Thomas Earl’s Distilling 101

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Educating people about distillation – the process, science and tradition of distilling – is a big part of our game plan at Finger Lakes Distilling. This is the first in a series of blog posts where we’ll try to enlighten our readers (and hopefully future customers) about the products we are going to be crafting. These informative posts will be provided by our Master Distiller, Thomas. So whenever you see his smiling face, class is in session…


We have had a lot of people say, “wow, we’re excited about the new distillery. When will we be able to taste some of the wine you will be making?” We have to explain the difference between a winery and a distillery. A winery crushes and presses grapes and ferments them into a wine. We too will make a wine in the case of our vodkas and brandies. However, we will take it a step further.

The definition of distillation- to take a liquid and heat it to the point of evaporation and condense the vapor back into a liquid. Here at Finger Lakes Distilling we will make a wine from locally grown grapes, then put it into our column still. By heating the wine with a steam jacket surrounding the pot, it will begin to vaporize. Because alcohol has a lower boiling point (172 degrees) than water (212 degrees) the vapors at the beginning of the run will have a higher concentration of alcohol. That is how we can take a liquid like wine with around 12% alcohol up to spirit strength.

We’ll implement a similar process with other fruit mashes and in the case of whiskey, with grain-based mashes. But we’ll save that for next time.

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