Adding Tails

All styles of whiskey. This is for all-grain mashes.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by DetroitDIY » Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:48 pm

Interesting. I feel I've read so many discussions and opinions on heads and tails use, and there are lots of different wisdoms out there.

I recycled both heads and tails on my pot still, doing rum only. Subsequent runs produced higher yields. I was very happy with the barrel aging results, especially a 1 yr plus.

Now I've been running a flute... rums, rye, brandy, UJSM, neutral... had tried recycling both heads and tails as I used to with the pot, but bad tastes collected. Read more and decided to stop recycling the heads (which, as a few have mentioned, are highly compressed in a reflux system and thus not much good ethanol to squeeze out). But I still recycle the tails, and I run deep into the tails on every run. I may get more tails on subsequent runs, but I also get more hearts.

Most of these off the flute are still aging (or are just bottled up white). Have yet to sample too much of the results.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by NZChris » Wed Aug 28, 2019 11:47 pm

If you look a a graph of pot still distillation components compared to ethanol, heads components start high and curve down to negligible and tails components start negligible and curve up.

If you start your spirit run with higher heads and tails components than would typically be expected from a stripping run, they will be higher throughout the entire run, not just at the start and finish. You will, or should, make your cuts when your senses tell you to, not by volume, temperature, parrot abv etc. and this will affect your yield.

You can influence your yield from the spirit run by how you choose the foreshots and the depth of your stripping runs.

Taking a lot of foreshot from strips and heads before recycling the heads will remove a lot of the ethyl acetate etc.

Shutting down stripping runs early and not recycling the deep tails will decrease fusels in the sprint run.

I believe it's very possible that continuously recycling heads and tails through a pot still is possible as long as enough heads and tails components get chucked out at each cycle. I doubt that's something that will ever happen in my shed, especially now that I have fast aging trickery and a Bokakob at my disposal.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by CuWhistle » Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:02 pm

Well I'm glad it's not just me.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Setsumi » Fri Aug 30, 2019 8:07 am

@ Odin, you say... For me the fun is in combinations of the above. So I set my machines up for a single run whiskey or rum, but do the first part with stabilization, to compact heads and recover good product. Same happens at the end of the run, where I can push back tails for more recovery.

Regards, Odin.

my question is what do you do with the heads and tails cut on this run.? recycle or chuck?
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Odin » Fri Aug 30, 2019 11:54 am

Because of the approach I use, they are perfectly compacted. Both heads and tails. Means they need to be discarded (heads). Or left behind in the boiler (tails), to be discarded as part of the boiler clean-out.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Setsumi » Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:36 pm

Odin wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 11:54 am
Because of the approach I use, they are perfectly compacted. Both heads and tails. Means they need to be discarded (heads). Or left behind in the boiler (tails), to be discarded as part of the boiler clean-out.

Regards, Odin.
thanks, so when you run a column correct, packed or plates you can compact heads and tails enough to discard it. I will run one feints run from all grain in November and see what I get... but seems it will only be academic.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by NZChris » Fri Aug 30, 2019 11:02 pm

Setsumi wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:36 pm
thanks, so when you run a column correct, packed or plates you can compact heads and tails enough to discard it. I will run one feints run from all grain in November and see what I get... but seems it will only be academic.
in the long run, your own notes should become your guide.

Heads and tails cuts are subjective, so it is difficult to guess what another distiller has in his various collection jars unless you are in his distillery. I've taken rum heads from another distiller's plater and turned them into an ok rum by using fast aging trickery, botanicals and a pot still. I've turned another distillers UJSSM heads and foreshots from his plater into gin base and made fine gin with it. Both distillers regarded their heads as only suitable for cleaning products and were happy to get rid of them.

Heads out of my Bokakob go into my fuel/cleaner jar and the tails go under the lemon tree. You would have to be pretty desperate to try to get anything drinkable out of those leftovers :D

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by LWTCS » Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:23 pm

Such an interesting discussion.
My opinion on heads and tails recycling certainly has changed recently.

