Alcohol Distillation and Its Impact on Social Health

Alcohol has played an essential role in human social evolution and cultural adaptation since the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to farming societies 10,000 years ago, whether as religious ritual or recreational use; religion plays an integral part, fertility rites utilize alcohol consumption for religious rituals, or recreationally use, yet evidence regarding any health benefits may remain mixed; excessive consumption can even prove hazardous.

Making spirits is a complex process. To start, the base material (usually grains but also fruit or root vegetables like potatoes) needs to be prepared, then mashed, fermented and finally distilled. The resultant vapor is then divided into different fractions called heads, tails and hearts. The heads contain higher alcohols as well as taste-offending congeners such as toxic methanol, acetaldehyde (commonly associated with hangovers) and acetone which has the smell of nail polish remover. Distillers use their knowledge of which flavors they desire, distillation chemistry and when making cuts in production to decide when and how much to distill – this decision requires experience, senses and artistry on behalf of all parties involved.

Understanding how and when the alcohol industry influences public policy can be difficult. This article investigates political activities of Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), gathering information from multiple sources.