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So I have recently been looking into making my own vodka and/or gin. The laws around producing drinks like these in the UK don't see, very clear, so I was hoping someone here had more experience in it.

I know it's illegal in the UK to produce spirits with a still, without the proper license. It also appears to be illegal to produce spirits in any other way, within the UK.

The confusion comes around the use of the word "spirits". A spirit is usually an alcoholic drink that has been distilled, but if I was to make a base using water, sugar (6-7Kg roughly) and turbo yeast, then add my flavouring, to produce a drink similar to vodka or gin, would these still be classes as spirits, even at say 20-23%?

Thanks, Carl.

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First, regarding this question:

I was to make a base using water, sugar (6-7Kg roughly) and turbo yeast, then add my flavouring, to produce a drink similar to vodka or gin, would these still be classes [sic] as spirits, even at say 20-23%?

That is more of a legal question and is really outside of the scope of this site.

Now, whether you can technically do it is a different question altogether (ie, is it technically possibly to make a 20% - 23% beverage without distilling?)

tl;dr: Technically yes, but you really need to know what you're doing. See below.


If your goal is just "20%-23% alcoholic beverage," you can accomplish that without any form of distillation by using a rigorous nutrient and step-feeding schedule along with an alcohol-tolerant yeast with low nutrient requirements, like Lalvin EC-1118 or K1-V1116. It's definitely not easy, but it is technically possible. It would also likely require quite a bit of aging to be palatable, as you would be pushing yeast well past its tolerance, leading to lots of fusel alcohols and other off-flavors.

Now, depending 100% on the legality of this in your region, you could also look into "fractional freezing" (colloquially called "freeze distillation," even though you're not actually distilling anything)

From Wikipedia:

Fractional freezing is a process used in process engineering and chemistry to separate substances with different melting points. It can be done by partial melting of a solid, for example in zone refining of silicon or metals, or by partial crystallization of a liquid, as in freeze distillation, also called normal freezing or progressive freezing.

This is the process that was originally used in creating applejack, and is used to some extent in creating ice beers such as an eisbock

Be careful though. Whereas distillation leaves impurities behind, fractional freezing concentrates them:

The danger of freeze distillation of alcoholic beverages, is that unlike heat distillation, where the methanol and other impurities can be separated from the finished product, freeze distillation does not remove them. Thus the ratio of impurities may be increased compared to the total volume of the beverage. This concentration may cause side effects to the drinker, leading to intense hangovers and a condition known as "apple palsy" (although this term has also simply been used to refer to intoxication, especially from applejack.)

This can be minimized or avoided if you have a clean fermentation free of fusels, have aged the fusels out of your beverage, or both.

Still, do not attempt the fractional freezing of a homebrewed alcoholic beverage without solid fermentation management techniques. Or if it's illegal in your country, I guess.

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  • I was thinking of trying something like this. The basic step by step is 20lt of water with 10.5Kg of dextrose (also seen 6-7Kg of sugar suggested), add turbo yeast and leave to ferment for 7-10 days at 18c-24c. Then add turbo clear and leave for 24 hours, before siphoning and adding flavouring to what should be around a 20% alcoholic base. – Carl Ford Aug 4 '15 at 19:59
  • Theoretically, yes. Be mindful of that original gravity, though. A lot of yeast gets stressed when starting at gravities over 1.120 (~15.5% ABV), and can stall out or fail to start after 1.140 (~17.8%). The yeast will also be sterssed without proper nutrition. Stressed yeast = fusels = rocket fuel. That's why brewers will step-feed fermentables rather than front-load when trying to reach high ABV. Also, just fermenting sugar is going to give you kilju, not vodka. – valverij Aug 4 '15 at 20:16
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I have seen kits sold online for whiskey and vodka like http://www.the-home-brew-shop.co.uk/acatalog/Prohibition_1_Gallon_Whisky.html

here is a youtube video of someone making one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET4BxmtYq_M

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  • I think that may be my next step, I'd love to see about making a 5 gallons batch though and sticking it in my pressure barrel. The idea of having 40 pints of vodka on tap sounds appealing to me :) – Carl Ford Aug 9 '15 at 8:05
  • I think a 5 gal batch would be possible, once you figure out yeast and nutrients....and having it on tap? just keep a case of redbull or monster on hand. – jsolarski Aug 10 '15 at 2:38

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