On the continuous bourbon still, it's not uncommon for everything (heads & tails) to get cycled back to the beer well.
Heads and tails are not nearly as concentrated on these apparatuses.
I can't help but to think that the recycling back into the heat that something additional is happening? Only because I was more or less gob smacked at how good the whiskey actually is.
Really the polar opposite of batch heads and tails which are down right funky.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Setsumi » Sat Aug 31, 2019 10:27 pm

NZChris wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 11:02 pm
in the long run, your own notes should become your guide.

Heads and tails cuts are subjective, so it is difficult to guess what another distiller has in his various collection jars unless you are in his distillery. I've taken rum heads from another distiller's plater and turned them into an ok rum by using fast aging trickery, botanicals and a pot still. I've turned another distillers UJSSM heads and foreshots from his plater into gin base and made fine gin with it. Both distillers regarded their heads as only suitable for cleaning products and were happy to get rid of them.

Heads out of my Bokakob go into my fuel/cleaner jar and the tails go under the lemon tree. You would have to be pretty desperate to try to get anything drinkable out of those leftovers :D
Ja my problem is I do a large heads cut on my flute, 2019 was only enzyme and maize /corn for me. to see the jars of heads growing is painful but then I know I do not want it in my tipple. I will do a feints run on my vm column just to see if I get something out. but it seems unless my flute run compression is useless I might get little return.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by NZChris » Sat Aug 31, 2019 11:28 pm

Setsumi wrote:
Sat Aug 31, 2019 10:27 pm
Ja my problem is I do a large heads cut on my flute, ...
Maybe you take too much? How do you decide your heart cut? I recommend making up a sample of your prospective blend, then adding to it from jars from either end before committing your chosen jars to the blending vessel. Just because a jar tastes a bit strong of something on it's own, doesn't mean that flavor isn't a valuable addition to the flavor of the final blend.

Try putting your heads and tails into your feints collection with a toasted charred oak domino then running it when you run out of room or a have a full still charge worth, and run it with the dominos in the boiler. If it sits around for a few years before you get around to running it, all the better.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by boda getta » Sat Aug 31, 2019 11:56 pm

The traditional definition of feints is a collection of heads and tails resulting from your cuts from a series of spirit runs. Many people, including me, save up these feints until you have enough for a charge for a feint only run and making tight cuts. A feints only run can result in very good whiskey. It is also common to add these feints to your normal low wines for a combination run of low wines and feints, also often resulting in a good whiskey. I have better luck with all feints runs.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by NZChris » Sun Sep 01, 2019 12:15 am

Apart from my current rum experiment, I've never added feints to low wines as I think it is a bad idea.

I have done grain feints runs diluted with fresh wash that have made some very drinkable products. They are not fantastic enough to let your more discriminating friends drink, but once a party is well under way, nobody cares what they are drinking as long as it has an alcohol bite.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Setsumi » Sun Sep 01, 2019 2:57 am

NZChris wrote:
Sat Aug 31, 2019 11:28 pm
Setsumi wrote:
Sat Aug 31, 2019 10:27 pm
Ja my problem is I do a large heads cut on my flute, ...
Maybe you take too much? How do you decide your heart cut? I recommend making up a sample of your prospective blend, then adding to it from jars from either end before committing your chosen jars to the blending vessel. Just because a jar tastes a bit strong of something on it's own, doesn't mean that flavor isn't a valuable addition to the flavor of the final blend.

Try putting your heads and tails into your feints collection with a toasted charred oak domino then running it when you run out of room or a have a full still charge worth, and run it with the dominos in the boiler. If it sits around for a few years before you get around to running it, all the better.
I usually make a big heads cut because I do drink my product early. I do not like heads and at present do not age for long. I hope to change that soon with a solera system. but yes I think I will run it as a feints run and see if it is worth the trouble.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by cayars » Fri Oct 04, 2019 1:56 am

I think it really depends on the still, the way you run it and how much flavor you are going for (or not going for).

