Sip the Good Stuff
(a wee chemistry goes a long way)
The Cut is the Key!
You may have heard the expression, “making the cut”. In the world of distilling this is both the familiar figure of speech, as well as a literal task… and a critical one at that.
Any time a sugar is digested by a yeast – commonly known as “fermentation” – that yeast and its process of digestion produce quite a number of by-products. Among these byproducts are a variety of alcohols. When we speak of “alcohol” in the context of potable libations, we are generally referring to ethanol. Ethanol is not only the answer to this month’s newsletter’s pop chemistry quiz, it is one of the primary alcohols that result from the fermentation process, and when properly respected it has a plethora of delightful characteristics.
Other alcohols produced by fermentation of various materials include: acetone, ethyl acetate, propanol, butanol, amyl alcohol, furfural, and… the dreaded methanol. (Not to be confused with methamphetamine… different lesson.) While some alcohols are more toxic to the body and some simply don’t taste appropriate for different spirituous products, methanol is actually dangerous to humans, causing such nasty consequences as permanent nerve damage. (Remember those legends of moonshine making folks go blind? Any truth they may hold might be a consequence of over-consumption of methanol.)
It could be said that the primary purpose of beverage distillation is to “extract” or separate the “alcohol” from your fermented product (such as beer, wine, mead, cider). Further refinement of this description ought to include the specificity of that separation. Proper distillatio