a couple of primary design types: the bubble cap and the sieve plate, but both operate the same way. Vapor is allowed to travel into the plate from below, condense, and then the lightest components of the mix evaporate again as more heat energy and more heavy compounds come in from below. Downcomers, pipes that drop from one plate to the next one below, allow the heaviest fractions that condense and remain behind to overflow down into the lower plate. When enough plates create enough reflux, with the ABV increasing slightly at each plate, a distiller can produce a neutral spirit of 95 percent ABV or higher, which is required for vodka. This type of batch column system takes a principle already mentioned — that a slow, gentle distillation will allow for more reflux and produce a more refined spirit — and relies on it as a fundamental requirement. A column, with each plate effectively providing an additional level of distillation and refinement, only works if the vapor flowing into the column doesn’t run so fast that it disrupts the balance in the system. If the column is charged slowly and allowed time to equalize, the distiller will have very clean fractions of separate congeners coming off the still. If the column is filled quickly and expected to run off without taking time to stabilize, or if a lot of heat is suddenly pushed into the system after the column has reached equilibrium, then the spirit coming off of the still will be a lower ABV and will have fractions that bleed together. Gin is generally produced by redistilling neutral spirit with juniper berries and other
botanicals. This can be done in a number of ways, including a maceration (steeping) of ingredients in the neutral spirit, straining out solids (or not), and finally proofing down and redistilling the infused spirit. Ingredients can also be added just before distillation, either directly into the liquid distillate or suspended in the vapor path where the ethanol vapors will extract a more delicate spirit. Ingredients can be distilled together for efficiency or separated into multiple distillations and blended back together to optimize the flavor profile of each ingredient. A very short and incomplete list of common gin botanicals includes citrus or citrus-y ingredients (orange, lemon, coriander); spic-
es such as pepper, clove, or cinnamon; and roots, including angelica, licorice, and orris. The potential variety of gin ingredients is limitless, though, ranging from rose petals to animal dung, and the balancing of those ingredients is a careful art. We will finish with aging/packaging in the following issue. The content laid out in these four articles will form the core of a future publication that will more fully explore and elaborate on these and other essential topics, so any omissions, errors, or questions are welcome and we will work hard to make this material as thorough and accurate as possible.
Gabe Toth is lead distiller at The Family Jones Distillery in Denver and Loveland, CO. A former craft brewer, his passion for fermenting and transforming ingredients also extends to sausage and meat curing, cheesemaking, and pickling. He can be found up in the mountains or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1946 - 2021
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