For things like Whiskey or Rums I go deep for flavor. I use as much backset (leftover boiler charge) as possible in new mashes and I let the mash pH dictate how much backset will get used. This is known as a sour mash in whiskey circles. Now my backset is low ABV because I'll strip it down to about 5% ABV. I'll end up using between 1/4 and 1/3 backset in new mashes.

For strip runs I take a "double" foreshot and dump it into my cleaning jar. I then take the 1st 3rd of the run (1/3) and nuke each quart jar to 165 F (not higher) to drive off a lot of heads components that are offensive and have a nasty bite. So my spirit run is less "headsy" but still has plenty, but isn't overbearing. Since my preferred pot still is a 5 gallon stove top and "natural gas" I run everything down to 5%.

I'll use the backset from stripping runs for new mash bathes. I'll take the tails that are cloudy (even oily) and add them directly back into the clean boiler with additional mash for the next run. I'll repeat this until I've got enough for a spirit run. My "heads" will be down compared to most because I've nuke many right off during the strip runs. I'm continuously rerunning my tails with each new strip from that batch.

For my all grain normal whiksey runs I don't even need to separate this way. What comes out of my still on the spirit run is pretty much good to go down to where the first jar is tails cloudy.

My cuts at this point almost always include everything that mixes to give me cast strength right down into or before the first really cloudy jar. I'll make my call on that jar or the one after it. From there is down proofing to cast strength and putting on oak. I'm not afraid of using jars with floating oils as they often give great character after sitting on oak for a while. Those early oils become magic over time as the whiskey rests.

I run Rum very similar to Whiskey going for deep character but won't nuke the heads from Rum and will take more selective cuts of heads where lots of unique flavors come into play.

Even though I have a small thumper and can run some dirty mash, I've found I much prefer the taste of batches I louter rather than sparge after fermenting. So I've been fermenting off the grain and far prefer the results in taste. I do not know for sure, but think the grain hulls add a nasty taste that just isn't present when fermented off grain. I've also been finding I much prefer real malted grains over similar amounts of DP of enzymes. Batches using enzymes just seem "thinner" or less complex then mashes using malted grains of the same SG.

I've also been experimenting with different yeasts and will likely move away from Red Star DADY yeasts in time as well. It's amazing how much different a mash will taste by using a different yeast. No single favorite has yet stood out but I can definitely see mixed batches in my future where the batch is split in 2 or 3, each fermented with a different yeast for more complex flavors. Lots of experimenting yet to do and longer term oaking needed.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Canuckwoods » Sat Nov 09, 2019 2:58 am

Great post Cayars

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by cayars » Sat Nov 09, 2019 4:09 am

Odin wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 11:54 am
Because of the approach I use, they are perfectly compacted. Both heads and tails. Means they need to be discarded (heads). Or left behind in the boiler (tails), to be discarded as part of the boiler clean-out.

Regards, Odin.
Odin, in your Pure Whiskey thread isn't the key to the pure whiskey reusing these heads and tails that are very well compacted (even more so)? Would you save these heads/tails for use running at high ABV in the other thread?
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Odin » Sat Nov 09, 2019 3:20 pm

Yes it is. If you want to make pure whiskey at 96%. But if you want to make whiskey the normal way, like at 80%, or even better, at 65% ... then just compact the heads and tails in the finishing run, so that you do get some flavor blend over. But it won't be a clean pure whiskey of course.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by shadylane » Sat Nov 09, 2019 4:42 pm

For whiskey. If you keep running the still after all the alcohol boils off
There's a lot of flavor in the backins or sweet water or what ever it's called :lol:
I've heard tell, of folks using it to dilute down to barrel or even drinking strength

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by The Baker » Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:55 pm

shadylane wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 4:42 pm
For whiskey. If you keep running the still after all the alcohol boils off
There's a lot of flavor in the backins or sweet water or what ever it's called :lol:
I've heard tell, of folks using it to dilute down to barrel or even drinking strength
That's interesting. Would that apply to brandy too?
( I seem to recall that for brandy more of the flavour comes off close to the heads).

