Uneven flavour profile across cuts if no strip run

Hi,

I'm still a relative beginner to distilling with the bubble cap technology. On a couple of early rum runs, I attempted to distil in one spirit run, straight from the wash (no strip run) using 4 bubble cap tees. I found that there was almost no flavour in the hearts, where as the heads had plenty. I don't like using much heads so I've generally been a little unhappy. I figured (incorrectly) that the lack of flavour was being caused by the 4 bubble caps stripping too much out. I've even made a lemon vodka and distilled this in one run using 4 bubble caps. The 50L of wash contained flesh from about 80 lemons and I used about 20 lemon skins too, but the flavour didn't carry through much into the hearts. I've seen a number of postings on other forums with members talking about a similar issue. I just couldn't even get close to the quality I could produce with a pot still. It didn't make sense.

Due to some unrelated issues where I was burning my rum wash with the exposed elements (due to burning the unfermentable sugars), I decided to start doing lowish power strip washes first. Believing that lack of flavour in my original runs was caused by the use of 4 bubble caps, i decided to use 2 for my spirit run. Don't get me wrong, the result was good - but still not quite as good as my pot stilling.

Yesterday, I decided to give 4 bubble caps a go during my latest rum spirit run. I also used more reflux on the RC (about 25°C different between hot water temp and the head of the still). I'm really impressed by the results and the only real difference was doing a strip wash first. The hearts now have plenty of flavour. I'd make a bet that if I had stripped the lemon vodka first, I would have ended up with a much better result i.e. with flavour distributed all through the various cuts.

Any idea what causes this strange anomaly please? Logic would say there should be less flavour as I'm doing an additional run (the strip run). Seems to me that I always need to do strip runs as part of my distilling process?

Comments

  • edited May 6

    An end-to-end stripping run is going to pull all the volatiles over, meaning there should be near zero flavor impact if distilled again. Similar to the idea that if you combine your heads, hearts, tails, and stillage back together, and redistill, you'l have the same output as the first distillation (this is an oversimplification, you wouldn't due to thermal degredation, etc).

    How you run those 4 plates is absolutely going to have a major impact on the "flavor" of the output distillate.

    For people looking for a pot-still-like output from a plated column, they'll generally run their distillation in three stages.

    1. High reflux at startup, stack the column, let it equalize, slowly take off heads.
    2. Reduce to near zero reflux, run similar to a pot still through hearts.
    3. As you start approaching early tails, progressively increase to a high reflux rate to push back tails and extend hearts.

    In this model, you "compress" heads and tails to give you the improved yield typical of a plated column, but you still yield a full flavored distillate. You are basically running the still as if it were both a pot still and a plated column.

    You might also find in this model, to get a distillate more similar to a dirtier pot still output, you might take some late heads and early tails.

    Depending on what your idea of a full flavored rum is, you might have to dip even further into heads and tails.

    When we run destined to be 'white', we distill as a two part strip and spirit run, but we use the 1.5x approach, made popular here I think, where we reserve about 25-33% of the molasses wash to be introduced with the stripped distillate on the final distillation. This gives you the volume you are looking for in a spirit run, but with a much more full flavored molasses profile.

    On the citrus distillation - I'm not surprised that citrus flavors don't make it through a 4 plate column in reflux. The boiling point of limonene, just an example, is around 350f. It's also sensitive to thermal decomposition, as are many of the terpenes in citrus. Gins with citrus in the maceration are almost always pot-stilled - because some of the citrus terpenes will come over in the vapor stream. Vapor distilled citrus (in a gin basket or in the vapor stream) - is far more effective to get a citrus distillate. What might get easily carried over in a pot still run, likely isn't going to make it through 4 plates as easily.

    If I were attempting a citrus vodka, I'd distill the citrus flavoring separately (vapor distilled through a high amount of citrus), and then add it to the vodka directly to yield exactly the flavor profile that's desired. I wouldn't bother trying to make it in one pass.

  • @grim - thanks for your reply. I've learnt a lot from this :-)

  • edited May 7

    You did something i've never achieved, i couldn't get the flavour out of a rum wash running it through a VM column at 96%.

    Also used to do a lemon vodka potstilled.

    Punkins Lime Vodka @ AD

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • Ran dark rum this weekend, 2000l all molasses wash.

