The art of how to distill gin is not a terribly new one. Distilling alcohol was first recorded back in the early days of human civilisation when people realised that you can take grains (and other plants) and turn them into something much more powerful--namely ethanol, or pure alcohol. What's amazing about this discovery is how it sparked an entirely new industry. Today as a proud part of it, we'd love to share our passion for gin and provide some insight on how to distill gin.
About Distilling Gin
Distilling alcohol will transform a simple glass of wine into something more potent and robust. In the modern day world, this process has been perfected so that we can take any number of common products from nature and through the wonders of science change them into something far more valuable.
In fact, gin is nothing more than flavoured vodka, or as some like to call it: "flavoured neutral". It's simply ethanol (pure distilled alcohol) with a bunch of tasty ingredients added in at the end; tastier ingredients = better tasting gins.
It sounds easy enough but there are actually quite a few steps involved in making standard liquor such as gin. You can think of all those steps like little checkpoints along the road to some seriously fantastic hooch.
Step 1: Growing The Grains
The first step of the process is actually growing grains or some other base ingredient that you can ferment into alcohol, just like wine making. Grains are mashed down into a simple "mash" which will be used for fermentation later on. If you're not using grains (for example, potatoes), this mash can be called anything but it must contain starches and sugars. There is usually about 20% fermentable material in most mashes, mostly contained within the starch; strictly speaking any organic substance containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen is technically fermentable though.
Step 2: Add A Neutral Base Spirit
The next step (and really all subsequent steps) depend on what kind of liquor you're trying to make. Vodka, for example, is very different from gin which is also very different from whisky (bourbon, scotch etc.). It's at this point where the distiller makes these decisions because they control how the final product turns out in terms of taste and alcohol level. For gin specifically you want to use a neutral base spirit which means that it has little or no flavour coming through in your final product. You can take existing vodka and add juniper berries to kick-start the flavour but you really don't want much else interfering with your fine flavouring process!
Step 3: It Boils Down To The Flavours...
To get down to business then, when making any distilled beverage you have to boil off water using heat until all that remains are certain components that have a low boiling point. In the case of gin it's those tasty, tasty flavours from your flavouring agents.
Step 4: Enhance The Flavours Further
In order to make those flavour components more potent and easier to filter out you mix in a bunch of chemicals. Boil off that mixture and what's left is fantastic-tasting alcohol with a high concentration of your final ingredient (juniper berries, for example). Mix that alcohol into cool water and you'll have some seriously strong hooch!
Of course, the fine tuning process doesn't end there since then comes filtration and dilution with water. The whole distilling process can take anywhere between 8 hours to two weeks depending on the time required for each step as well as equipment used; larger stills usually mean more time required.