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Subject: Re: [new_distillers] Discarding too much foreshots?

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  • Mike Nixon
    Almost a week ago, I asked if anyone on this list could define the difference between foreshots and heads and, in particular, if anyone knew of a reliable
    Message 1 of 6 , Nov 14, 2002
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      Almost a week ago, I asked if anyone on this list could define the difference between "foreshots" and "heads" and, in particular, if anyone knew of a reliable way of determining which is which. Several people came back with replies, for which many thanks.

      The reason I asked that question is that commercial whiskey distillers make no distinction between "foreshots" and "heads". To them, these are simply different names for the same thing. Similarly, they draw no distinction between "feints" and "tails". Now these guys must surely know what they are doing, as many of them have been distilling whiskey for generations, so I just wondered if we might not be introducing distinctions that really don’t matter.

      After almost a week of searching through the internet and browsing through the local library, I’ve also learned that although whiskey washes contain methanol, resulting from the use of grain, not one drop of foreshots/heads or feints/tails is ever thrown away, but is instead frugally stored in the ‘low wines’ vat for inclusion in the next batch. It was also interesting to learn that the decision on when the foreshot/heads ‘ended’ and the feints/tails ‘began’ was entirely up to the still master, and that many distilleries included a fair proportion these ‘cuts’ in the middle run as they contain a lot of flavour compounds that they want in the final product. What also surprised me was how little of the foreshots/heads were diverted to the low wines vat, some distilleries starting to collect the main body only 10 to 20 minutes into a run. Considering the size of their batches, that’s very little indeed!  Perhaps they rely on long periods of maturation to modify the compounds they include?

      The way the still master judges when the foreshots/heads ‘finish’ and the feints/tails ‘begin was also interesting, as it is all done without the benefit of measuring the temperature of the vapor or being able to smell the product. It’s all done begind glass in the still safe, and the traditional methods depend on measuring the density of the product (correcting for temperature of the liquid) and what is termed a ‘misting’ test. Many distilleries now use more sophisticated methods, but these two tests are still widely used. The temperature corrected density seems fairly obvious, but the ‘misting’ test was new to me, so I had high hopes that perhaps here was a method we could use. Essentially, the ‘misting’ test involves mixing a sample of the product with distilled water. The presence of foreshots/heads or feints/tails is indicated by the mixture taking on a faint milky cloudiness. Sadly, when I tried it on some heads and tails that I had set aside, I could detect no ‘misting’ whatsoever, so I reckon that it must be characteristic of whiskey washes that may contain much higher proportions of oils than we encounter with sugar washes. Any thoughts anyone?

      Now, I’m NOT suggesting for one moment that anyone drinks either heads or tails! However, we may have been throwing away a lot of good ethanol when pouring the heads down the sink. Whether those first heads contain methanol or not (depending on the ingredients of the wash), it is apparent that they contain a very high percentage of ethanol. If, instead, we set them aside and added both heads and tails to the next batch – all of them, as the whiskey distilleries do – then we would be in no danger of including them in the results of that next batch as we would again set aside the heads and tails of that. The obvious question can be asked ... would this not mean that the amount of 'nasties' builds up over time as they are repeatedly added to successive batches?  Logically, the answer must be 'yes', but this doesn't seem to worry the whiskey distillers, and they are dealing with much bigger quantities than we are.

      As for determining when to start or stop collecting the main body of a run, I believe that the methods we have been using are probably the best there are … measuring the temperature of the vapor and using our sense of smell. They may well be better than the traditional methods used in whiskey distilleries! There is certainly a discernible difference between what we have been calling ‘foreshots’ and ‘heads’ … the very first part of the heads is markedly more volatile, so the change to the main body of heads is easily detected by monitoring the vapor temperature. Equally, the slower change in temperature as the main run starts is fairly easily seen if you have a good thermometer in the right place in the column.  Nevertheless, I’m still hoping that someone will hit on an even better way … hence my original question.  With Christmas coming, I would LOVE a gas chromatograph!

      Mike N

       

