Bone Spirits: A Distillation Short Course

Distilling spirits is equal parts science and art. Joe Alecci, distiller at Bone Spirits, provides a short course in farm to bottle distilling.
Mashing 101
The first step in making any kind of alcohol is to identify a sugar source. Some foods, such as fruit used for wine and sugar cane used to produce rum, have readily available sugar. Grains, on the other hand, have to be cracked and cooked in water at regulated temperatures to break down the starch in the kernel into a form that can be converted to sugar by an enzyme. Once the grain is cooked and the sugar converting enzyme is added, the grain and water mixture is known as “mash.”
Fermentation 102
Yeast is added to the sugar-rich mash.  Sugar feeds the yeast. While it’s feasting on sugar, yeast produces waste in the form of alcohol. At this stage, the fermented liquid is known as “beer.”
Distillation 103
Distillation is the process of purifying liquids, including alcohol, by a process of heating and cooling.  Bone Spirits begins their distilling process by pumping the beer (grain and all) into a 1,200-gallon pot still and heating it.
Because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water (173° F vs. 212° F), distillers can evaporate the alcohol (mostly) by itself, collect the vapors into a tube and use cold temperatures to force the alcohol to condense back into liquid. Furthermore, different types of alcohol have different boiling points.  This fact allows Bone Spirits to strip out undesirable alcohol from the “choice cuts,” which are then collected for making their products.
After the first distillation, the spent grains left behind in the pot still are pumped out and given to local ranchers to use as cattle feed. The collected alcohol from the first distillation is further refined through two additional pot still runs. The resulting liquid is 160 proof, which means it is 80 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), and by definition “whiskey.”
To increase the ABV to a level that produces alcohol that is at least 190 proof and is the basis of vodka and gin, the alcohol is distilled again. At Bone Spirits these refinements are done in fractionating column stills. The columns are packed with rings made of different metals that allow alcohol vapors to cool,  condense and drip down, only to rise again and be further refined until they reach the desired 192 proof.


Bee’s Knees

2 oz. Moody June Gin
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey simple syrup 1:1
lemon twist garnish

Add all ingredients except the garnish to your shaker. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.