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Absinthe A spirit, sometimes referred to as a liquor. Absinthe is green in color and originated in Switzerland. It’s made from Wormwood, sweet Fennel and other herbs. Its flavor is a bitter and tastes like licorice.

Activated Carbon A form of carbon that has been processed to make it extremely porous with a large surface area available for adsorption of fuisil oils from raw spirits.  This is used in the filtering stage of distillation, sometime referred to as “Polishing”. Activated Carbon is usually made from charcoal but sometimes other material such as coconut shells.

Alcohol By definition alcohol is a complex organic compound with long-ass systematic names. In the world of distilling there are two main types to note; Ethanol alcohol and Methanol alcohol.


Ethanol alcohol is known as Grain alcohol, and it’s the kind we drink. Methanol alcohol is known as Wood alcohol and is toxic.

Boiler This is the heart of a still where the cracking tower attaches. Boilers are commonly made from stainless steel pots, milk cans, and beer kegs.

Brandy Is a spirit made from distilling wine. Commonly taken as a drink after dinner, Brandies are a caramel color and sweet to taste. They are often aged in oak barrels.


Condenser A device attached to the cracking tower of a still to condense the evaporating vapor into a liquid. The condenser usually contains a copper tube which is a great heat exchanger. Using water is the most effective cooling method, but air can also be used under the proper conditions.

Corn Meal Used as an ingredient in mash. As corn mean ferments, the starches are converted into sugars. However corn starch can be tricky to work with.

Cracking Tower This term was originally coined by the oil refining and called “cracking” because their cracking towers use heat and pressure to “crack” heavy hydrocarbon molecules into lighter ones. On moonshine stills, tower is attached to the boiler and condenser.


Denatured Alcohol Alcohol and methylated spirits that have additives to make it undrinkable or poisonous. It exists because it has many uses including cleaning agents and camping stove fluid. Countries often require a dye to be added as a safety precaution.

Denatured Methanol See: Denatured Alcohol


Ethanol Type of alcohol found in alcoholic beveragesJ It’s also referred to as grain alcohol, drinking alcohol, and ethyl alcohol.

Fermentation Process in which sugars are converted into ethanol and carbon dioxide by yeast and last of oxygen.

Fractionating Still See Reflux Still

Fusel Oils Produced as a byproduct during the fermentation process, Fusel oils are a mix of higher-order alcohols (with more than two carbon atoms). Fusel oils have an undesired taste and are usually filtered out from raw moonshine using activated carbon.


Gin A spirit made from Juniper berries and other botanicals and spices such as orange peel, coriander, licorice root, and lime peel. Several varieties exist although London Dry Gin is the most common.


Head The first stage of distilling. The head portion is usually discarded when methanol is present in mash. The head is followed by the heart, then tail. Monitoring and controlling the temperature allows you to distinguish the various stages.

Heart The second stage of distilling. This stage comes after the head stage, followed by the tail stage.


Liqueur An alcoholic beverage that has been flavored and bottled with added sugar. Liquors are typically thicker and sweeter than flavored spirits like flavored vodka.

Mash: See Mashing


Mashing The act of creating extracting sugars from grain and fruits by steeping it in hot water and allowing it to ferment.

Methanol A type of alcohol also known as wood alcohol or methyl alcohol. It’s sweeter than ethanol alcohol and is often produced during the fermentation process and discarded. Methanol is poisonous and used as antifreeze and other solvents.


Pot Still A still which uses a one condenser to allow flavor to pass through. Pot stills are great for making whiskeys and rums.

Prohibition The practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the prohibition of alcohol was enforced.


Reflux Still: A still which uses a two condensers in order to only allow the lightest, purest, and highest percent alcohol. The heavier less desirable components such as fusel alcohols are returned to the boiler. Reflux Stills can produce up to 98% alcohol by volume.

Rum A spirit made from molasses and sugarcane, usually aged in oak barrels. The majority of Rum production occurs in the Caribbean and Latin America.


Sour Mash A process in distilling that involves adding remaining material from older mash to a new batch. The still-active yeast in the older mash sets the growth in the new batch, improving consistency. This process is currently used to make Bourbon and Tennesse Whiskey.

Spirits A beverage containing ethanol alcohol produced by distillation. Popular spirits include vodka, whiskey, brandy, rum, and gin.


Tail The last of spirit to run through a still.

Turbo Yeast Fast acting yeast to ferment wash. Usually available in 24 and 48 hour packages.


Vodka The purest spirit. Vodka consists of mainly water and ethanol alcohol, with slight traces of flavoring and impurities. Vodka is commonly made from grains and potatoes.


Wash The collection of substance being fermented for the purpose of distilling spirits. Wash typically consists of water, gain, fruits, yeast, and sugars.

Whiskey A spirit made from fermented grain mash. Grains include barley, rye, wheat, and corn. Whiskey is aged is wooden barrels generally made from Oak for flavoring and color.

Worm: Tubing in a condenser which usually made from copper.


Yeast Micro-organisms that help convert sugars into alcohols and other byproduct.