More distillations for more purity, less distillations for less purity. How come? How does it work, and what are the pro’s and cons of adding more or less distillation cycles to your standard operating procedure? Let’s dive in deeper!
What a distillation cycle does
If you distill a beer or wine, there are basically three components in the boiler:
Since alcohol comes over at lower boiling points than water, as a general rule, a distillation run concentrates the alcohol. Most of the water remains in the boiler. Alcohol consists of a family of different molecules. Some have lower boiling points, some have higher boiling points. Ethanol, the most famous alcohol, sits in the middle, with a boiling point of 78,3 degrees Celsius. Many of the flavors come over with the alcohols, so a distillation run concentrates both alcohol and flavor, while water and some other flavors stay behind.
What multiple distillation cycles do
Multiple distillation runs translate into alcohol and flavor being concentrated even more. More water and more flavor stays behind.
It is important to note that certain flavors come over with certain alcohols. Fruity flavors come over with the low boiling point alcohols that come over during the first part of a distillation run. Rooty and nutty and earthy flavors come over with the high boiling point alcohols, at the end of the run.
The more distillation cycles are performed, the better alcohol and water are separated. Also, the more distillation cycles one does, the better the various families of alcohols separate. Ergo: more distillation cycles lead to less smearing of flavors and to more localized flavor concentrations. Fruity flavors in the headsy parts of the run, rooty, earthy flavors in the tails part of the run.
The influence on flavor
More distillation cycles lead to less flavor, via two processes:
- The boiler remains have flavors that are discarded after the run, and don’t come over in the spirit;
- Better separation leads to less smearing leads to less intense or less complex flavors in the hearts cut.
The more often the craft distiller distills, the more flavor he or she looses via the boiler remains, that will be discarded. The more often the craft distiller distills, the more the flavors will be localized in the heads and tails factions of the run. Instead of in the hearts faction that, well, makes the cut.
This information leads to one conclusion and one conclusion only: less is more and more is less. Less distillation cycles lead to more flavorful spirits. More distillation cycles lead to less flavorful spirits.
Spirit archetypes and the number of distillation runs
Vodka is distilled many times. Often more than 14 times, in order to reach the desired ABV. At the same time, the multiple distillation cycles lead not just to a high proof base spirit (95% and more), but also to a relatively neutral spirit. Perfect separation of heads and tails and their associated flavors. Water soluble flavors, that reside in the boiler, are perfectly separated out.
Bourbon, an American style whiskey, is often distilled around four times or more. On a plated still or on a continuous still. The result is a lighter style whiskey. Irish whiskey is most often triple distilled. It has a lighter flavor than Scottish single malt whisky, which is double distilled.
Most fruit brandies are made on plated stills and are usually quadruple distilled (yes, just like Bourbon is). Cognac is made on more traditional set-ups (Alambics Charantais – basically a potstill that uses the next batch as coolant) and is double distilled. Cognacs have a heavier flavor profile than fruit brandies.
Rums that are pot distilled, like Jamaican rums, are very heavy flavored. Rums that are distilled on a continuous column, including multiple distillation cycles, like Bacardi, are much lighter in flavor.
Less than a decade ago, iStill’s CEO invented “Distilling 1.5” as a technique to lower the number of distillation cycles in order to give craft distillers a competitive advantage over traditional Big Alcohol producers. In the Distilling 1.5 procedure, a first distillation creates low wines. The low wines are added back into the boiler. To further fill the boiler, fresh wash is added. This mixture of low wines and fresh beer or wine now sees a finishing run.
Since the resulting new make spirit is now distilled 1.5 times instead of twice, more flavor is retained. First of all, less flavor is lost to the boiler remains. Secondly, the lower ABV end product needs less water (neutral!) for dilution to barreling or bottling strength.
Distilling 1.0 with iStill’s ABV Control
Over the last few years, iStill has innovated further on this idea that less is more. We have designed and perfected ABV Control, where the iStills can now bring your alcohol up to any desired percentage in one go. One Single Distillation Run! This is the ultimate “less is more” technique, where the craft distiller creates the most flavorful rums, brandies, and whiskies!
ABV Control ON!
What is the above picture all about? What are we looking at?
One year after Robert started managing iStill’s Instagram account, we have reached over 1,000 followers. Robert works at iStill’s Finance Department. Accounting is his profession. Photography is his hobby and it shows! Do you want to follow us on Instagram? Here’s the link: @istill.ig/com
And some of his Instagram pictures …
Kifli, iStill’s watchdog, is not happy. He hurt his leg. And as a result his head is quarantined. Doesn’t make sense to him. Doesn’t make him any more agreeable either …
Thanks, Jaap, for sharing …
The work on the copper iStills is progressing nicely. Here is another update. Here’s the boiler, insulated and all …
Leonardo spoke English!
An interview by the London Spirits Competition. For more reading also see:
From making sure their distributors know their story, to creating some great cocktails, here’s how Heidell Distillery honors the Finnish land.
The Heidell Distillery Company, owned by retired Navy Officer Timo Heidell (owner and Master Distiller) and his daughter Erika (owner), began its journey of award-winning spirits in 2019. The brand was built on Timo’s lifelong dream of creating spirits that honor his family’s culture and lifestyle, and his love for the Finnish land and sea.
The London Spirits Competition 2021 awarded the Heidell Gin with a silver medal. The gin, being the brand’s flagship, opens with a nose of coriander seeds and spearmint. Taste follows through with these flavor profiles and closes on a long finish with hints of black pepper.
We spoke to Erika Heidell, who shared with us the Heidell journey, gave us a glimpse of what is yet to come, and shared insights on how they work with restaurants, bars, and distributors.
