How To Moonshine

Fermenting &
Distilling Basics
Making Equipment
How to Make Moonshine Using Sugar How to Make Moonshine Using Grain Moonshine Recipes

How to Make a Neutral Spirit

A neutral spirit may also be referred to as a rectified spirit or rectified alcohol and has a number of uses to moonshiners and home distillers. The two main uses that you will likely encounter as you learn how to make moonshine are for blending with other spirits that have a flavour or for use with spirit essences.

Blending is often overlooked among moonshining circles but is actually quite a common occurance with commercially made spirits. There are a number of reasons that a commercial spirit maker may blend their spirit with a neutral spirit, the most obvious one being that it will make the spirit they have carefully manufactured go further and increase their profit margin with perhaps just a little effect on the finished product. Single malt whiskey springs to mind as a prime example of this as a pure single malt whiskey can be quite harsh and blending it back with neutral spirits will improve the flavour of the finished product. You will often see on labels words to the effect of blended whiskey or the like and it is a common practice. I can name a few brands that are blended whiskeys, next time you visit your local liquor outlet have a bit of a look and you might be surprised how many blended whiskeys there are.

Producing a neutral spirit is very important for use with spirit essences as the base spirit needs to be as flavourless as possible or the essence will be marred by overtones from the base spirit. For those not familiar with spirit essences they are an excellent way to produce a wide range of spirits without going through the steps required to make them. They are effectively a flavouring that is added to a neutral spirit to imitate the taste and appearance of whiskey, bourbon, vodka or whatever spirit that you choose. Its a little like adding orange cordial to water, it looks and tastes much like orange juice but its not really orange juice.

A neutral spirit can be made from virtually any fermentable material with neutral grain spirits made from malted barley, wheat and rye being favoured by commercial distillers. Sugar beets, potatoes and sugar cane are also commonly used. For home distillers I would recommend using a fermentable sugar such as white sugar, raw sugar or dextrose but this should be determined by whats cheap and readily available in your local area. Dextrose, in my opinion, makes a superior neutral spirit that is virtually flavourless while white sugar will tend to have a vanilla taste and smell.

Producing a neutral spirit is very easy regardless of your choice of fermentable sugar with the main difference between a neutral spirit and a flavoured one being the cuts made during the distillation process and the additional step of carbon filtration of the finished spirit to remove any remaining flavour. For a neutral grain spirit follow the malting, mashing and fermentation steps as outlined in Making Moonshine Using Grains. For a sugar based neutral spirit follow the instructions on Making Moonshine Using Sugars.

The best yeast to use for fermentation is a turbo yeast rather than a distillers yeast as it will ferment rather quickly and its high alcohol tolerance will allow you to make a stronger wash. I would suggest using 8kg (16 pounds) of sugar or dextrose in 25 litres (6.5 gallons) of water if you intend to make a sugar based wash as a turbo yeast will ferment this right up to around 20% ABV giving you a fairly high yield of neutral spirits, approximately 5 litres at 95% ABV or 12 litres at 40% ABV.

When you come to distilling the wash there are a number of approaches you might wish to take. My own preference is to triple distill the wash in a pot still, that is distill the wash a total of three times so that it is 95% ABV. This is the highest percentage of alcohol that you can achieve as it will absorb water from the atmosphere at higher levels than this. From there dilute the spirit with water back to below 50% ABV or to the strength you intend to consume it (typically 40% ABV) and run it through a carbon filter to remove any remaining flavour.

Other schools of thought suggest distilling your wash once which will result in a spirit that is about 65% ABV and then diluting it back to below 50% ABV and running it through a carbon filter to remove the remaining impurities. I dont favour this method as triple distilling will produce an almost flavourless spirit immediately whereas this approach leans more heavily on the carbon filter to remove the remaining flavours. You will get a cleaner spirit and longer life from your carbon filter using the triple distillation method.