Organic Brandy Distillery
Duncan Harris started his organic brandy distillery in 2008 when he had an excess of grapes. In the hot climate of the Swan Valley where the worlds best organic fortified wines are made, a brandy distillery is necessary to produce fortified wines.
Harris Organic has two brandy stills. The first one is a 300L stainless pot still with a copper condenser. The capacity of the condenser is rated at 20kW. The pot is fired with wood, which is highly unusual these days. Most stills are gas fired or electric. The wood used provided by the vine arms pruned off with the chainsaw during the winter pruning.
This brandy still is used firstly to knock down the freshly fermented wine into a stable alcoholic brandy solution so it can be used later. Later the brandy low wines are re distilled to produce eau de vie to make fine wood aged organic brandy.
Bertha is the second still at Harris Organic. It is a 50 litre beer keg modified with a four inch triclover fitting to allow the column to fit on. The four inch hole allows for easy cleaning of the still too. The beer keg has legs welded to the base and an outlet with a drain valve. Attached is the 1.5 metre column that is made of 2 inch stainless steel tube filled with stainless steel pot scrubbers. The pot scrubbers add surface area for increased refluxing within the tower, this increases purity of the brandy spirit. Black foam insulation sleeve helps with efficiency of the still. On top of the column is attached a cross flow condenser. This two inch condenser was designed by Harry Jackson.
Under the condenser is the working part of the brandy still. This is a VM still, which means that is a vapour managed (VM) still. A one inch stainless tube is teed off the main column with a one inch brass gate valve as the controller of the vapour. From there the vapour condenses in a one inch vertical condenser. The maximum rate obtained from this still at 94% is about 900mL per hour. A rate of one litre per hour is easily obtained at 90 plus percent.
When the spirit is over 90 % by volume alcohol the product is very smooth to the taste when it is diluted to an acceptable 40%. This organic spirit is classed as a neutral brandy spirit. Instead of calling it NBS or SVR we call it vodka. This smoothness is due to the ability of grapes to give a wonderful mouth feel, compared with other grain based organic vodka spirits.