When we tell people we are building a craft distillery, the second thing they say is, “Aren’t you afraid your spirits will make you go blind?” That question comes just after “Will the ‘revenooers’ come can get you?”
Drinking spirits will not make you go blind and if they do the spirits were not only made improperly but should be on the shelf of your paint store not your liquor store.
The fear about “going blind”, is generally attributed to a concern for methanol poisoning. Methanol is an alcohol that is derived from the fermentation of pectin. Methanol is found most often at race car drag strips and paint stores. The alcohol in “alcohol fuel” is often methanol and wood alcohol in the paint department is methanol. However, when a distiller wants to make drinking spirits s/he specifically removes the methanol. To the distiller it is considered a co-product or waste product. When the still is running, different alcohols leave the still at different temperatures and in different concentrations. Because methanol becomes a vapor at a lower temperature than ethanol (drinking alcohol) the methanol leaves the still before the ethanol. This makes removing the methanol fairly easy.
The distiller, takes the temperature of the vapor in the top of the still. When the boiling point of methanol is reached, the distiller adjusts the still to keep the temperature stable. The methanol vapor is condensed and then removed from the still. A calculation determining the quantity of methanol in the batch is made. The distiller collects that amount plus a little more to allow for any margin of error. And voila, no methanol and no blindness.
So drink up and hears to keeping our sight!