Alcohol Distillation and Its Impact on Branding

Alcohol distillation is one of the key processes involved in producing spirits, and its influence on branding can be immense. From ingredients and packaging to the backstory behind their creation, distillation has the power to differentiate brands from similar offerings on shelves.

Spirits must begin somewhere. Be it fermented washes of grain (whiskey and gin), fruit or potato (gin and vodka), or crude alcohol distilled from oil or natural gas (vodka), the first step is always preparing the base material – sugar-containing substrate that yeast will consume and eventually turn into alcohol. This usually includes milling and mixing grains, macerating fruit or mashing root vegetables for this step of production.

Fermentation, which transforms sugar from the substrate into alcohol and other byproducts, is an integral component of all spirits, from light vodkas to dark whiskeys.

After fermentation, the mixture is then distilled. Distillers separate volatile alcohols with lower boiling points than Ethanol (drinking alcohol) from water using distillation equipment called foreshots or heads; later more desirable ethanol alcohols with higher boiling points called hearts are separated out as well. One skillful distiller knows when and how to switch the flow away from heads toward hearts in order to produce high-quality hearts that last long enough for consumption.

Reducing product purity while decreasing energy requirements through distillation requires controlling both product purity and the reflux ratio, known as reflux ratio. A unique method for producing 100 percent alcohol is currently under development using an organic material such as finely ground cornmeal as an absorbent for water from the ethanol/water vapor – however this requires extensive research and development effort.