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Distilled beverages

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 Production process of brandy
 Production process of cognac
 Production process of vodka
Distilled beverages are alcoholic beverages that are obtained by distillation from alcoholic beverages or masses. The distillation material can consist of wine, a concentrated sugar solution or a fermented grain suspension. The used ingredients, the course of the process, the reuse or non-reuse of the alcohol, the implementation of maturation, all give a variety of distilled beverages.
The best-known distilled beverages are:
  • Brandy, a matured distilled beverage from (white) wine.
  • Cognac, a kind of brandy of a very high quality, the heating is more intensive than with brandy.
  • Rum, a matured distilled beverage from juice of a sugar cane, or molasses.
  • Vodka, a non-matured distilled beverage from grain (sometimes fruits); nowadays aromas are often added for the flavor.
  • Gin, a non-matured distilled beverage from grain flavored with juniper berry and other ingredients.
  • Whiskey, a non-matured distilled beverage from grain.


Brandy has its origins in the Netherlands. Its name derives from the process, burned (gebrande) wine. Because the wine is highly heated it gets a special flavor and the alcohol percentage is increased. The production process of brandy is described below.

Production process of brandy

The raw material of brandy is white wine. An often used grape for this wine is the Tompson Seedless. This wine has an alcohol percentage of 10%. The wine is distilled in a distilling vessel. This happens in an ongoing process in the course of which several vessels are distilled after each other.
The wine is heated to a temperature between the boiling point of alcohol (68°C) and the boiling point of water (100°C). In this way, all alcohol evaporates from the wine while the percentage of water is not reduce.
The still in which the distillation takes place consists of:
  • a big vessel in which the wine is heated
  • a condensing coil on top of the vessel in which a part already condenses
  • a swan-neck that transports the alcohol vapor
  • a condenser in which the alcohol vapor condenses
  • a vessel in which the almost pure alcohol (96.5%) is caught.
In the alcohol vapor a few aromas are taken along, therefore, a condensing coil is placed on top of the still. Because the temperature in this coil is lower a part of the alcohol and the aromas condenses and falls back into the wine. The process of heating, condensing, ascending and descending happens many times in the still. The result is a very pure, colorless, odorless and tasteless distilled liquid (distillate) with an alcohol percentage of 96.5%.
To produce brandy from the heated non-alcoholic wine it is mixed with the distillate (the almost pure alcohol) until an alcohol percentage is reached of 40%. There are two ways to reach such a percentage: apart from the distillate extra alcohol is added or a part of the heated non-alcoholic wine is thrown away. The quality of both brandies is the same, the choice between these two is based on the costs of the processes.
Aging of brandy happens in oak barrels. Generally the wine is not aged longer than 6 years. There are exceptional brandies that have matured for 50 years. In maturing the brandy receives aromas from the oak barrels. Finally, the brandy can be bottled.


Cognac, a kind of brandy, is highly appreciated because of its excellent flavor. The white grapes that are used are also of a better flavor than the grapes used for brandy. Cognac is named after a place in the region of Charante where white grapes are growing. The production process is comparable to that of brandy. However, cognac is heated several times while brandy is heated only once. Cognac is especially consumed as a beverage, but it can also be used in sauces, marinades, chocolates and canned fruits.

