This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Vinous Spirit: an inflammable fluid, obtained by distillation from wines or other fermented liquors. As first distilled, it partakes both of the phlegm or watery part, and of the oil, of the fermented liquor; which oil, in the liquors commonly used for this purpose, is nauseous and fetid.
1. Spiritus vinosus rectificatus Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Rectified spirit of wine: a vinous spirit purified as much as possible both from its phlegm and ill smell.
Spirits drawn from wine, such as French brandy, may be in great measure purified by simple distillation, in tall vessels, with a gentle heat, the pure spirituous part riling before the phlegm: if French brandy be thus distilled to one half, the distilled spirit proves tolerably pure. But wine or brandy being in this country too dear an article for distillation; and all vinous spirits, when perfectly purified, being one and the same thing; this purification is chiefly practised, among us, on the cheaper spirits of melasses and malt liquors. These spirits, when freed by distillation from greatest part of their phlegm, are (till found, particularly the latter, to abound with a very offensive oil. To separate this, they are mixed with equal their quantity of spring water, and the spirit gently drawn off again: a considerable portion of the oil is thus left behind in the water, which now proves turbid, and milky, and very nauseous both in smell and taste. By repeating this ablution with fresh quantities of water, the foulest and most offensive spirits may be purified from all ill flavour.
Syrupus spi-nae cervinae Ph Lond. & Ed.
Though spirits, by this treatment, may be diverted of their oil, they cannot be freed wholly from phlegm; the gentlest heat, in which they can be distilled, being sufficient to raise a little watery vapour. To complete the purification, therefore, a little fixt alkaline salt, thoroughly dried and powdered, is added; which, imbibing the phlegm, is thereby dissol-ved into a ponderous liquid, that does not mingle with the spirit, but settles at the bottom. If the spirit is very phlegmatic, four pints will require a pound of the alkali: if the distillation has been performed with due care, half this quantity, or less, will be sufficient: in either case, if all the salt dissolves, the spirit is so be digested with a little more, till at least a part remains undissolved. The spirit, now poured off, is to be again distilled, in order to separate from it a portion of the salt, which has united with it, and which, though extremely minute, is sufficient to vary, in fome respects, its qualities. As some particles of the alkali are apt to be carried up with it even in the distillation, so as to communicate an ill flavour, it is advisable to previously add a small portion of calcined vitriol or burnt alum, which will completely absorb the alkali, without giving any new impregnation to the spirit. In this manner was prepared the spirit used in the experiments of the present work under the name of rectified or pure spirit of wine.
Vinous spirits, thus rectified, have a very hot pungent taste, without any particular flavour. They readily take fire, and burn totally away, without leaving any mark of an aqueous mois-ture behind; though on catching the vapour that exhales from the flame, a considerable quantity of mere water is collected. On distill-ing them with the gentled heat, the last runnings prove as colourless, flavourless, and inflammable, as the first. They dissolve distilled vegetable and animal oils, and all the pure refins, into an uniform transparent fluid. They are the lighted of almost all known liquids: ex-pressed oils, which swim on water, fink freely in these to the bottom: a measure which holds ten ounces by weight of water, will contain little more than eight and a quarter of pure spirit.
1. Spiritus vinosus tenuior Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Proof spirit: the same spirit containing an admixture of an equal quantity [by measure] of water. "The best proof spirit is "that distilled from French wine; . but for "common uses, may be employed the spirit "drawn from the syrupy matter which separates "in the purification of sugar, commonly called "melafies †." - The spirits usually met with, under the name of proof, are those distilled from different fermented liquors, freed from their phlegm and their flavour only to a certain degree. Their purity, with regard to flavour, may be judged by the taste, especially if the spirit be first duly diluted: of their strength, or the proportion of phlegm contained in them, the least uncertain criterion seems to be their gravity, which is estimated most commodiously by the hydrometer. For the nicer purposes, a pure flavourless proof spirit may be obtained by mixing the foregoing rectified spirit with an equal measure of pure water.
* The last London pharmacopoeia has given three forms of vinous spirit. The purest is their alkohol, made by digesting rectified spirit of wine with hot fixed alkali, and then redis-tilling. Of this, the specific gavity to water is dated at 815 to 1000. Their rectified spirit has 95 parts of alkohol, and 5 of water, in 100 parts; and should have the specific gravity of 835 to 1000. Their proof spirit contains 55 parts of alkohol, to 45 of water, and weighs as 930 to 1000.
Rectified spirit coagulates all the fluids of animal bodies, that have been tried, except bile and urine. It hardens the solid or confident parts, and preserves them from corruption. Applied externally to living animals, it strength-ens the vessels, contracts the extremities of the nerves, and deprives them of sensibility: hence its power of restraining hemorrhagies, abating superficial superficial pains, etc. Received into the sto-mach, undiluted, it produces the like effects; thickening the fluid, and contracting all the solid parts which it touches, and destroying, at least for a time, their use and office: if the quantity taken is considerable, a palsy, or apoplexy, follows, and speedily proves mortal.
† Ph. Lond,
Alkohol Ph. Lond.
Proof spirits, and such as are diluted below the proof strength, have the same effects in a lower degree. Externally they are of use in corroborant, anodyne, and antiseptic fomentations. Taken inwardly, in small quantity, they strengthen lax fibres, incraffate thin fluids, and warm the habit: in larger quantity, they disorder the senses, destroy voluntary motion, and produce, like the rectified fpirit,_a mortal apoplexy or palsy. - Vinous spirits, therefore, in small quantity and properly diluted, may be applied to useful purposes in the relieving of some disorders; whilst in larger ones, or imprudently continued, they act as a poison of a particular kind. Their moderate use is the most serviceable to those, who are exposed to heat and moisture, to corrupted air, or other causes of colliquative and putrid diseases; the most pernicious in the opposite circumstances, and to those who are afflicted with hysterical or hypochondriacal complaints; for whatever temporary relief these spirituous cordials may afford in the lownesses to which hysterical and hypochondriacal persons are subject, we entirely agree with Dr. Pemberton, that there are none who seel so soon the ill effects arising from their habitual use.