DISTILLATION OF THE SPIRIT OF VINEGAR
It is known from the most remote times, even before written history, that wine under certain circumstances and conditions sours and turns into vinegar, a word that means "sour wine."
During this transformation, the alcohol disappears completely and is replaced by acetic acid.
Acquire a minimum of 50 litres of good, pure red wine vinegar at 10% acidity. Reject any industrial vinegar, because it usually contains chemical products.
Arrange four plastic 1.5 litre bottles such as the ones used for mineral water or soda.
Pour the vinegar into the bottles, without filling them completely, leaving at least the headspace the size of a hand.
Place the bottles in a refrigerating ark or in a freezer, and tilt them slightly so the liquid doesn't touch the bottle caps.
Let the vinegar freeze solid. When all is completely frozen, remove the cover of one of the bottles and tip it into a large mouth flask of 1 litre of capacity. Let 500ml of vinegar drain into the flask. Switch the flask and drain another 500 ml. What remains in the bottle is a discoloured ice that contains only water. The water is rejected.
The first flask of vinegar will be about 4 degrees Baume. The other will be only about 1 or 2 degrees. A graduated hydrometer of 0-10 degrees Baumé will be very useful.
Join all the 4 degrees vinegar you collect in a 5 litre plastic bottle. Join the weaker vinegar in another bottle.
Now fill the 1.5 litre bottles you used earlier with the weaker vinegar and freeze them as was done earlier to obtain vinegar of 4 degrees. Join it to the other vinegar of the same graduation.
Always repeat the same process until you obtain, by freezing, vinegar of at least 8 to 9 degrees. It is very slow but effective work, and you will need a lot of patience and perseverance.
When you have all the vinegar with this graduation, proceed to your distillation. For this procedure, you will use an alembic and the same oven that was used for the distillation of the spirit of wine (6-litre alembic).
Pour 5 litres of the concentrated vinegar in the cucurbit. Distil about 2.5 litre on a gentle heat and the remaining amount with a stronger heat. The first spirit to come over is a beautiful lemon colour, and it will be about 1 or 2 degrees. The other will be stronger. Caput will remain in the bottom of the cucurbit, like a thick dark honey that you must place in a separate container.
Pour 5 more litres of vinegar in the cucurbit and repeat the process until you have distilled all of your supply.
Fill the bottles with the distilled spirit again and freeze, as previously, always separating the spirit of different graduations. It will be very difficult to freeze beyond the 5th or 6th cycle.
When you have the whole spirit to 5 or 6 degrees Baume, pour it in the cucurbit after you have washed it very well with a solution of caustic soda. Distil in the same way, using weaker heat in the beginning. The spirit that leaves first is always the weakest and what remains in the cucurbit will approach 9 to 10 degrees.
Repeat the process until you have all your spirit to 10 degrees. At this graduation, the vinegar spirit contains more than 80% of natural acetic acid, which will dissolve most of the metallic oxides. It is greasy to the touch, like tartar oil.
This is a true work of Hercules that few artists will know how to do correctly.
In regards to the honey that remained from the distillation, pour it in the cucurbit and distil with very strong heat. It will produce a highly graduate, empyreuma spirit that will join to the other. Faeces will remain in the bottom of the cucurbit that you must remove with a wood spoon with a long cable, and you can calcine it in a mud porringer or in a frying pan of iron, over a gas stove with very strong fire. After it is well calcined and no longer contains any combustible material, leach the ashes with rainwater and coagulate the salt, as demanded by the Art.
This salt is very deliquescent if it is well calcified. For this reason it should be kept well closed in a glass flask. It is a true tartar salt that will be very useful in several spagyrical operations.
To see pictures: 6-litre alembic.