Production process of cognac

The white grapes that can be used best for the production of cognac are of the variety of Colombard and Saint-Emilion, but the varieties of Blanche, Folle Juirancon, Monfis and Sauvignon are also used. In the winter the grapes are picked, because in this time they are most fruity and have the ability to produce the desired alcohol percentage of 8-9%. The grapes are pressed and fermented naturally which takes several days. During this process the sugars are converted into alcohol without additions.
After the fermentation the first distillation takes place. The juice is heated to a temperature between 78.3 and 100°C. This temperature is sustained until a third of the liquid is distilled. The distillate contains 30 volume percent of alcohol. The distillate called broullis is distilled for a second time. During this second fermentation the distillate is divided into three portions. The ‘head’ has a too high percentage of alcohol, the ‘heart’ is the part with the best quality and the ‘tail’ has not enough flavor/identity. These three parts are distilled several times and are used to mix.
The bright liquid that is obtained after the many distillations is called eau de vie. For a second time this is reduced to a third of its original amount. The alcohol percentage is now 70%. For each liter of cognac 9 liter of grape juice is required.
The eau de vie is matured in oak barrels which give the wine their aromas. The age of the barrel is decisive for the final flavor. Depending on the desired flavor the liquid is poured into other barrels. Besides that, the cognacs from different barrels are mixed with each other to obtain the desired flavor.
After years of maturing (minimally 2.5 years) the cognac is bottled in bottles that are characteristic for a certain company. The bottles of cognac are ready for transport or they are stored until they will be transported.


Rum is a matured distilled beverage of juice of a sugar cane or molasses. The production of rum is similar to the production process of brandy and cognac. The only exception is the material that is started with. The maturing of rum is also done in wooden barrels and ranges from a year to several years.


Vodka is a distilled beverage which may contain a very high alcohol percentage, even up to 72.5%. Generally water is added to reduce the alcohol percentage to 40-50%. Because of the high percentage of alcohol the flavor and aroma of the vodka are dispelled so that a neutral beverage remains. Therefore, vodka is very suitable for adding flavor as is increasingly done so that a vodka-flavored beverage comes to existence.

Production process of vodka

Fruits as well as grains can be the raw material for the production of vodka. The raw material is put into kettles of stainless steel. During the rotation the fruits or grains are broken. An extra mixture of malt that contains many enzymes is added to advance the conversion of enzymes into sugar.
To avoid microbiological corrosion the bulk is first sterilized by heating it till the point of boiling. To obtain the desired acidity for a good progress of the fermentation lactic acid bacteria are added. At the right acidity the fermentation is started by adding yeasts. For two to four days the yeasts convert the sugars into alcohol.
The liquid mass with a large alcohol percentage is transported to the distillation tower, which consists of several condensers on top of each other. After heating up (to a temperature between 68 and 100°C) the alcohol evaporates and condenses. Besides that, the irregularities are removed. The alcohol vapors rise and condense in the higher chambers of the distillation tower. The materials that are to be removed remain in the lower chambers and are carried off. Remainders of grains are converted further to feed.
The alcohol extract that is obtained in this way contains 95 to 100% of alcohol. To make it drinkable it is diluted with water till a percentage of 40% is reached. Frequently, flavors are added like lemon, red fruits and peach. These vodka-flavored beverages are becoming more and more popular.


Gin is a vodka that is flavored with juniper berries and other possible ingredients. The production of gin can be continued from the production process of vodka. Gin can be made in a traditional way by adding juniper berries and other possible herbs like coriander to the vodka. These ingredients are later filtered out. Gin can also be produced by simply adding the aromas of the juniper berry and other possible herbs.
Gin is not matured. After the production gin is filled in bottles and made ready for transport or storage.


The production process for whiskey looks very similar to that of vodka. The important difference is that whiskey is matured while vodka is not. Therefore, the production process of whiskey can be continued from that of vodka. The vodka that is used has the very high alcohol percentage of 50-65%. This is higher than the alcohol percentage of traditional vodka. During maturation the alcohol percentage declines.
The vodka is poured into wooden barrels for maturation. The maturation happens in barrels of wood instead of stainless steel so that more aromas are given to the product. During maturation aromas like tannin are transferred from the wood to the liquid. The humidity is kept high in order that the wood transfers the aromas more easily. Because of the high humidity the whiskey also absorbs moisture, which reduces the alcohol percentage.
The maturation of whiskey ranges from three to fifteen year.

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distilled beverages

Distilled beverages are alcoholic beverages that are obtained by distillation from alcoholic beverages or masses. The distillation material can consist of wine, a concentrated sugar solution or a fermented grain suspension. The used ingredients,... read full description

Click for additional information about Distilled beverages