's art is in keeping the impurities that have "good" flavor and leaving out
the impurities with "bad" flavor. This is done by means of "inefficient" stills that do
an incomplete job of purifying the ethanol.
Is it fair to say that a bourbon distilled once, to 160 proof, is the same as a
bourbon that has been distilled multiple times, again to 160 proof?
No. The major factor at work here is the design of
the still. Different stills keep different "non-ethanol" stuff in the product.
In order to distill to a high proof with one distillation, you need a "column" still.
Most whisk(e)y is made with a "pot" still, or at least the final distillation is done
in something that's a lot like a pot still. Pot stills and column stills keep different
"non-ethanol" stuff, and thus produce different products.
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