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What is a pot still?

A pot still is a type of distillation apparatus used to separate and purify liquid mixtures, typically alcoholic beverages like whiskey, brandy, and rum.

The process of distillation involves heating a liquid mixture to a temperature where the more volatile components vaporize, then cooling and condensing the vapor back into a liquid form. The resulting liquid is more concentrated and typically has a higher alcohol content than the original mixture.

In a pot still, the liquid mixture is heated in a large pot or kettle, typically made of copper. As the mixture heats up, the more volatile components, including alcohol, water, and various flavor and aroma compounds, vaporize and rise to the top of the pot.

The vapor then passes through a narrow neck or column, called a swan neck, where it condenses and collects as a liquid. The swan neck may be angled or curved to help direct the vapor towards a condenser, which cools the vapor and condenses it back into a liquid form.

The resulting liquid, known as distillate or “low wines,” is typically distilled multiple times to increase its alcohol content and purity, and to further concentrate the desired flavors and aromas.

Pot stills are known for producing spirits with a distinct and complex flavor profile, due to the fact that they retain more of the original character of the fermented mixture, compared to other types of stills.