Distilling, or Distilla-tion, the art of separating or drawing off the spirituous, watery, oily, or saline particles of a mashed body from the grosser and more earthy parts, by the aid of fire; then col-lecting and condensing them by the application of cold.
This process is generally performed by means of heat raised to a greater or less degree, as circumstances may require. The fire is either applied immediately to the vessels in which the substances are to be distilled, or mediately, by means of water, sand, iron-filings, etc.
The method of distilling at present uniformly adopted, is that by ascent, or raising the spirit above the fire; which again is called either right or oblique. The former process is managed with a common alembic, in which the liquor is raised, and then descends or drops into a receiver. This is chiefly used when the nature and consistence of the mash is such, as to admit of a direct ascent; for instance, in vegetables.
Oblique distillation is performed laterally and in crooked vessels, termed retorts. It is employed in distilling those more solid bodies, the particles of which are too heavy to be raised to the top of a common still, or alembic 5 of this description are salts, and fossils in general.
With respect to the practical part of distilling or refining, we shall first observe, that the heat should in all cases be as gentle and uni-form as possible. Accidents may be effectually prevented by employing a worm of a proper width, and by rectifying spirits in a water-bath ; which, if sufficiently large, will perform the operation with all the dispatch requisite for the most extensive business. The vessel in which the rectification is effected, ought to be immersed in another filled with water up to the neck, and loaded with lead at the bottom, in order to keep it firm and steady. The process will thus be managed as expeditiously as if the vessel were placed over an open fire, and without the apprehension of being disappointed; nor will it be necessary at any time to raise the water in the bath to a boiling heat.
A patent was granted in July 1773, to Mr. Tho. Danporth, of Charlestown, in the Province of Massachusset's Bay, for his invention of a method of condensing the vapour arising in distillation : as the term of his privilege is now expired, we insert the following particulars. The whole improvement consists in making the worm-vessel, or that containing the water to cool the worm, or vessel which receives the steam or vapour to be condensed (whether the steam-vessel be a worm, strait tube, or of any other form), so that it may act in a manner similar to a syphon or crane; and, upon the same principles, by making it air-tight ; excepting a communication by a tube or part of the vessel itself, with the water that supplies it, and an aperture from a tube or part of the vessel, below the horizontal ; of the surface in the reservoir where it first enters ; in order that the water may escape in the same proportion of time and quantity, as it flows into the vessel from the. reservoir.
Another patent was obtained, in February 1797, by Mr. John Falconer Atlee, of Wandsworth, Surrey, distiller, for his invention of an improved method of condens-ing and cooling spirits in the process of distillation, by means of machinery, not hitherto used for that purpose; but as this complicated process docs not relate immediately to domestic economy, we refer the reader to the 7th vol. of the Repertory of Arts and Manu-factures.
In the distillation of compound spirits, such as clove, lemon, citron-water, and the like, the proin no respect varies from that adopted in distilling brandy, etc. ; much, however, depends on the practical attention paid to the fol-lowing general rules : l.The distiller of such liquors must be careful always to employ a pure, recti-fied spirit, or one freed from its own essential oil. For, as compound water consists of a spirit impregnated with the essential oil of the ingredients, it is requisite that this spirit should have deposited its own oily particles. 2. the time of previous digestion be proportioned to the tenacity of the ingredients, 'or the weight of their oil. 3. Let the strength of the fire be adequate to the weight of the oil intended to be raised with spirit. 4. Let only a due pro-portion of the finest particles of th essential oil be united with the spirit; as the grosser and less fragrant parts of such oil impart to it an unpleasant taste. This object may in a great measure be effect-ed, by leaving out the faints, and, instead of them, making up to proof with soft water.
If the above-stated rules were carefully attended to, this branch of distillation -might be rendered more perfect than it is at present. Nor would there be any occasion for using burnt alum, isinglass, whites of eggs, etc. to fine down cordial waters, which, by the process suggested, may be rendered clear, sweet, and of a pleasant flavour, without any farther trouble.
For the information of those who are unacquainted with this proc we shall here subjoin a few direc-tions for making a few of such compound waters or spirits as are in more general estimation.
1. Clove-water : Take 4 lbs. of bruised cloves, half a pound of pimento, or all-spice, and l6 gals, of proof spirit. Digest the mixture in a gentle heat, and then draw off fifteen gallons, with a somewhat brisk fire. The water may be coloured red, either by a strong tincture of cochineal, or of corn-poppy flowers; and sweetened at pleasure with double-refined sugar.
2. Lemon-water : Take of dried lemon-peel 4 lbs.; pure proof spirit, 101/2 gals. and one of water; draw off ten gallons by a gentle fire, and dulcity the compound with fine sugar;
3. Citron-water : Take of the dry yellow rinds of citrons, 3 lbs.; of orange peel, 2 lbs.; bruised nutmegs, three-fourths of a pound; clean proof spirit, 101/2 gals, and one of water. Digest them in a moderate heat; then draw off ten gallons, and add the requisite proportion of fine sugar.
4. Orange-water; Take of the yellow part of fresh orange-peel, 5lbs. ; clean proof spirit, 10 gal-lons and a half; water, 2 gallons ; and draw off ten, over a slow fire.
5. Ratifia, which see.
6. Usquebaugh, to which we refer.
By the 2 Geo. III. c. 5, and 14 Geo. III. c. 73, no distillers, or those who distil spirits for sale, are allowed to have any still, or number of stills, which, either singly or together, contain less than 100 gallons, under the penalty of 1001.; and the wash-still is to hold at least 400 gallons, exclusive of the head, under a similar penalty.
By the 8 and 9 William III. c. 19, and 24 George III. c. 40, all distillers are to enter their warehouses, stills, and vessels, etc. at the next office of excise, on pain of 20l.; and all such persons as occupy the same, if not entered, shall forfeit 50l., and the vessels are to be marked by the gauger.
Distillers, who use private pipes, etc. for the conveying of distilled liquor, incur a forfeiture of 1001. by the 10 and 11 Will. III. c. 4. They are also enjoined by the 12Geo. III. c.46, and 14Geo.III. c. 73, to make holes in the breast of the still, for taking gauges and samples ; and also to provide locks on the still-heads, the holes, discharge-cocks, and furnace doors, under a penalty of 501. and of 2001. in case such lock or fastening be broken, or wilfully damaged, after it has been secured by the proper officer.
Distillers are farther required, by the 24 Geo. II. c. 40 ; 12 Geo. III. c. 40, and the 14 Geo. III. c. 73, to give notice to the officer no. VI. - vol. 11. of excise, before they receive any wine, cyder, etc. or any kind of fermented wash, on pain of 501. ; and also before they charge or open the still, expressing and describing the marks and numbers of the wash-batches used: and they are prohibited from charging the still with any other, under the penalty of 1001.
For an account of the different duties and penalties imposed on British spirits, we refer to the article Spirits. - The curious reader will also find many ingenious and usefulhintsinMr.Cooper's"Com-plete System of Distillation."