    • ups474@aol.com
      In some reading I was doing, I found a spirit where the heads are not separated out at all; Pre-WW2 German Fruit Schnaps. Some may have made a brandy out of a
      Message 2 of 6 , Nov 14, 2002
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        In some reading I was doing, I found a spirit where the heads are not
        separated out at all; Pre-WW2 German Fruit Schnaps. Some may have made a
        brandy out of a fruit wine and noticed that the heads they were throwing out
        had a great fruity smell, and it was a shame to throw them out- old style
        German distillers didn't bother. This is why it has a reputation as a sharp
        tasting spirit. The trick is to ferment cool, and use no pectic enzyme, and
        ferment with added sugar no higher than 12%abv- all these things will
        dramatically increase methanol production. Then, make a note of how much
        distilled spirit was made out of how much wine, and only drink the amount of
        spirit that represents one wineglass of the original fruit wine/mash. For
        example: you have a gallon (4L) of cherry wine/mash, you get 750ml of spirit
        out of it at about 50% or so. At this rate of concentration, a 3ounce (90ml)
        serving of the wine equals a half ounce (16.875ml) of the distilled spirit.
        This (rather anemic) 17ml serving is to be considered one glass of wine.
        Limiting oneself to a "double" (roughly 30ml of spirit) of this "no heads
        separated" spirit, will give you a nice (but sharp) fruit schnaps, with
        little chance of a crippling hangover. Again, this requires a very temperate
        attitude toward drinking- in the above example, an American "shot" of this
        schnaps (2oz./60ml) would be equal to 4 glasses of the original wine- say
        hello to a nasty hangover. If this sounds a bit dangerous, then perhaps
        throwing out only the most minute bit of the heads could be done- say 5 to
        10ml per gallon (4l) of wine- this should remove the bulk of the methanol.
        -Jack
      • peter_vcb
        Hi Mike my neighbour next door is an old lady of about 80. she sees me distilling all the time and told me that she once got bottles of foreshots (which she
        Message 3 of 6 , Nov 15, 2002
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          Hi Mike
          my neighbour next door is an old lady of about 80. she sees me
          distilling all the time and told me that she once got bottles of
          foreshots (which she called four shot) from the jameson distillery in
          dublin. this was back in the 60s or 70s. she got it from a friend who
          worked in the distillery who said that they throw it out after each
          run. she said it was milky white and very strong in alcohol. they got
          it at christmas time for flavoring puddings and cakes. it was meant
          to have lots of flavour. many people here in ireland get poitin
          around christmas time for flavouring puddings and cakes. it is
          usually poured over cakes and flamed, this should get rid of the
          methanol and leave the flavours behind. what worried me was she says
          some guys were drinking the foreshots too.

          "the obvious question can be asked ... would this not mean that the
          amount of 'nasties' builds up over time as they are repeatedly added
          to successive batches? Logically, the answer must be 'yes', but this
          doesn't seem to worry the whiskey distillers, and they are dealing
          with much bigger quantities than we are."

          i was asking this same thing a week or so ago about ethyl acetate.
          but if they are dealing with larger quantities it would worry me even
          more.


          --- In new_distillers@y..., "Mike Nixon" <mike@s...> wrote:
          > Almost a week ago, I asked if anyone on this list could define the
          difference between "foreshots" and "heads" and, in particular, if
          anyone knew of a reliable way of determining which is which. Several
          people came back with replies, for which many thanks.
          >
          > The reason I asked that question is that commercial whiskey
          distillers make no distinction between "foreshots" and "heads". To
          them, these are simply different names for the same thing. Similarly,
          they draw no distinction between "feints" and "tails". Now these guys
          must surely know what they are doing, as many of them have been
          distilling whiskey for generations, so I just wondered if we might
          not be introducing distinctions that really don't matter.
          >
          > After almost a week of searching through the internet and browsing
          through the local library, I've also learned that although whiskey
          washes contain methanol, resulting from the use of grain, not one
          drop of foreshots/heads or feints/tails is ever thrown away, but is
          instead frugally stored in the 'low wines' vat for inclusion in the
          next batch. It was also interesting to learn that the decision on
          when the foreshot/heads 'ended' and the feints/tails 'began' was
          entirely up to the still master, and that many distilleries included
          a fair proportion these 'cuts' in the middle run as they contain a
          lot of flavour compounds that they want in the final product. What
          also surprised me was how little of the foreshots/heads were diverted
          to the low wines vat, some distilleries starting to collect the main
          body only 10 to 20 minutes into a run. Considering the size of their
          batches, that's very little indeed! Perhaps they rely on long
          periods of maturation to modify the compounds they include?
          >
          > The way the still master judges when the foreshots/heads 'finish'
          and the feints/tails 'begin was also interesting, as it is all done
          without the benefit of measuring the temperature of the vapor or
          being able to smell the product. It's all done begind glass in the
          still safe, and the traditional methods depend on measuring the
          density of the product (correcting for temperature of the liquid) and
          what is termed a 'misting' test. Many distilleries now use more
          sophisticated methods, but these two tests are still widely used. The
          temperature corrected density seems fairly obvious, but the 'misting'
          test was new to me, so I had high hopes that perhaps here was a
          method we could use. Essentially, the 'misting' test involves mixing
          a sample of the product with distilled water. The presence of
          foreshots/heads or feints/tails is indicated by the mixture taking on
          a faint milky cloudiness. Sadly, when I tried it on some heads and
          tails that I had set aside, I could detect no 'misting' whatsoever,
          so I reckon that it must be characteristic of whiskey washes that may
          contain much higher proportions of oils than we encounter with sugar
          washes. Any thoughts anyone?
          >
          > Now, I'm NOT suggesting for one moment that anyone drinks either
          heads or tails! However, we may have been throwing away a lot of good
          ethanol when pouring the heads down the sink. Whether those first
          heads contain methanol or not (depending on the ingredients of the
          wash), it is apparent that they contain a very high percentage of
          ethanol. If, instead, we set them aside and added both heads and
          tails to the next batch - all of them, as the whiskey distilleries
          do - then we would be in no danger of including them in the results
          of that next batch as we would again set aside the heads and tails of
          that. The obvious question can be asked ... would this not mean that
          the amount of 'nasties' builds up over time as they are repeatedly
          added to successive batches? Logically, the answer must be 'yes',
          but this doesn't seem to worry the whiskey distillers, and they are
          dealing with much bigger quantities than we are.
          >
          > As for determining when to start or stop collecting the main body
          of a run, I believe that the methods we have been using are probably
          the best there are . measuring the temperature of the vapor and using
          our sense of smell. They may well be better than the traditional
          methods used in whiskey distilleries! There is certainly a
          discernible difference between what we have been calling 'foreshots'
          and 'heads' . the very first part of the heads is markedly more
          volatile, so the change to the main body of heads is easily detected
          by monitoring the vapor temperature. Equally, the slower change in
          temperature as the main run starts is fairly easily seen if you have
          a good thermometer in the right place in the column. Nevertheless,
          I'm still hoping that someone will hit on an even better way . hence
          my original question. With Christmas coming, I would LOVE a gas
          chromatograph!
          >
          > Mike N
        • John Vandermeulen
          ... Mike,it would be a lot cheaper if you bring some samples to someone with the right column, and bribe with a jar of distillate John
          Message 4 of 6 , Nov 15, 2002
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            Mike Nixon wrote:

