Making a grape vodka from white wine


This is the third time I have used our StillDragon Dash 1, and I have some questions.

I had 120 bottles of cheap white wine so we decided to put them through the dash 1 4 plated still. On each first run I allowed reflux for 30 minutes and I threw out the first 200ml that came out (the foreshots) which were POTENT and HARSH smelling. I was very unhappy - apart from a small heart, the distillate smelled bad, of chemicals, wet cardboard/baby sick and it was very rough. So, I decided to dilute the distillate from the first runs and distill them again.

On this second run, I took all the heads, hearts and tails (foreshots were thrown out on previous runs) and I re-distilled them again though the dash 1 4 plated column. I allowed reflux for 40 minutes (where it just bubbles away with nothing coming out, re-cycling liquid down) and never allowed the condenser temp to go over 82 degrees celcius. The result was wonderful - mostly neutral with mild fruit and the bad smell was gone. My questions are:

  1. The first 200ml that came out was sweet, soft and lovely but I still threw it out. Is this advisable even if foreshots were discarded on a previous run?
  2. Earlier that day I did a run with water to get rid of the bad smell from my still (from the wine). Could this have diluted the first bit of the run or interrupted the fores getting to the top of the still?
  3. After the first 200ml, the smell and taste of the distillate was still lovely. Was it OK to collect it immediately after the initial 200ml? This is usually very very harsh on first runs.
  4. The alcohol volume of the run did fluctuate. When I noticed the condenser temp going above 82 degrees Celsius, I adjusted the dephlegmator to lower it and noticed the alcohol volume actually go up mid run from 60% to 70%. Is this OK?
  5. There is a mineral and slightly salty taste to the distillate which is otherwise mostly neutral with fruity undertones. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can retain the fruitiness but take out the saltiness? I see some people suggest putting the vodka in oak for a bit and then running it through a carbon filter. Is this the way to go?

Thanks for any advice. I am new to using the StillDragon and just want to be sure I've done everything correctly. Sorry if these questions sound silly, but I can't seem to find answers anywhere.



  • Hi @hilbillydistiller,
    Your method is very familiar. A stripping run and then a spirit run.
    It's a great way to have a very big hearts cut.
    But collect everything, including the fores, during the stripping run. It's very possible that you tossed not just fores and heads with that 200ml times 3? but also the tasty transition of the late heads and early hearts.
    On the spirit run, collect in very small fractions, no more than 50ml jars, and move into the bigger jars once you are solidly into hearts.

    I've never had a spirit come over with a salty taste but if you're after flavor then very careful blending of those fractions is the true art to this craft.
    Carbon filtering is used to remove flavors so you wouldn't want to use it unless you were wanting to polish your vodka.

    On the stripping run it does not matter how fast you collect it or if the column is kept stable but on the spirit run you'll want to keep that vapor temp stable so keep a close eye on the reflux condenser's exit water temp. Try to keep that stable.

    I adjusted the dephlegmator to lower it and noticed the alcohol volume actually go up mid run from 60% to 70%. Is this OK?

    That is also normal. By increasing the cooling water flow you increased the reflux ratio and that raises your ABV while also lowering your takeoff speed.

    Sounds to me that you are asking all the right questions and doing a good job. You now know 99% of everything you need to know to distill. The other 1% will take the rest of your life.

  • Should be getting way higher than 60-70% on a spirit run though.

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

  • edited January 2014

    For a stripping run, I don't use any plates or dephlegm whatsoever.

    I toss out the first 100-150mls for wine in general (for a 45L charge). The ABV starts at approx. 60% and drops from there. My stripping run is run quickly, and is usually over in a few hours.

    All of this product after the fores are kept, and mixed with the subsequent stripping runs.

    You are on the right track with adjusting your dephlegm to gain back the ABV. This is where you can hold back the tails to squeeze a bit more flavoursome product.

    Don't forget to air your product for a few days.

  • One of our members on here @stano uses 10yo red wine, he takes it straight from the bulk barrel into the keg basicly, bit of sediment and all. He strips via reconfigured dash set up as a pot still, no plates, no deflag, just a column-bend-shotgun. Strips straight into another keg then leaves it with bicarb soda to sit for up to 4 weeks.

    2nd run in 4 plates plus packed section for neutral, turns out OK with very little taste. 95 % .He aims for neutral and then uses essence.


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