The most common yeast used in alcohol production is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. According to The Alcohol Textbook this yeast has been used to produce 23.8% ABV in "batch fermentation with all carbohydrate provided at the start of fermentation." (Ingledew, p. 76.) There are several yeast strains available to suit virtually any type of beverage alcohol production.
There are several factors that can cause yeast distress.
Before adding yeast to a liquor or must to initiate active fermentation, it should be "started." After mixing the primary ingredients, but before adding crushed Campden tablet or other sterilizing compound to the must, set aside one cup of the liquor or juice into which the yeast nutrient (or energizer) is dissolved. Add 1/2 to one tsp. yeast, stir gently, and allow to sit, covered with a clean towel or cloth, in a warm place. Allow the culture to "bloom" (grow) a total of 24 hours since adding Campden to the must. Then add this cup of yeast culture to the must, stir and cover, and allow the yeast to "do its thing."