Every aspect of the Heidell Distillery Company reflects Finland in one way or another. “Our product labels are inspired by the flag of Finland and the Finnish yacht club ensign,” says Erika. “Thus, the maritime atmosphere of the Finnish archipelago conveys strongly through our products.”
The town of Naantali, also known as the sunniest city in Finland, has influenced the Hiedell brand immensely through its beautiful views and history as being one of the oldest towns in the Finnish archipelago.
According to you, what makes a great spirit?
Our initial answer is quite simple: pure water. All spirits are a mix of alcohol and water, water being the main ingredient in quantity, so the taste of any spirit is highly dependent on the quality of water. Luckily for us, water in Finland is among the cleanest and highest quality in the world. Then comes the delicately formulated recipes and carefully selected ingredients and botanicals. Preferring and favoring local and domestic producers is important. Furthermore, the latest distillation technology and processes guarantee the high quality of handcrafted small-batch spirits. A great spirit is made with passion and dedication and has a balanced but distinctive and soulful taste.
What would be your typical day at work?
Our typical workday at the distillery consists of distilling, bottling, sales, deliveries, product development, and emails. We love our work because every day is different, there is no day that is the same.
How often are you firing up the stills and how long does a batch take?
We fire up our hyper-modern still, iStill Hybrid 500, once a week, and distilling a batch takes approximately 10 hours.
Erika with Heidell Gin
What excites you the most about your brand?
The most exciting part of our brand is our love for creativity, craftsmanship, and, most importantly, good taste. Our brand essentially reflects us – the people behind Heidell Distillery Company. Hence, we want our products to portray our values and ideology and, when it comes to our brand, we believe in quality, integrity, and transparency.
It is a privilege to handcraft premium quality spirits that not only tell our story but also honor our culture and homeland. We consider our products to be a nocturne for the Finnish Archipelago Sea and its maritime atmosphere. Every sip is a voyage of enjoyment.
Tell us a bit about Heidell Gin. What makes it your flagship spirit?
Heidell Gin is our flagship spirit for two reasons. Firstly, figuratively speaking, Heidell Gin is Heidell Distillery Company in a bottle. It is a true handcrafted gin combining traditional taste with the aroma of sea breeze. Secondly, Heidell Gin was the first product that we launched in January 2021 and is our best-seller, opening the spirits market and industry for our distillery. Heidell Navy Strength Gin, on the other hand, is the big brother of Heidell Gin, a true handcrafted gin combining traditional taste with the aroma of a stormy sea.
Erika and Timo Heidell
Are you working on something new right now?
We are always working on something new because we strongly believe that innovation is one of the most important factors of success. At the moment, we are working on a new product (or two) but what type of spirit, that is a secret for now.
What are some of the things you do to make sure your distributor has everything they need?
Ah, yes, this is important. For us, close cooperation and open communication matter a lot. They are the main aspects we focus on to ensure that our distributors have everything they need. We do our best to fulfill the needs of our distributors, and continuously strive to be a flexible and reliable partner.
How do you work with restaurants, bars, and retailers to increase sales?
We work closely together with many restaurants and bars in Finland which sell our products. We value and care about our customers and always give our best efforts to help them to thrive and, as a result, increase sales. This means, for example, planning and designing together cocktails, menus and experiences as well as providing complementary products and leaflets. Social media also plays a significant part in supporting restaurants, bars, and retailers; we continuously promote our customers (restaurants/bars we work with) on our social media accounts.
What do you expect from restaurants and bars when it comes to increasing sales?
We sell handcrafted small-batch spirits of premium quality and, therefore, we believe that making and serving high-quality cocktails is the right way to do justice for our products. Cocktails are a craft that consumers appreciate and are willing to pay for; the sales will certainly increase when restaurants and bars invest in their cocktail craftsmanship.
How much of a role does social media play in your marketing?
The role of social media in the marketing of our distillery is of utmost importance. It is a great channel for us to tell our story, build our brand further, and spread awareness of our distillery and products. However, we believe in quality over quantity in social media – every post and picture must be well-thought-out and meaningful. Our social media following has and will continue to grow naturally because of the quality and realness of our content. Hence, transparency is very important for us; customers and consumers of our spirits are entitled to know the faces behind our company and the production methods of our products. You can find us on Facebook (Heidell Distillery Company) and Instagram (@heidelldistillery).
What advice would you give to fellow distillers looking to get their spirits into bars/restaurants?
For us, contacting restaurants and bars directly and building a relationship with the owners and personnel have worked the best. There are amazing professionals and individuals behind each restaurant and bar – the same way as with distilleries – that value the personal touch more than you can imagine.
What are some of the spirits you have on your personal shelf?
Of course, all Heidell Distillery Company spirits can be found from our master distiller Timo’s shelf, with the Heidell Barrel Aged Gin right at the front. But, in addition to our own products, there are also many excellent gins from other Finnish distilleries.
Have you incorporated any new technology in distillation recently?
We consider Heidell Distillery Company to be a modern distillery because we use the latest distillation technology and processes to ensure the highest possible quality of our products. Our hyper-modern still, iStill Hybrid 500, guarantees precision, consistency, and replicability in creating the best quality craft spirits. We have been very pleased with our still, it has been working like a dream.
What are some upcoming drinks trends, according to you?
Gin, whiskey, and tequila have been booming the last few years, which is great, but we would like to see more buzz about vodka due to its versatility and mixability. Also, we believe that the appreciation of craftsmanship and quality over price will increase in the future.
Lastly, what are you drinking right now?
Right now, we are (unfortunately) drinking coffee but, after work, a sauna and a Heidell Gin & Tonic is the perfect plan.