Is healthy alcohol a myth? Well, that’s complicated. But first, let’s get one thing straight – we are absolutely not claiming that alcohol is healthy. However, can one type of alcohol be healthier than another? Let’s find out…
The History of Distillation
Let’s start at the beginning: by considering how alcohol is produced.
Distillation is simple – it’s the process of separating different parts of a liquid from each other using heat. People first encountered alcohol before the dawn of agriculture via natural fermentation processes discovered in nature, which later led to the development of wine. Beer required a greater amount of finesse, which took longer to develop. Strong spirits and distilled alcohol did not occur until the 8th century, when the first still was invented in Persia during the Islamic Golden Age. An alchemist by the name of Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan is the man behind the holy water we now know as alcoholic spirits.
Distillation is possible because alcohol boils at a lower point than water, so the still allowed people to separate the alcohol component from water in fermented liquids, paving the way for many merry nights.
The Art of Distillation
Alcohol is alcohol is alcohol. Any high-school level chemist can tell you that. At the molecular level, it doesn’t matter how it was produced or where it came from, it’s just alcohol. So how could one alcohol be healthier than another? We have to take a closer look at the constituent parts.
Distilling is both a science and an art. As a science, it’s a simple process – remove everything else, leave just the booze. As an art form, though…a very different story.
The art of distilling is similar to sculpture. You need to remove what you don’t want until you’re left with the perfect form. This means that imperfections are inevitable (desirable, even) and that impurities sneak through the process along with flavour. This is what differentiates alcohols from each other – what you add to the process, and what you leave in the tank. Why is this important? Because most distillers don’t care too much about the raw ingredients that end up as alcohol.
However, when you ensure that your base ingredients are of absolute premium quality, the impurities which remain in the spirit through the distillation process are of a much higher quality and healthy aspect than the impurities of poor quality produce.
There are many shortcuts it’s possible to take along the way to ending up with a bottle of grog. Most distillers take them – some don’t. From day one, we’ve relied on our agricultural background to ensure that we can trust the provenance of our ingredients.
Indeed, we have a long family history of natural distilling. Our family came from the Netherlands, which was the birthplace of gin. When our Founder Rhys first began distilling, his Grandfather told him all about the milk alcohol produced on the family farm in his youth, made using yeast and heat – which is exactly how we first began making the whisky that led us down this path.
Natural distilling is in our DNA, going back to the 1940s. Now in his 80s, Rhys’ grandfather recalls how Dutch families in occupied Europe were prohibited from having any quality food or meat in the house. The families of dairy farmers would hide their milk for days. Often, by the time it was safe to retrieve it, the milk had turned into a traditional old-fashioned type of alcoholic wine that’s derived from whey.
In tribute to this chapter from our family history, keep an eye out for our Whey Vodka release a little further down the track… Many more innovations are on their way, as new Natural Distilling ideas build on old traditions.
Are Some Alcohols Really Healthier Than Others?
While some alcohols are healthier than others (with vodka, gin, rum and whiskey ranking amongst the best alcohol choices according to nutritionists), the fact is that alcohol is an intoxicant and not a health drink. Imbibing quality premium alcoholic beverages in moderation is undoubtedly better than sinking a ton of poor quality booze, but the bottom line is that alcohol is not healthy.
We’ll keep striving to grow the finest quality botanicals for inclusion in our drinks, and one day hopefully we’ll see more people in our industry follow our path towards a more mindful, sustainable and environmentally healthy approach to distilling alcohol.
Have you tried Natural Distilling Co’s creations yet? If not, now’s the time – get them here.