by Jason Stone on November 20, 2013
I have to admit, I can never get enough of watching the manufacturing process of an alembic copper still. It is a beautiful transformation which involves so much attention and skill that I always find fascinating So, since I’ve recently written a bit about why we use copper in making our whiskey still, today I’d like to also tell you why we chose the alembic shape.
The alembic is the oldest and most recognized still design. However, its history is as controversial and contradictory as they come. It is believed that the alembic takes its name from the Arabic al-anbiq, meaning still, and from the Greek ambix, which means cup or pot. It is also thought that the Egyptians were the first to ever build stills. In fact, journalist Fred Minnick, in his book: ‘Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey’, actually claims that an Egyptian woman was the first inventor of the alembic still. However, other sources claim that it was the Saracena alchemists who conducted the first scientific studies on distillation and they attribute the invention of the alembic still to Muslim alchemists in the Middle Ages, such as Jabir ibn Hayyan. The spreading of distillation and of the alembic still is also thought to have been done by the Arabs. Some believe that grappa, the Italian spirit obtained from grape pomace, was produced for the first time in Sicily when Arabs introduced the alembic and from there it spread all over Italy. Alembic stills then went on to be developed even further on the Italian territory.
Regardless of who it really was that invented and first used it, the alembic is still very much used in the present day, through models which try to stay true to its original shape but also through modern day pot stills, which are considered descendants of the alembic. The reason for that, which is also the main reason we use it, is exactly its long lasting history, its tradition and the impressive period over which it has been developed and perfected.
Thanks to its beautiful, sensual curves, the alembic copper still can simply be displayed, or pass for, a unique decoration – especially if we look at the smaller 1 gallon copper whiskey still. However, it is also perfectly functional as a moonshine still or for a wide range of spirits, including: Whiskey, Rum, Scotch, Bourbon, Cognac, Vodka, Tequila and Schnapps, as well as essential oils.
The alembic resembles a huge onion shape, which enables an easy release of the alcohol from the mixture. It is made up of 3 parts: the alembic pot, the swan neck lid and the condensing unit. The liquid in the pot is heated or boiled, the vapors rise and pass through the narrow ‘swan neck’ pipe and then through a serpentine coil, a cold-water bath condenses the vapors in the coils, converting them back to liquid form.
Due to its distinctive onion shape, the alembic copper whiskey still we offer can only be handmade and is skillfully built by master craftsmen, from plain sheets of cooper to a complex work of art. So, if you are looking to buy a copper still online, you are not just acquiring a functional object but a true piece of craftsmanship with a unique and impressive history.