What is a Conical Column Whiskey Still and Why is it a Premium Design?

What is a Conical Column Whiskey Still and Why is it a Premium Design?

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One of the most unique and efficient copper still designs is the “Kentucky” premium design - an 8 gallon moonshine still with a conical column that increases the “reflux” that occurs during your distillation. More reflux means a more finely distilled product, and that is great for certain types of high-quality alcohols, like the alcohol used for fuel. With a Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit you can distill alcohol at home - it won’t be safe for people to consume, but it will be amazing alcohol fuel for your equipment.

Many owners of equipment and machinery that run on ethanol-based fuels are finding the benefits of distilling their own ethanol at home. For anyone looking to distill alcohol at home for years to come, a premium conical column design, like the Kentucky, may be ideal. Especially, the best alcohol stills are copper, so they produce only the best ethanol. Of course, conical column stills make the finest essential oils, spirits, and water as well. Don’t doubt their versatility.

Why is reflux important in distilling?

During distilling “reflux” is when alcohol vapor condenses and is re-vaporized several times before being condensed into alcohol and staying that way. The additional steps create a distillate that is purer and more refined, without you having to put it through multiple distillations - it distills itself multiple times, making the work easier for you

Reflux occurs more in stills that have a conical, or “gooseneck” shape, at the top of their column. Although all still designs allow for some reflux, the farther away from the heat the vapor has to travel (up a conical column), the more likely it will cool enough to drip back into the boiler and need to be turned into vapor again. By the time you have collected all the distillate, you can rest assured that it has been refined multiple times through this reflux process.

Fewer Cuts With a Conical Whiskey Still

It is important, if you are distilling alcohol that people will drink, that you make the right cuts in your alcohol run. If you allow too much methanol into your moonshine or whiskey, it could make people sick. Methanol is poisonous to people. Typically, you will make three cuts during a whiskey or moonshine run, and you will with a conical still also, but you will collect dramatically more hearts and less feints.

If you are distilling alcohol for fuel, it is still important that you cut your run well, but you will probably only need to make 1 cut - after the foreshots. Depending on the machinery that your alcohol will be fueling, it may need ethanol of a certain purity, or certain types of alcohols (such as methanol) may be damaging to the engine. Always be knowledgeable about the specifics of your equipment when you distill alcohol at home to use as fuel in that equipment. After several runs and testing the quality of the alcohol from your conical column still, you may find that you don’t need to separate feints at all. If you do, they will be substantially less than with other moonshine still designs.

Industrial conical column whiskey stills are larger than life
(Photo by Richard Szwejkowski)

Easier Distilling, Purer Product

The bottom line is: a conical column whiskey still will give you a cleaner, purer distillate with less effort on your part, no matter what you’re distilling. This premium moonshine still design can be one of the best for certain types of essential oils, and it produces superior quality distilled water that can be used in situations that require the utmost sterility - like medical facilities and chemistry laboratories. But where it really shines is in producing the purest, most refined ethanol for your alcohol fuel or consumable spirits. When you need the most refined alcohol and a whiskey still that will last, choose a premium design like the Kentucky 8 gallon copper whiskey still.   


Article by: Jim Thomas