Have any Questions?


Jun 08, 2022 View:

Collecting Hearts

At what proof do you stop collecting your heads to insure no tails are collected. We have always collected down to 80 proof. However, when we trained at a commercial distillery in VA the head distiller recommended we stop all heads collection once we hit 100 proof to avoid collecting tails. For specs 600 gallon mash 8% wash initial running's coming off at 170 proof. Everything i read says to collect till you get down to 80 proof. What do you seasoned guru's recommend?




The answer to this question is likely heavily dependant on the type of still you are running, and therefore very subjective. (perhaps adding pictures of yours, or listing the make/manufacturer might help?)

We dont run anything lower than 130 proof on our still, which is when fatty acids (turquoise floaties) start to appear (obviously depending on type of base material we're distilling)

However, we have the only still like ours in the US, so i doubt anyone uses the same settings we do.


I assume you mean hearts and not heads. My wash is about 8% ABV and I collect hearts starting around 160-170 proof and stop around 100 proof. Hearts to tails cut, I think, is much more subjective than heads to hearts cut. So go with what you think seems right...or ideally try both and see what works out best.


What type of spirit are you making?


I do my cuts by nose and taste only, with a little guidance from volume to know when to start nosing.

I don't allow hydrometers to be used to tell us what a spirit will taste like, those things don't have taste buds. 

I am trying to make products that taste and smell good, hydrometers measure ethanol which I consider a tasteless by-product.

I occasionally measure the cut point from heart to feints for interest and it is occasionally low as 90 proof. Great rye flavours come towards the end.

I am running a simple alembic pot still, no plates.


For us, doing whiskey, on the final spirit run, we cut hearts (not heads) from tails at much higher proof than many others, as high as 140 in some cases, down to 120. Depends too on the whiskey. We prefer a less "taily" spirit. We also tend to recycle most of those tails into the next spirit run.

Reply:On 7/16/2019 at 4:07 PM, glisade said:
Reply:On 7/16/2019 at 3:44 PM, Classick said:
Reply:On 7/16/2019 at 4:19 PM, Julius said:


There are many factors that will drive the decision of when to make your cuts. Type of spirit, type of yeast used, temp of ferment, type of fermentable, end product are all important factors that will determine when your cuts are made.

When we make whiskey we intend to bottle as an unaged (white) spirit, our tails cut is made rather early to produce a cleaner easy drinking white whiskey, but when making bourbon whiskey and malt whiskey we intend to barrel age for 4 years the tails cut is made much later. Aging of a heavier spirit will create a more complex whiskey.

@Georgeous I offer affordable one on one distilling training at my distillery, if you need some training on how to distill award winning spirits. feel free to

drop me a line at [email protected]


I was under the impression that bourbon can’t come off the still over 160 proof. Is it only the final proof in the tank at the end of the run that matters for regulations?


Reply:On 7/16/2019 at 4:44 PM, Classick said:
Reply:On 7/19/2019 at 1:45 AM, Julius said:
Reply:19 hours ago, PeteB said:

TTB definition of Bourbon Whisky:

Whisky produced in the U.S. at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers


The key is the word "produced" in the definition.  TTB defines it to mean: " Produced at. As used in 5.22 and 5.52 in conjunction with specific degrees of proof to describe the standards of identity, means the composite proof of the spirits after completion of distillation and before reduction in proof. "


So you could start collecting as high as you want as long as the total distillate is no more than 160.

Reply:5 hours ago, Julius said:

Being able to adjust your reflux condenser temps on the fly makes exploring whiskey heads technique fairly interesting, especially if you have a few plates to play with.

For example, running high reflux to stack heads, slow take off >190pf, then flipping off the reflux condenser entirely and shifting to quasi-pot mode.  You can get the product yield efficiency of a column, and the flavor profile of a pot.

Reply:On 7/20/2019 at 8:43 AM, Silk City Distillers said:

So my findings, we charged the still with 600 gallons of low wines from our fermenter and heated still to about 202° F and our copper column which is 18" in diameter and 5 plates. We used all 5 and it was slower than hell. We did not use the deplagemator. Our initial runnings started to come out around 180 proof after about 6 gallons it dropped to about 160 proof and over about 6 hours we stopped collecting at 110 proof. This was a very long distillation but product came out with desired taste but not volume. 


How did the product turn out?  I'm also getting started with a 500 gallon hybrid with four plates.  This topic was discussed last summer and I just found it, so I was wondering how the progress on your system has been?

I have heard others say they run their deflag until heads start coming out, then turn off the deflag. It helps with by not allowing them to condense and they subsequently are collected quicker during the runs.


I rarely take it lower than 110 proof, then again I use a reflux condenser after the first drop in abv.


I love reading all the different techniques.  Since the low wines I collect vary slightly from batch to batch, and the containers I keep them in don't always mean the same abv going into my whiskey still, I agree that paying attention to temps is pointless.   Taste/smell and clarity when mixed with water (a la the way scotch whiskey makers determine their hearts) are how I move from heads to hearts.   I cut from hearts to tails purely by smell, but in general it's just above 100 proof.   The wet newspaper smell is generally how I notice where I make it.   That said, I don't sell white whiskey, and thus all of my hearts go in a barrel, so I'm probably cutting to tails later than guys/gals who are bottling the spirit white (or as moonshine) - want those more complicated parts to interact with the barrel.  

Like you, I want to read a lot to see what I'm missing, or to learn of new techniques.   Make a few smaller batches and mess around a little, see what works and what doesn't.  It's what I'm going to keep doing.   Also, I'm using a smaller copper still, and while it has a 10 window column on it, I don't use the dephleg.   I've worked with a bunch of different setups, taking the column off, taking the dephleg off, adding a copper onion dome, etc....but it has rarely if ever mattered to what's coming off the parrot.  Very consistent flavor and process over 50-60 batches.


Reply:16 hours ago, LuckyGuy said:

That looks like a lot like our still but with an extra plate Run your dephleg at 68C and make your cut when your top plate is at 92C. I think you'll be happy.