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by shadylane » Sun Nov 10, 2019 6:13 am

I'm thinking Brandy tails contain too much nasties

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by cayars » Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:48 am

shadylane wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 4:42 pm
For whiskey. If you keep running the still after all the alcohol boils off
There's a lot of flavor in the backins or sweet water or what ever it's called :lol:
I've heard tell, of folks using it to dilute down to barrel or even drinking strength
I do this. I'll run things down to 5% ABV coming out of the still to get that sweat water to use for lowering proof. I get more than I need for the batch at hand so I save it for another run of the same ferment. On that next run I don't have to run it down as far to get that sweat water.

For anyone not knowing what we are referring to it's the very low proof distillate that comes after the funky/nasty tails. Way past the "wet dog or wet cardboard" smelling tails.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Hillbilly Popstar » Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:12 am

Interesting.
I routinely run my still till what's coming out is the same abv as what went in. For me, time is most precious, so I figure I can get a gallon of 5% quicker out the still than i can fermenting it.

My next run or two, i may try and collect this in separate jars and select a few worthy of using to cut my final product.

On another note, I read somewhere on here that tails (or was it heads?) tend to convert themselves back to ethanol over time. I swear I even remember reading that you can add (calcium carbonate maybe?) To hasten the process. But from personal experience, some of the best runs I have ever made were when I added tails that had been sitting unmolested for 6 months, to a spirit run.

I dont think what you get is always what you got. Chemical reactions continue and the nature of the distillate changes for the better. Probably the same reason you can dig a little deeper during runs intended for significant aging periods.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by still_stirrin » Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:11 am

Hillbilly Popstar wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:12 am
Interesting.... I read somewhere on here that tails (or was it heads?) tend to convert themselves back to ethanol over time...
Heads.

One constituent of the heads is ethyl acetate (that “fingernail polish remover” smelling chemical). It tastes solventy, yet slightly sweet and is notorious for a splitting headache. But, it can be reduced to ethanol by hydrolysis. The reaction is the liquid-phase hydrolysis of ethyl acetate (EtAC) to ethanol (EtOH) and acetic acid (HAc):

CH3COOC2H5 + H2O = CH3COOH + C2H5OH

I’m not going to go into the lengthy discussion of “how to” do it...Google the internet to learn more. I’m just trying to bolster your point Popstar, that with proper processing some recovery of unwanted products can be salvaged from the feints jars. Obviously, you’ll still want to make good, conservative cuts from your spirit run.

And I too, collect and save some of the “sweet water” backend from my bourbon runs for tempering purposes. But I don’t save these fractions from any other distillate however. It’s just not worth the energy spent and jars occupied to scavenge.

My 2 cents worth.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by The Booze Pipe » Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:26 am

still_stirrin wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:11 am
Hillbilly Popstar wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:12 am

And I too, collect and save some of the “sweet water” backend from my bourbon runs for tempering purposes.

Is this from the spirit run or stripping run, or does it matter? I've found this "sweet water" in the backens during whiskey stripping (it all goes into my low wines,) but haven't paid attention to it during a spirit run.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by cayars » Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:50 pm

I've got a similar thread I started talking about recycling heads which I think are far more tricky than tails.
But I've went back and read the first page of this thread and want to make a couple of comments.
CuWhistle wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 2:23 am
Are you saying that you put your heads and tails back in to each following run and the amount has never increased? What is your secret?
Saltbush Bill wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:13 am
It probably has to do with the still as well.
The type of still and what's it's made of dramatically affects this.
I'm going to be blunt and just say if you have an all copper boiler you can likely recycle heads and tails with no build up of either. If you have a SS boiler you will get a build up of heads and likely tails as well. I have both boiler materials and they are different.

