Distillation, the ancient method used to separate alcohol (ethanol) from other elements in a fermented solution (aka mash). Heat separates the components of the mash. The more volatile components, such as ethanol, become gas, rises up into a cooling column where it is cooled and able to return to a fluid state where it is then collected. This is known as the distillate.
The distiller later blends the distillate along with other alcohol or flavorings. In most all cases it is aged in oak barrels until the desirable flavors and aromas are produced. Brandy and clear, colorless grappa are two examples of spirits distilled from wine. Almost any liquor store will stock these items. You will even find Brandy and Grappa in almost any bar. Listed below are popular distillations from wine.
Armagnac is a light golden, dry-tasting French brandy. French law dictates that only white grapes belonging to the Haut-Armagnac, Tenareze, and Bas-Armagnac parts of Gascony, in southwest France, may be used in the production of Armagnac. Immediately after the grape harvest the white grape juice is fermented and distilled. This normally occurs between October and April. In contrast to cognac, its younger cousin, Armagnac has traditionally been made by distilling the fermented juice only once. Then again, change in French legislation has allowed double distillations. Armagnac is aged in oak barrels to perfect the flavour of the finished product.
To ascertain the number of years the Armagnac has been matured in oak you can look at the label. Three stars mean it’s been aged a minimum of two years. V.S.O.R on the label indicates it has been aged a minimum of five years. Napoleon and X.O. have been aged no less than six years and Hors d’Age a minimum of 10 years. A vintage year on the label denotes the year of the harvest. A vintage Armagnac is never blended.
First discovered in the middle of the thirteenth century in France as an attempt to develop a medicinal drink, brandy is now made worldwide wherever grapes are cultivated. Brandy is generally distilled twice. The clear, colorless liquid is given its distinctive nutty brownish color and flavor by aging in wood, often oak, barrels. The longer a brandy ages, the more refined its flavor.
Probably the best-known brandy across the world, cognac, originates from an area in Western France known as Charente and Charente-Maritime. To get labeled as “cognac,” French legislation specifies that the brandy can only be created from specific white grapes that are grown and distilled inside a strictly defined geographical region.
Cognac production is dictated by both tradition and law. To illustrate, all brandy is distilled at least two times. It must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years. During this time the Cognac develops a rich, brownish color. The end result is bottled at Eighty proof. The label, also governed by law, lets one ascertain the maturity of cognac much like we saw for Armagnac.
Three stars or VS. signifies the cognac has been matured in the barrel for a minimum of two years. V.S.O.R., Vieux, V.O. and Reserve indicate it has matured for a minimum of four years. V.V.S.O.P and Grande Reserve, a minimum of five years and Extra, Napoleon, X.O., Tres eux and Vieille Reserve are matured for six to ten years.
This is an Italian spirit distilled from the grape stems, skins, and seeds (pomace) after fermenting and pressing the grapes. The end product is a fragrant pomace brandy anywhere from 70-120 proof. In Italy Grappa is served as an after-dinner drink much like ports in France. For this beverage to be called “Grappa” it must be produced in Italy, Southern Switzerland (Italian portion of Switzerland) or in San Marino.
OOPA! This popular Greek spirit, metaxa is a blend of brandy and wine made out of sun-dried Savatiano, Black Corinth grape varieties (think currents) and Sultana ( Thompson Seedless grapes). It is then blended with aged Muscat wine from the Greek islands of Samos and Lemnos. Metaxa is aged in French oak barrels. The amount of time aging in barrel can be determined by the number of stars on the label. For instance, three stars would mean three years; five stars, five years; and so on. Grand Reserve signifies it has been aged for 30 years.
This very tangy, slightly yellowish brandy is the national drink of Chile. Pisco is the main ingredient in the refreshing drink Pisco Sour. Pisco is made out of black grapes with a high proportion of muscat grapes. Pisco is twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged in oak casks, glass or stainless steel containers.
To discover more about the how to make whiskey, mash recipes, etc. head on over to How To Make Whiskey HQ. Step-by-step instructions are available to develop your own mash recipe and distill into whiskey. Making whiskey is fascinating on many levels. It has a abundant history, uses everything from low tech to high tech equipment and can be as easy or complex as you like.