What is a Pot Still

A pot still is more than just a stationary pot – it is a specifically designed pot used for distilling.  This distilling device will separate liquids and helps with the production of spirits.  A pot still’s applications are many, for it can be used to separate out impurities from water, take nitrogen and oxygen from air, and even refine crude oil.  A pot still works simply by heating a liquid and, when its steam rises, capturing those vapors through oddly shaped necks on the pot stills.  

Distillation makes it appear as though a liquid’s essence, or “spirit,” is being taken out of it.  This phenomenon explains why liquor is sometimes dubbed as “spirits.”  Ancient alchemists used the pot still to distill all kinds of liquids in their pursuit of gold.  Although they never managed to make gold, they did manage to develop and refine the pot still distillation process.    

One of the pot still’s more infamous applications was during America’s Prohibition era, in which bootleggers would produce a highly potent spirit known as Moonshine.  Pot still’s contributed to Moonshine’s characteristic of having extremely high levels of alcohol, nicknamed by many as “white lightning.”  Anything from car and home radiators to oil drums were used by bootleggers to create their Moonshine.  Although this was highly illegal in the US, bootlegger practices led to many of today’s best known distilleries and contribute to Kentucky and Tennessee’s distinct style of Bourbon.  

Today, owning your personal pot still is illegal.  While you could use a pot still to make your own whiskey, doing so privately and without a license will get you in a lot of trouble.  The US government discourages private bootlegging since unreported production and distribution of alcohol could be dangerous for society and because the government makes enormous sums of money off of taxed imported whiskies.