Copper in the boiler does wonderful things and if yours isn't copper then you won't get the same results as those who do have copper boilers. Putting copper in the column is not the same thing as having a copper boiler.

Here is the frank truth of decades and decades of making whiskey. Look at Scotch and Irish Whiskey processes that completely recycle feints (pot stills). They get no build up of either, they use pure copper stills of swan neck design and produce some of the best whisk(e)s available. Their stills are 100% copper start to finish. They lauter grains, they recycle feints and produce spirits we all wish we could make.
Odin wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:27 am
NZChris wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 2:53 pm
CuWhistle wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 2:19 pm
My personal experience of putting these "cut" materials into the next run, or doing an all feints run, simply results in taking the same stuff back out again and cutting / rejecting it again, or at least most of it anyway. In the long run there is very little net gain.
This mirrors my experience when I first tried it with rum. I came to the conclusion that the increasing heads and tails components were diminishing my heart cut, which was the exact opposite of what I was aiming for. The experiment I'm running now could well give the same result, but I'm determined to try it anyway.
My experience is the same. And I have done many, many trials with it. Add heads and tails back in, and you will just create bigger overall contaminations in the next run instead of recovering more hearts. The second distillation or two distillation approach just does not generate enough separating power to push more etho out of those heads and tails.

It happens with all products. Rum, whiskey, and even with rerunning heads and tails cuts from gin. Even though the GNS used in gin has very low heads/tails alcs present, the associated (bad) flavors still come over.

So ... it does not work. And it does not work because of separation power (or lack thereof). And in that statement a solution can be found. If you want to re-use heads and tails that is. It does not work in a potstill (because ... one distillation cycle per run), but it can run in a packed column or a flute.
Regards, Odin.
No disrespect Odin, but your stills use SS square boilers (maybe you have a copper boiler version as well), are not pot stills resembling Scotch or Irish pot stills (more like column stills) and will produce different spirits regardless of how they are run. The physics are different. I'd not say the distillate is better/worse, but will be different. You have great process control so it will be consistent. No disrespect is meant at all!

Copper is the great "neutralizer" in stills made for human consumption. I've looked at probably 1K different GC-MS reports of different samples from different still types and copper makes a huge difference. I've looked at more than 250K GC-MS sample reports but 1K is probably conservative with different still types and samples.

GS-MS for those not familiar is Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry or in common language are computerized lab samples of what makes up samples. This is both for samples through a still and those left in the "boiler".

There is a drastic difference on repeat spirits being run. Hence my great ""neutralizer" comment.

My point is that those using copper will very likely have a different result from those with SS boilers. Those that don't recycle feints won't care as much about copper as they don't need it as much. Straight runs with just a tad of copper in the column is usually good enough.
Last edited by cayars on Thu Dec 05, 2019 2:25 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Adding Tails

Post by Saltbush Bill » Wed Dec 04, 2019 10:34 pm

cayars wrote:
Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:50 pm
Here is the frank truth of decades and decades of making whiskey. Look at Scotch and Irish Whiskey process that completely recycle feints (pot stills) . They get no build up of either,
According to many here the Scots and Irish have been wrong for many hundreds of years , they just haven't worked that out yet.
Or maybe recycling is just a myth that has done the rounds of distilling forums for 10 or 20 years.
Personally I will keep recycling as I have done for a long time now. I am yet to hear complaints about any of my spirits that other distillers have sampled.

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Re: Adding Tails

Post by spiff » Thu Dec 12, 2019 7:54 am

From the perspective of someone who mainly does neutrals, there is only one option for me.. an all feints run. This is because I do 2-3 spirit runs for the purest possible product.. it wouldn't make any sense at all to just add back in what I just cut out on the previous run.

What would make sense is to add feints to the wash for a stripping run, except I do perfectly sized batches for my boiler. So that only leaves the all feints run. WHich kind of sucks because that's another 2 carboys taking up space as I accumulate the feints.

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