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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Pot Still: A Short History

Wood Fired Pot Still at Callwood
   Distillation made its first appearance in the era around 800BC in Asia.   Distillation was used for turning sea water into fresh water as well as the distillation of fermented liquids to alcohol.    The process finally found it's way to Europe after it's growth in India and Egypt.  How the distilling process originally found it's way to Britain is still a mystery, but the Brits have mastered the art.

     The pot still was the still of choice for the ancient Celts to create a fiery spirit they called "uisge breatha", meaning "the water of life".   For the Celts, the power of the liquid  to revive tired bodies, drive the chills out, revive hope and to put an end falling spirits was truly a gift from the gods.

Currently Operated Pot Stills at DUSA
   The Scots really developed the art of distillation for making the whiskeys that is so intricately woven into their history.   Today the pot still is really a thing of the past, but is is still in use for producing the more viscous and flavorful spirits that make your favorite spirits so nice.

     In modern rum distillation, the majority of the distillation is accomplished in column stills, but the traditional pot still still plays a critical part today's rum production.   At the DUSA Plant in Venezuela, Tito Cordero takes the fermentation first to a column still for the initial distilling to produce the "low wine" then for the special rums it is placed in a pot still for the second distillation.   The pot stills are used to produce the heavy wines for the bolder and more viscous rums.

Retired Pot Still at Santa Teresa
    When you visit most any modern distillery you will see a variety of very sophisticated digitally controlled automated column stills. The venerable pot still a manually operated unit that is used to make the heavy wines for the blending of the finer rums.   Look around the grounds in the historic part of the distillery or just sitting out as a decorative piece in the garden you will find some of the more interesting old pot stills.

     The pot still is a vital part of the making of fine  rum, but the ancient pot still and the origins of distillation are a part of the spirits history that will probably be around for many more years.   ;o)

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