Distillation is simply the heating of a liquid to the boiling point followed by condensing the vapours on a cold surface. To remove the hardness from water it can be boiled in a kettle and the steam which is produced condensed against a cold surface to give a pure water free of minerals and all other types of impurity. The calcium and magnesium salts which constitute the hardness remain behind in the kettle. Nature carries out her own distillation in the form of rain — the sun evaporates water from the surface of lakes and oceans leaving salt and impurities behind. Clouds form, condense, and a close approximation to distilled water falls to earth.
So distillation is not a mysterious subject, nor is it threatening. It is as commonplace as a rain-shower or a tea-kettle boiling and causing condensation on a nearby window. And as innocuous.
As you can imagine, the actual practice of distillation is a little more complicated than this and later chapters will provide an exact description of the equipment required and the procedures involved in making one particular type of high-purity spirits, i.e. gin and vodka.
There are actually two different types of still, the choice of which to use depending on the level of purity required in the product. Whisky uses one type, rather simple in design since only a modest level of purity is required. Gin and vodka production on the other hand requires a more sophisticated type of still because a very high level of purity is desired. A brief description of the two types will be provided in this chapter dealing with beverages because it is quite important for the reader to appreciate the differences.
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