Infusion / Maceration vs Distilling

I don't yet have a still so please bear with me.

Could someone explain the differences between flavouring a neutral spirit using different techniques?

I keep seeing different definitions for different processes (cold compounding being the main culprit) and am getting confused. Maceration is letting a fruit (or what ever you are using to flavour the alcohol) sit in the spirit and infuse?

Is there a different name if it is done hot or cold? What are the pro's and cons of distilling vs maceration?

Sorry if this has been asked before, I did try searching but didn't find what I was looking for.

Thank you :)

Comments

  • edited January 4

    Different botanical compounds release their optimal goodness differently. A lower ABV of alcohol vapor can allow for a softer release than a higher ABV that may draw out more acrid flavors for example. Similarly, extracting the goodness by maceration pulls flavor at a different rate.

    You can get some pointers by the folks here for sure. But ultimately you'll need to experiment enough to develop your own point of view.

    Have you down loaded this (PDF) yet?

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited January 4

    Check The Big Gin Thread too.

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

  • Thank you. Is there any particular differences between maceration vs distilling? Amounts of botanicals used? Is there any good guides on where to start with maceration? I'll have a read of the pdf and gin thread :)

  • edited January 5

    The major difference between maceration and distilling is that when you distill, you are primarily extracting the volatile components, that is, the components that are light enough to boil over before and during the distillation process.

    When you macerate, you are extracting all the soluble components, volatile or not. A good example of this are the compounds that are responsible for color. Maybe it's obvious, but worth pointing out.

    Blackberry is a really funny one.

    When you try to extract blackberry through distillation - the end result isn't anything at all like blackberry. It's very vegetal, even off-putting.

    But in a maceration, it's undeniably blackberry.

    That's because the flavor components that we associate with blackberry aren't all volatile. The sugar, the acids and sour flavor, they play a big role in the blackberry flavor. Take them away, and the end result almost isn't even recognizable. Add some sugar and fruit acids to the blackberry distillate - and they begin to taste like blackberry again (although not quite, because there are far more non-volatiles - or compounds with boiling points higher than you would see in normal distillation).

    Orange peel, very different - the end result with the two methods is actually very similar - due to the nature of what's being extracted. The terpenes that are responsible for the orange aroma and flavor - they are both volatile and soluble.

    The method you use is going to very much be based on what you are attempting to extract from. Some can work well either way, some work better one, or the other, or even totally different methods of extractions (solvents, steam distillation, etc). These are all very different techniques, not necessarily a better or worse kind of topic. In fact, there are times when you might use multiple techniques together - great example of this is creating floral absolutes, which require macerations, solvent extractions, distillations, even cooling/freezing to remove waxes.

    Heat can be good or bad as well. Delicate flavor and aroma compounds can be very easily damaged by heat - which is why you see vacuum distillation used in flavor work - to enable the extraction without the heat typically associated with distillation. This is the rationale behind the Carter head still - as the vapor is cooler than the liquid being boiled. That said, some times in macerations - you might want higher temperatures to be able to dissolve waxes or otherwise speed what would typically be very slow processes.

  • Great post.

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

  • I've always macerated and then distilled, and the gin used to be our best seller. Grim's right about brandy from blackberry wine being sorta vegetal, but if you de-seed the blackberries before fermentation, it makes a fairly nice brandy, but yup, tastes nothing like blackberries. What I love about distilling odd stuff, especially fruits, is that the only person who can taste the original fruit in the distillate, is the guy that picked, peeled, crushed, fermented, and distilled the stuff.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • edited January 9

    @zymurgybob said: What I love about distilling odd stuff, especially fruits, is that the only person who can taste the original fruit in the distillate, is the guy that picked, peeled, crushed, fermented, and distilled the stuff.

    I've always felt that the distiller evaluates the spirit/bottle from the inside out. Rather than how the retail consumer starts the evaluation from the outside in.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Great post @grim thats some tesla smarts right there , love it and we dont even make or drink gin .

  • @Smaug said: I've always felt that the distiller evaluates the spirit/bottle from the inside out. Rather than how the retail consumer starts the evaluation from the outside in.

    I think I can agree with that. I learn so much about what people think by watching their faces while they taste, and then by talking to them afterward. We're making stuff that tasters have told us they want, in spite if what (I considered to be) common sense told me we should make. One of our very best sellers is an extra-cask-strength (135-140 proof) Islay-style single-malt that's so peaty you could dig ditches in it, and people tell us they like it because it's so smooth.

    Go figure, I guess.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

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