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It’s not just impurities like sulfer mentioned in this article but the tower helps seperate h2o from alcohol. I just think you will find you can produce a better product with well designed equipment. The effort to build either one will be about the same.

“Increase Final Proof by Packing Still ColumnCopper Mesh, Raschig Rings, and Glass Beads

Packing a distillation column with copper scrubbers, raschig rings, or glass distilling beads is the easiest way to increase the final proof of moonshine whiskey while making it taste better. The packing material increases final proof by causing a slight natural reflux action in the column. If copper packing material is used, it simultaneously removes sulfur compounds from the vapor, producing a better tasting final product.

As vapor moves up through the column it migrates through network of material that is a slightly lower temperature than the boiler, etc. For example copper mesh forms a thermal bridge between the cooler edges of the column and the center of the column (because it’s super conductive). It creates an abundance of surface area that is just slightly below the condensing temperature of water (but ideally above the condensing temp of alcohol), providing opportunity for water vapor to turn back into a liquid while allowing the alcohol vapor to move on.  

As water comes into contact with the packing / mesh material, some of it condenses and drips back down through the column. However, alcohol vapor moves onward due to its lower boiling temperature and ends up making its way all the way to your mason jar. As a result, final proof is much higher than it would have been without the use of packing.”

Pot Still vs. Pot With Thumper vs. Packed Column vs. Reflux

Thre are a lot of different still designs out there. Clawhammer stills are essentially simple pot stills with the addition of a column to make the design more versatile. If nothing is done to the column, the our stills will operate just like a pot still and first run proof will start in the range of 100-110 proof and drop from there. If the column is packed, our stills will operate like pot stills with a thumper and first run proof will start as high as 130-150 depending on starting ABV.

We intentionally left the reflux coil out of our design because our stills are made for making sipping whiskey, not fuel alcohol. At a minimum a true reflux still would have a reflux coil at the top of the column. As vapor comes into contact with the coil, much of it condenses and drips back down through the column. Kind of like our design…on steroids. Some even have advanced features such as perforated plates for fractioning, needle valves for reflux control and controlled output, etc. This stuff is used to maximize single run proof while simultaneously stripping nearly all of the flavor from the end product, creating a “neutral grain spirit.” Again, we don’t offer this stuff because we think it simply isn’t necessary for making good whiskey. If making high octane racing fuel is the goal, then one should consider a true reflux still. (Warning: shameless self-promotion ahead). Though, if making smooth, flavorful sippin whiskey is the goal, Clawhammer stills are optimal.

Although we don’t endorse true reflux technology for the production of traditional whiskey, we wholeheartedly endorse the use of column packing to induce a very slight, natural reflux in the column during distillation runs. This allows the still to work a bit faster, first run proof to be a bit higher, and does all of this without stripping the final product of it’s flavor. There’s also an added advantage if copper packing is used (described below).