Distillation: Alcohol distillation precedes that of water


“Reserve your right to think for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.” by Hypatia of Alexandria, distillery Inventor

Distillation is not a process confined to spirit production it is a method of separating chemical substances by their volatility. Chemicals are separated from solutions by heating them until they boil and turn into gas. The gas is then collected and cooled when it condenses into a liquid. As different chemicals boil at different temperatures it is possible to separate them by controlling the heating temperatures.
There is evidence of the distillation of alcohol dating back to the second millennium B.C.E. although recent evidence from Pakistan demonstrates that it was not until 400 B.C.E. that the process was well understood. The idea of boiling water and collecting it as stream which separates out dirt, salts and bacteria seems to have come 800 years late when Hypatia of Alexandria (350-415 C.E.) invented the first apparatus for distilling water. However, it was not until the eighth century C.E. that pure chemical substances were obtained by distillation. The alembic still was invented by Persian chemist Jabir Ibn Hayyan. Later, in the ninth century, petroleum was distilled to produce kerosene by another Muslim chemist, al-Razi and the extraction of essential oils by stream distillation was invented by Avicenna in the eleventh century.

Distillation is a process of separating the component substances from a liquid mixture by selective evaporation and condensation. Distillation may result in essentially complete separation, or it may be a partial separation that increases the concentration of selected components of the mixture. In either case the process exploits differences in the volatility of mixture’s components. In industrial chemistry, distillation is a unit operation of practically universal importance, but it is a physical separation process and not a chemical reaction.