Spirits - An Education

23 April 2017

Spirits - An Education

The stronger older brother of the alcohol family, spirits are made from grains, fruit, or vegetables that have gone through alcoholic fermentation. They are then distilled - a process of physically separating water from alcohol to get a higher alcohol concentration (usually over 20%). 

What is distillation? 

After fermentation the liquid is heated in a still until the alcohol turns into a vapour but the water remains a liquid. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water so the vapour is then collected in another still and turned back into a liquid - the spirit. 

How is a spirit made? 

THE BASE - All main types of spirits begin with raw materials that are fermentable - vegetables, sugar cane, products, fruits and grains. 

FERMENTATION - The first step in making any alcohol, fermentation is the process of yeast converting sugars into carbon-dioxide and alcohol. At this stage it is around 5-10% alcohol. 

DISTILLATION - Once the yeast has done it's job, you are left with a "wash". This wash is distilled into a spirit by separating the alcohol from the water. The vapour is collected and condensed into a liquid with a high concentration of alcohol. 

RE-DISTILLATION & AGEING - Most spirits are distilled more than once to purify further and get rid of any unwanted flavours. All spirits come out of the still crystal-clear; coloured spirits only get their colour from subsequent barrel ageing. 

SPIRIT MAKING - At this point other ingredients can be added such as the botanicals (herbs and spices) in a gin production or sugar to make liqueurs.