What’s the Best Alcohol Still on the Market?

This is a question we get a lot. While the knee-jerk reaction is to simply say it’s ours, there’s actually no simple answer to this question. Every spirit is different, and part of the craft of distilling is experimenting with different setups and technologies to find the best fit for the flavor profile you’re going for. To find the best alcohol still on the market, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of how different alcohol stills work and how they affect your final product.

Alcohol Stills: Pot vs. Column

Pot Stills

Pot stills are the oldest distilling technology and arguably the simplest form of setting up an alcohol still. Copper is traditionally used to make a pot still, but the discussion about how much copper you need in the vapor path is a blog topic in and of itself… so we’ll table that for now.

Traditional pot stills are heated directly from the bottom, and you boil the mash or wash to produce vapor that is piped over to your product condenser. Once you have a liquid, you can make your cuts to separate your hearts from the heads and tails to get the final product.

This seemingly simple variety of alcohol stills can actually be as complex as you want (or don’t want) it to be. The temperature in your still, the timing of your cuts, and the fermentation itself can all be varied to give a different flavor and feel to your final product.

This is by definition a batch process, so some variation will occur between runs since so many factors have an impact on these alcohol stills. While consistency can be a challenge, the ability to have heavier congeners and different flavors coming through in the final product may make this the best alcohol still on the market for you.

There are other ways to configure a pot still than just the traditional set up. A dephlegmator can be added to increase your reflux ratio, or you may add a thumper or doubler to your process or even a full column.

Column Stills

Column stills offer a different technology that can give you a different flavor profile in your final product. Column stills are a little more complex than pot stills, but they offer more control and more efficient alcohol extraction.

A column still adds plates that further separate the different components and give you the ability to make cleaner cuts. This can remove congeners and alter the flavor compared to a pot still, but you also get a “cleaner product.

If you’re making vodka (or hand sanitizer) for instance, you’d want to have at least 10 plates to get to the purity required. Some distilleries use over 30 plates to get the flavor they’re looking for, so there is a lot of flexibility in how these alcohol stills are set up.

By adding more plates, it adds more separation steps so the need to double or triple distill a product may not be necessary since a 30-plate column has three times the separation steps built into it than a 10-plate column has. If you’re looking to make a whiskey, this may be counterproductive. An alcohol still with four plates may be a better option, if you don’t want to use a pot still for your whiskey. This will allow more congeners, and therefore more flavors, to come through into the final product.

In Conclusion

There really is no simple answer to what the best alcohol still on the market is. Different alcohol stills can help accentuate or subdue certain flavors, but they can’t add anything that’s not coming through in your fermentation. Distillation is a separation process, and it cannot add in anything that’s not already present.

The craft of distilling is a complex and nuanced process that can produce a wide range of products that will hit different palates differently. Are you looking for something clean, something smokey, something fruity, something with a bite, or some combination? The best flavor is subjective, and the equipment used to get it is up to the distiller and the way he or she chooses to run it. Therefore, the best alcohol still on the market is ultimately the one that matches up with the flavor that speaks to you.

>>When in doubt, contact StillDragon for help choosing your equipment.