Operationally, all four batch stills covered earlier (the moonshine still, the gooseneck still, the French Charentais, and the artisan pot still) perform the identical distillation procedure. There is still a distinct routine for the continuous-run column, which will be discussed in further detail below.

Distillation: An Overview of the Procedure

The key phases in the process from barley to barrel are shown at the bottom of this page.
A mash tun is a device that is used to transform barley grain starches into sugar.
2nd, the wash is allowed to ferment.
Washing the clothes to remove excess water is step three.

Gathering of spirits with a “low wine” content
5th, re-distilling the spirits to get the final spirits for barreling.

Spirits that have been barreled or aged.

Heads, hearts, and tails are all included in this category.
According to distillation terminology, congeners are any chemicals present in the wash that do not consist solely of ethanol and water.

A number of congeners, including acetaldehyde, methanol, and other esters and aldehydes, have lower boiling points than ethanol; nevertheless, a number of other esters, the higher alcohols (fusel alcohols), and water have greater boiling points than the alcohol.

Thus, the congeners with lower boiling points emerge in high concentration at the start of a batch distillation run, while the congeners with greater boiling points emerge in high concentration toward the end of the run, leaving ethanol and other desirable compounds as their most abundant constituents in the middle of a batch distillation run.

When distillation takes place in a batch still, the distillate that is produced is separated into three stages, which are referred to as heads, hearts, and tails, depending on how the distillation was performed.

• The heads contain the undesirable lower-boiling congeners that are released at the beginning of the run, while the tails contain the undesirable higher-boiling congeners that are released at the conclusion of the run.

A spirit is sought in the center, and this is symbolized by the hearts.
In order to achieve high separation levels in whiskey distillation, the phases of the distillation process must be separated from one other.

As a result of this, there is a significant quantity of ethanol in the heads phase, and there are late-heads congeners present at the beginning of the hearts phase, as well as ethanol. In a similar vein, there is a substantial number of earlytails congeners near the conclusion of the hearts, as well as a significant amount of ethanol in the tails phase.

While the whiskey is mostly composed of ethanol and water, the flavor profile of the whiskey is comprised of a delicate balance of late-heads and early-tails congeners.

Congeners, also known as chemical flavor compounds, are produced during the distillation process in large quantities. Each congener has the potential to contribute to or detract from the desired final flavor profile of the distilled spirit.

Knowing when these congeners are formed, and when to add or remove them, is part of the art (as opposed to the science) of distillation. Especially with flavor-specific spirits such as brandy and whiskey, it is desired to include certain congeners into the final product.

To get a clean, nonspecific palate in flavor-neutral spirits like vodka, the objective is to eliminate as many congeners as possible from the final product, which results in a spirit with a clean, nonspecific palette.

Because both the heads and the tails contain a significant amount of ethanol as well as residual taste that is desired, they are combined and preserved for future distillation and extraction. Feints are the names given to the heads and tails that have been mixed.

Alternatively, feints can be distilled separately to produce a second whiskey run, or they can be blended into a future spirit run, where their ethanol and flavors are recovered as part of that run.

Although each consecutive distillation generates its unique set of heads, hearts, and tails, it is also possible to recover feints from prior runs, which may be used for future recovery.


If you want to make whiskey, it is normally done in two distillation runs: a beer stripping run followed by a spirit run.
It is customary to do the beer-stripping operation in a huge pot capable of producing significant amounts of volume, known as a beer stripper.

In order to distill the fermented wash and concentrate the ethanol as well as all of the contaminants, a beer stripper is utilized, which produces a distillate that contains around 25 percent ethanol and is referred to as low wine.

This is done in a smaller whiskey still, such as a gooseneck or artisan reflux still, which is referred to as a spirit still, for the spirit run.

This is done with the use of a spirit still, which is used to distill cheap wine and refine it into finished spirits. Aside from the completed spirit and the feints, there are only two outputs leftover from the spirit run.

In order to do a beer-stripping run, the fermented wash, which has an alcohol concentration of around 8 percent, is placed into the beer stripper and the contents are heated to a rapid boil. Given that this is just a primary distillation, there is no separation of the heads, hearts, and tails in this run.

In this case, the whole output of the run is pooled into one lot, and the run is repeated until the aggregate percent alcohol content reaches 25 percent ABV. This distillate is the low wine, which is used as an input for the spirit run in the next step:

When it comes to making completed whiskey, the low wine from the beer-stripping run, as well as a small number of feints from prior spirit runs, are added to the spirit still. The spirit still is then brought to a boil to finish the preparation process.

In order to produce a delicate, gradual flow of distillate, the distiller regulates the boil-up rate during the spirit run. This is also when the distiller meticulously separates the heads, hearts, and tails of the spirit.


One distillation is used by certain whisky producers to make their whiskey. Straight from the wash, they conduct a spirited run. Even though the artisan reflux stills detailed before are perfectly adapted to this style of whiskey distillation, the process is time-consuming, and the distiller must devote a great deal of attention to multiple smaller runs rather than a single bigger run.

Some individuals like single-distillation whiskey because it is richer and has a more natural taste, while others prefer it because it is harsh and unrefined, depending on their own preferences. The more typical double-distillation process is described in the next section.


Making the cuttings from the heads to the hearts and finally to the tails is perhaps the most difficult phase of the whiskey distillation process. Cutting the output of a distiller from one phase to another occurs when it shifts the output to be collected in a different receiver than the output of the phase before.

The heads will be in one container, the hearts in another, and the tails will be in a third container at the conclusion of the spirit run. It’s a matter of knowing when to transition from one phase to another.

These are determined by the experience of the distillers. However, despite the fact that there are quantitative factors such as still-head temperature and % alcohol content of the incoming spirit that may be used to assess when to make the cuts, taste, and smell continue to be the most dependable techniques for identifying when to make the cuts.

The following are the empirical parameters that will be used to evaluate the cuts in question.
• The amount of alcohol in the spirit that is pouring out of the still (i.e., the incoming spirit) is measured in percent alcohol.

• The temperature of the still-headed body

These differ from one still to the next, and they differ depending on the characteristics of the low wine used in the production (e.g., percent alcohol and quantity).

By using the same still as well as a constant amount and formulation of low wine, it is feasible to construct a consistent process in which all the parameters are the same for each batch of low wine produced.

For example, in a spirit produced in an artisan reflux still using low-alcohol wine with a 25 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), the beginning cut (i.e., the cut from heads to hearts) is typically performed when the evolving distillate is at approximately 80% and the still-head temperature is approximately 180°F (82 degrees Celsius).

Cuts from the hearts to tails are often done at a percentage of 65 percent and at a temperature of 201°F (94°C) or higher for still-head temperature.
When distilling from plain malt wash, however, it is possible to end-cut the spirit down to 60 percent or even lower.

A gooseneck still distilling the exact same wash may begin with a 72 percent cut and conclude with a 59 percent cut, depending on the manufacturer. As a result of these subtleties, smell and taste have emerged as the only fully dependable markers of when to make the necessary cutbacks.


The following are the flavor qualities that the distiller is searching for while creating the first cut of the batch. Once the spirit run gets to a boil and the first distillate begins to pour from the still, the heads phase of the distillation process has begun.

Using a spoon or a wineglass, the distiller may collect and sniff a tiny sample of the distillate to determine its quality. At this point, the distillate will have a foul odor that reminds you of solvents (such as nail polish remover or paintbrush cleaner).

However, after a short period of time, the solvent scent fades away, and even when a sample is tested, the presence of these molecules will be extremely slight. As the solvent flavor fades away entirely, the distillate will begin to take on a little trace of whiskey character.

Eventually, the intensity of this taste will rise to the point where it is quite noticeable and very concentrated. When this taste is clearly discernible but still rising in strength, the distiller moves on to the next phase of the distillation process.


When preparing the final cut, the distiller must keep an eye out for any changes in flavor that may occur. While still rising in strength, the intensity of the whiskey taste will continue to increase throughout the hearts phase, eventually becoming very powerful.

But as the hearts progress, the powerful whiskey taste will melt away, leaving behind a smooth, sweet, pleasant flavor that will last for the majority of the heart’s duration. With each heart that is completed, the flavor will get somewhat more complex, but it will always be sweet and delightful.

When you get to the end of the heart, the flavor will begin to lose its sweetness, and a hint of severe bitterness will begin to show in the flavor.

The beginning of the tails is marked by a strong, bitter taste…. In spite of the fact that a limited amount of this bitterness is thought to be beneficial in enhancing the “bite” character of whiskey, distillers should trim the tails receiver before allowing too much of it to reach the hearts.

Until the developing distillate has been reduced to about 10% by volume, and the still-head temperature has reached around 206°F or 208°F (97°C or 98°C), the tails may be accumulated.

All of the residual alcohol that remains in the still at the conclusion of the heart’s phase is rendered as a result of this procedure. A subsequent spirit run will be able to retrieve some of this wasted booze.

Tails phase begins with a bitter taste that is more severe as the tails move. However, as the tails proceed, the bitterness fades and is replaced with a sweet-tasting liquid as the tails phase concludes. Backing is the name given to this delicious water.


If the distillation process is continuous, the wash is continually entering the column, ensuring that all three phases (heads, hearts, and tails) are always present in the column. The heads cannot be drawn off and the hearts can’t begin, and the hearts can’t be cut off and the tails can’t be pulled off and the tails can’t be drawn off. At the same time, all three phases must be pulled off from the rig.

Once the continuous-run column has been equilibrated and is operating in its steady-state of operation, the distillers may detect which families of compounds are present at each tray. A continuous-run column is a high-separation fractionating still that separates the compounds extremely well. Example:

They could identify that the compounds coming out of the top two trays are heads compounds and send the compounds from those trays to the heads receiver. Additionally, they could notice that the compounds coming out of the trays four, five, and six below them are heart-shaped.

This would allow them to recognize that the five trays below the hearts trays are generating tails and divert those trays to the tails receiver. Only water would be pouring out of the tails trays below the tails trays, and the valves would be closed, allowing the water to flow to the bottom of the column and then to a drain below the column.

It is necessary to set up this sort of still to continuously draw the three phases of distillate at all times since it is not intermittent in its operation. In spite of the fact that it is time-consuming to set up, this machine is capable of producing huge volumes of spirits around the clock, all year round.