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mbrowley

All About Moonshining/Home Distilling

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Frankly it's a shame that US law doesn't allow home distilling as they do home brewing or home wine making.    Then anyone with a couple hundred dollars to spend could and would make their own, perhaps superior product.

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Frankly it's a shame that US law doesn't allow home distilling as they do home brewing or home wine making.    Then anyone with a couple hundred dollars to spend could and would make their own, perhaps superior product.

 

I would love that! I have always thought it was an anomaly that I can ferment wine and brew beer but not distil.  I have always understood that it is for public health reasons.  However there may be a case for competent amateurs to distil their own.  Certainly, White Dog should be possible to distil at home.


Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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Here on the other side of the world, where distillation at home is quite legal, I completed distillation of the second generation of a rye mash based on pumpernickel bread (yes!) yesterday.

 

I'm not terribly impressed, unfortunately.  There seems to be very little rye taste.  I'll do a little more experimentation, but my thinking is that it might all end up as a rye vodka to make Genever.  For which purpose my labours will not have been in vain.

 

We should set up a separate discussion for home distillation - there's a lot of people doing it, legal or not! - but briefly, the public health argument isn't convincing.  Provided you discard the first little bit of each run (the recommendation is 50ml; I go with 100ml to be even safer) which contains most of the methanol and other nasties, there's no health issue.  I've seen an even less convincing argument that distillation is illegal in most places because of the amount of alcohol produced, but that's even sillier.  Distillers don't produce any more alcohol than brewers.  Ours is just more concentrated.

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Here on the other side of the world, where distillation at home is quite legal, I completed distillation of the second generation of a rye mash based on pumpernickel bread (yes!) yesterday.

 

I'm not terribly impressed, unfortunately.  There seems to be very little rye taste.  I'll do a little more experimentation, but my thinking is that it might all end up as a rye vodka to make Genever.  For which purpose my labours will not have been in vain.

 

We should set up a separate discussion for home distillation - there's a lot of people doing it, legal or not! - but briefly, the public health argument isn't convincing.  Provided you discard the first little bit of each run (the recommendation is 50ml; I go with 100ml to be even safer) which contains most of the methanol and other nasties, there's no health issue.  I've seen an even less convincing argument that distillation is illegal in most places because of the amount of alcohol produced, but that's even sillier.  Distillers don't produce any more alcohol than brewers.  Ours is just more concentrated.

 

Make no mistake, it's the loss of tax revenue.

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Here on the other side of the world, where distillation at home is quite legal, I completed distillation of the second generation of a rye mash based on pumpernickel bread (yes!) yesterday.

 

I'm not terribly impressed, unfortunately.  There seems to be very little rye taste.  I'll do a little more experimentation, but my thinking is that it might all end up as a rye vodka to make Genever.  For which purpose my labours will not have been in vain.

 

We should set up a separate discussion for home distillation - there's a lot of people doing it, legal or not! - but briefly, the public health argument isn't convincing.  Provided you discard the first little bit of each run (the recommendation is 50ml; I go with 100ml to be even safer) which contains most of the methanol and other nasties, there's no health issue.  I've seen an even less convincing argument that distillation is illegal in most places because of the amount of alcohol produced, but that's even sillier.  Distillers don't produce any more alcohol than brewers.  Ours is just more concentrated.

 

I agree with you totally. 

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Make no mistake, it's the loss of tax revenue.

 

Perhaps, but that hasn't been an issue with beers and wines, now has it.     Politics is really a simple game in the end.    As our government becomes one of a mega-corporate revolving door, the regulations that ensue are those that those corporations have lobbied for.     Consider for a moment the fact that most of our corporations pay relatively little in taxes as a result.

 

In my view there are two factors here:  the now distant reflection of Prohibition, ie tradition, and the mega's need to eliminate competition - the major factor.     Thus, the regs make it hard for even legal small distilleries to start up.

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Perhaps, but that hasn't been an issue with beers and wines, now has it.     Politics is really a simple game in the end.    As our government becomes one of a mega-corporate revolving door, the regulations that ensue are those that those corporations have lobbied for.     Consider for a moment the fact that most of our corporations pay relatively little in taxes as a result.

 

In my view there are two factors here:  the now distant reflection of Prohibition, ie tradition, and the mega's need to eliminate competition - the major factor.     Thus, the regs make it hard for even legal small distilleries to start up.

 

I would agree that the large brewers/distillers would probably rather sell us white dog at $50 a bottle than have a multitude of amateurs distilling it at home for their private consumption.  Yes, our economy needs more start ups.  That includes distillers and brewers too.  Big companies don't provide the employment we need, its the small companies that do that.  I would suggest that White dog does not need the maturation and storage time so would be ideal for start up distillers.  It seems there is a growing market for it - but maybe not at $50 a bottle. For me, I would be happy if I could just distill it for myself in my own premises.  I don't see that being possible for some time though.


Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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This is one of those mystery picture things:

 

Gin1.jpg.010587a33b3c8a4273c310b1795d671

 

But since we're in this topic, you've probably guessed that the full picture would look something like this:

 

Gin2.jpg.ff02a167defc19e82763094521c9d9b

 

Yes, another batch of gin has been born.  Looking at my notes I see I'm coming up on three years doing this, and the new batch is Batch 7.  I've generally been pretty happy with the gin I've produced, but I have particularly high hopes for this one based on the lovely smell as it was coming out of the still.  I have tasted it and there's a heap of flavour, but it really needs a few weeks of 'settling down' time before I can give a proper opinion.

 

I used my usual mix of juniper berries, coriander seeds, orange and lemon zests, orris, angelica and licorice root, chamomile, cinnamon, cardamom and kawakawa leaves (a local herb).  Two differences: the orange, lemon and kawakawa were all fresh rather than dried, and for the first time I used my alembic still for gin - previously I've used my copper reflux column as a pot still, but because of its design there's still a certain amount of refluxing going on.

 

[For those not up on the technicalities of still types, generally a reflux column is used for neutral alcohol - vodka - while a pot still is used for (eg) whiskies and rum.  A reflux still gives a purer spirit with little taste (if you do it right!) while pot stills retain much of the flavour of what you're distilling but give a lower percentage alcohol.  This is a vast generalisation but will serve us for now.]

 

Anyway, based on this batch I'll continue to use the alembic.  The next experiment will be to see if I can get a more delicate gin (mine's pretty assertive) by suspending the botanicals above the boiling vodka rather than floating in it.  That's essentially how gins like Bombay Sapphire are made (again, that's omitting vast amounts of detail!).  But first I'll need to make some more base alcohol, which means I'll have to buy more sugar ... it never stops.

 

Please note that home distillation of alcohol is legal where I live.  It almost certainly isn't where you are.

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6 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

In any civilized country you would be in prison.

And I envy you!

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9 hours ago, lesliec said:

This is one of those mystery picture things:

 

Gin1.jpg.010587a33b3c8a4273c310b1795d671

 

But since we're in this topic, you've probably guessed that the full picture would look something like this:

 

Gin2.jpg.ff02a167defc19e82763094521c9d9b

 

That alembic is very pretty! What else have you been using it for?

 

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14 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

In any civilized country you would be in prison.

 

I rather think the reserve is true. Only an uncivilized society would penalize and/or imprison an individual for distilling (or brewing or whatever other activity you want to add here) for personal consumption, usually for the sole reason that they are not able to tax it and acquire the pound of flesh of your own sweat equity they feel entitled to when having done nothing to be entitled to it!

 

Unfortunately their are many countries/societies like that. Most, In fact. :hmmm:

 

But I digress. That is indeed a fascinating looking little still!

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On 11/01/2016 at 4:00 AM, SickBird said:

That alembic is very pretty! What else have you been using it for?

 

 

Hi SB.  I've made a rye by a very long and laborious method that was unjustified by the result.  Of course with a still you always have the option of tipping the rubbish back in and running it through again!  I've recently acquired a mash tun from a friend who's getting rid of his brewing equipment; it's going to make getting the liquid off the grain so much easier.

 

I have a quantity of 'rum' made before I had the alembic that looks at me acccusingly every time I go downstairs - it needs a second run, and the alembic is just the thing for the job.  I really should do something about that.

 

It's the StillSpirits alembic, in case you hadn't seen one before.  You just buy the copper dome and the condenser (even the dome is optional - the condenser will bolt onto the standard top) and it fits straight onto the T500 boiler.  A relatively cheap way into pot stilling for those of us with a T500.

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At the risk of looking like I only do things like this in January (which is not the case), I've been making gin again. If you peer at the label you might see that this one's a bit special:

 

Batch10.png

 

Yes, this is Batch 10.  I've been making gin for personal use (and a few special people) for somewhere around 4 1/2 years now and for much of that time I've had a recipe I'm very happy with, but for batch 10 I felt something special was called for. I normally use 10 or so botanicals; this one's got 17 (which could be considered excessive, but what the heck - I'm on holiday).  I've added black pepper, rosemary, thyme, bay and lavender to my usual mix, plus both dried and fresh kawakawa and some mango peel I don't always have.  Plus I double-distilled the base vodka.

 

Was it all worth it?  Well, I only turned the still off three or so hours ago and mysterious processes happen in the bottle for a few weeks, but I did taste it and yes, I think I might have something rather nice.  Gin isn't usually a sipping spirit - you generally mix it with other things - but this one seems to stand up happily on its own.

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My science teacher in high school was a Mr. Still. This provoked hilarious (in out minds) jokes questioning whether he had any illicit stills, simultaneously and cunningly evoking images of both moonshining and extra-marital procreation, neither of which we really knew the technical details involved.
 

But bless him; he did allow (and help) us to distil some potable brew or other (it was a long time ago - I forget exactly what it was) which was potent but otherwise revolting. Extra-marital procreation, or any other kind, he left for for us to work out for ourselves later.

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19 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

In most countries you'd be spending the new year with a ball and chain.

 

Uncivilised backwaters of the South Pacific do have their charms!

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On 1/1/2018 at 8:59 PM, lesliec said:

Uncivilised backwaters of the South Pacific do have their charms!

 

I should think the freedom to distill if you wish to is rather more civilized, not less!

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