    177.1 proof distillate, 4 plates, one pass.

    Punch you in the face flavor.

  • edited May 6

    @punkin - Ha!! I wish I didn't find it so easy to remove the flavour. I will follow grim's recommendations next time. Also many thanks for the vodka recipe :-)

    @grim - Re: your full-flavoured 2000L all molasses wash - did you dial in much reflux with the RC, or were the hearts taken off in "pot Still" mode with the RC switched off?

  • edited May 6

    High reflux in heads - off at 190 proof - dialed it back very slightly for hearts - we target a combined 180 proof for dark rum distillate.

    This was a mix of 50/50 high test molasses and bakers quality blackstrap.

  • Just on a lark, we bought a 5-gallon bucket of Golden Barrel blackstrap molasses for rum experimentation. I've done my share of rum in the past, robustly flavored, and delicious, at least to my tastes, but now that I'm a legal Washington State craft distiller, every product I do has to be made from 51% or better certified grown in Washington, and this ain't sugar cane country.

    It is, however, wine country. That and the fact that you don't need 49% good blackstrap to get strong rum flavor may hold a solution for me. I've got maybe 80 cases of Washington wine with unfiltered yeast in it, and I figure I can do a molasses/wine process that'll give me the rum I want while staying legal with my craft license.

    In the past I've done sipping rums, kinda like Zaya, a white 151 that tastes like some dark rum syrup, even though there's no sugar in it, and a pretty nice spiced rum from a recipe off the old Yahoo Distillers list.

    Of course it'll be all potstilled, but I'm counting on some variation of my multiple potstilling process giving me what I want. I'll let you know in a month or so.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • ?Oh yeah, and I've done a dunder-flavored black rum that I'd like to do again.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • edited May 8

    The Golden Barrel we've been getting out of Pennsylvania is very good, we trialed it next to the International Molasses Black Pearl and I think I like the GB flavor profile more in dark rums. The straight bakers supreme was a little bit light in flavor for dark rums, but 50/50 supreme/blackstrap is giving us great dark rum flavor at about 30% less cost. Not to mention that IM is no longer in NJ, and their loading dock is no longer 10 miles away, so the cost savings even more.

    The GB supreme analysis reads pretty solid, not as clean as IM Select, but in the grand scheme of things a pretty good spec sheet. Sub 5% ash, 63-74% sugars - it would fall somewhere between IM Select and Caribbean, probably leaning towards select. The bakers blackstrap specs a bit under the IM Dark.

    On the white rum side, we've been liking unrefined cane/Demerara and the Supreme - the blend would move the spec well above the IM select in terms of ash%, sugars, etc. It's a very light combo. Not a cheap combo either. The white rum is some of the most expensive stuff we make. Lowest margin too.

    I think there is a lot of value in blending a molasses profile for rums, using lighter/fancy, blackstrap, and even straight cane. Start building your rum profile flavor in the molasses/fermentables selection. Keep in mind, every year that goes by, the quality of true blackstrap goes down, and down, and down as sugar technology and extraction improves. I suspect pretty much all the food quality blackstrap available now is blended to improve quality.

  • @grim thanks for all that info. All of my previous efforts were using Land O' Lakes cow molasses, and I had to augment the sugar content with store sucrose. Lots of ash, if I recall, but no urea or propionic acid, and very good for strongly flavored rums.

    The last Land O' Lakes I bought was maybe 8 years ago, and I think was $23-something for a nominal 50-pound bucket, so the food-grade Golden Barrel at $36-something was not bad at all. I'm looking forward do developing some product with GB, bt I don't think I'll do molasses blend rums 'til I find out how the wine hybrid works.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • edited May 8

    We pay about .58 a pound for the supreme and about .42 for the blackstrap. That’s in drum qty.

  • The GB was about $.63 per pound (that's a 57-pound bucket). I haven't seem the number yet, but shipping will be a bitch.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • $0.07/lb for our feed grade that has been thinned to 43% TSAI (once you settle the crap out it is pretty nice stuff...)

  • Our rum would be much more profitable at those prices.

  • don't let the tanker car catch your tote of cheap molasses (guy driving the train did nook actually look when he backed up the rail cars..)

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