Alcohol is a product which results from a process of fermentation in substances containing grape-sugar- called the vinous fermentation in distinction from the acetous or vinegar-forming process.
At a temperature of 80° F., the presence and growth of the fermenting body (a low vegetable organism called the yeast-plant) converts a solution of grape-sugar into alcohol and carbonic acid. Starchy substances yield alcohol, starch being convertible into grape-sugar. From these vinous or fermented liquors alcohol is obtained by repeated distillation. It is also made synthetically,1 by shaking olefiant gas (a gas composed of carbon and hydrogen, which is generally present in coal gas, oil gas, and other gaseous mixtures produced by the action of heat on organic substances) with strong sulphuric acid, diluting and distilling. Alcohol is a colorless, volatile liquid, of strong pungent odor and burning taste; it is inflammable, burning without smoke and with a blue flame, evaporates on exposure to the air, is vaporized by heat, and unites readily with water in all proportions.
1 By uniting elements into a compound.
There are three important alcohols or varieties of alcohol, viz.: (The two last are not official.)
1. Alcohol Ethylicum, Ethyl Hydrate, Grain Spirit. This is the alcohol of common language.
2. Alcohol Amylicum, Amyl Hydrate, Potato Spirit, called fusel oil, and obtained also as an impurity in the production of ethylic alcohol by continuing the distillation after the pure spirit has ceased to come away. Amylic alcohol is not inflammable.
3. Alcohol Methylicum, Methyl Hydrate, Wood Spirit. Wood spirit is inflammable, and is cheaper than alcohol.
Methyl alcohol is slowly fatal if administered in small doses for a long time, or rapidly fatal if taken in large doses at one time, and causes optic-nerve atrophy - "methyl alcohol blindness." Its commercial use in many essences, Jamaica ginger, soda water, ales, etc., and in the form of "Columbian spirit," witch hazel, bay rum, eau de cologne, peruna, etc., is exceedingly dangerous.