            > With Christmas coming, I would LOVE a gas chromatograph!

            Mike,it would be a lot cheaper if you bring some samples to someone with
            the right column, and bribe with a jar of "distillate"
            John

            >
            >
            > Mike N
            >
            >
            >
            > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
            > new_distillers-unsubscribe@onelist.com
            >
            >
            >
            > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
          • BOKAKOB
            I believe it has to do with an art in general or with a person s abilities. In other words it is God s gift, or call it being bright -- whatever. Some got and
            Message 5 of 6 , Nov 15, 2002
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              I believe it has to do with an art in general or with a person's abilities. In other words it is God's gift, or call it being bright -- whatever. Some got and some - don't ... and I don't want to start phylosophical thread here..

               Mike Nixon <mike@...> wrote:

              Almost a week ago, I asked if anyone on this list could define the difference between "foreshots" and "heads" and, in particular, if anyone knew of a reliable way of determining which is which. Several people came back with replies, for which many thanks.



              I can be wrong I must say.
              Cheers, Alex...



              Do you Yahoo!?
              New DSL Internet Access from SBC & Yahoo!

            • Mike Nixon
              peter_vcb wrote: Subject: Subject: Re: [new_distillers] Discarding too much foreshots? Hi Mike my neighbour next door is an old lady of about 80. she sees me
              Message 6 of 6 , Nov 15, 2002
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                peter_vcb wrote:
                Subject: Subject: Re: [new_distillers] Discarding too much foreshots?

                Hi Mike

                my neighbour next door is an old lady of about 80. she sees me distilling all the time and told me that she once got bottles of foreshots (which she called four shot) from the jameson distillery in dublin. this was back in the 60s or 70s. she got it from a friend who worked in the distillery who said that they throw it out after each run. she said it was milky white and very strong in alcohol. they got it at christmas time for flavoring puddings and cakes. it was meant to have lots of flavour. many people here in ireland get poitin around christmas time for flavouring puddings and cakes. it is usually poured over cakes and flamed, this should get rid of the methanol and leave the flavours behind. what worried me was she says some guys were drinking the foreshots too.

                "the obvious question can be asked ... would this not mean that the amount of 'nasties' builds up over time as they are repeatedly added to successive batches? Logically, the answer must be 'yes', but this doesn't seem to worry the whiskey distillers, and they are dealing with much bigger quantities than we are."

                i was asking this same thing a week or so ago about ethyl acetate. but if they are dealing with larger quantities it would worry me even more.
                ==================================
                Hi Peter,

                Interesting that they discard their foreshots after each run.  That's the first reference I've seen to a whiskey distillery that does that.  Makes you wonder if it's one of the technique differences between Irish and Scottish distilleries?  Burning it would certainly get rid of any methanol, but I can well imagine that some of the guys might well have been taking a crafty sip or two in the kitchen!   The Irish are a hardy lot - and as one with a heap of Irish blood in my veins, I can vouch for the fact that they can be pretty foolhardy as well!

                Ethyl acetate is not in the same league as methanol, toxicity-wise, and is used extensively in the food industry for flavor enhancement.  In that case, though, it's a matter of quantity and you would want to get rid of as much as possible if your product is to taste palatable.  A bit like misreading a recipe and adding a large tablespoon of vanilla essence instead of a small teaspoon.

                It all appears to come down to setting aside the foreshots/heads, which is a sensible thing to do whether you want to separate out methanol, ethyl acetate, or any of the other numerous 'goodies' that will be in it, and whether you throw it away or not.  What the frugal Scots seem to do (and I have their blood in my veins too) is to recycle this as much as they can as the bulk of it is ethanol, much of which can be recovered in later batches.

                Mike N

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