The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

The science of alcohol

6.1 Commercial distillation

Once the addition of the botanicals is complete, the actual distillation begins within the copper still (Figure 4). The still is heated to a sufficient temperature to start boiling. If you recall from our laboratory still earlier, once a sufficient temperature is reached to enable a single component of the mixture to boil, this component alone boils, evaporates and condenses. In doing so, it is separated from the remainder of the mixture which has not yet reached boiling temperature.

The same principle is operating here in the production of gin, but on a much larger scale. Initially when the still is heated, the first distillate to appear is called the ‘heads’ of the run – it is quite harsh and astringent and often contains impurities so it is discarded.

The middle or ‘hearts’ of the run is the only distillate that is used by the distillery to produce their gin and it is carefully collected. A drop in the % ABV is usually an indication of the end of the hearts component of the distillation.

The final section of the run is the ‘tails’, and this is also discarded. By being selective in this way, only the finest part of the run makes it into the final gin. This does, however, mean that only small quantities of gin can be produced from a single distillation run, but the quality of this gin will be superior.

  • At what temperature do you think the hearts of the run distils?

  • As the distillate is composed primarily of ethanol, this will boil at a temperature of around 78°C.

SOA_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus