Crafting Distilled Spirits at Home

| 12/11/2018 2:07:00 PM

Photo by Getty Images/ManuelVelasco

In recent years, I’ve started to take an interest in good liquor and what goes into making one’s own distilled spirits. This interest either coincided with or was brought about by – I can’t remember which now – when I started working for some side cash in a tiny “speakeasy” in my hometown. The world of craft cocktails was opened up to me, which got me even more interested in the distilled spirits that make such delicious cocktails. Plus, my favorite show is MASH, and I always got such a kick out of Hawkeye distilling gin in his tent.

Just like cooking or baking, there is a fascinating science – and history – behind crafting good quality distilled spirits, and I wanted to read all about it. The book that took me down this rabbit hole was Craft Distilling by Victoria Redhed Miller. She starts off by delving into the history of home hooch making, as well as the when, how, and why it was outlawed, which the history buff in me really enjoyed. And Miller has a firm grasp on the intricacies of distilling spirits and liquor laws, which can get a bit cloudy, but she cleared it up easily.


Miller is true a hands-on person, and she thoroughly explains the ins-and-outs of how to make hooch at home. Reading what she had to say on the distilling spirits process was such fun. To echo her sentiments early on in the book, the whole process of making and distilling spirits seemed mysterious to me for so long, but she lays it out plainly and easily, i.e. distillation isn’t the making of the alcohol, that happens in the fermentation process. Distillation, when it comes to making alcohol, is the heating of the liquid and essentially concentrating it down by removing much of the water and other non-alcoholic “stuff.” This is where you also fine tune the flavors of your spirits.

 A person can even make their own copper still, and Miller shows you how in a chapter on making your own column still. I always err on the side of safety, and to avoid becoming one of those headlines about an exploded alcohol still that was poorly designed and made, I would advise to always abide by safety first and follow instructions thoroughly. And it goes without saying that generally speaking, be sure you are well versed on laws and regulations. It isn’t wise to go making booze willy-nilly.

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