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AFAIK, good distillers discard (or at least reduce) the head (typically the first 5%) of any primary distillation run because it is predominantly less desirable high-VOC compounds.

Is distillation ever used to remove these "head compounds" from a fermented beverage just to improve its taste?

For example, if removing the head improves our cognac, wouldn't removing it from otherwise finished wine also improve the wine?

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No, this would destroy the wine/mash/beer that your were trying to remove the "head" from. Just to make the first pass in a still to remove this head, you would need to get the liquid up to around 200f to start the process, thereby destroying whatever your were trying to get the less desirable aspects out of it.

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  • "Destroy" in what sense? Once a wine or bear is ready for bottling isn't it often pasteurized anyway to prevent secondary fermentation? IIRC pasteurization can run upwards of 160F, which is already above the boiling point for a lot of the head components.
    – Lysander
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 2:49
  • Uh no... you never want to do this to wine or beer after fermentation is complete. It will ruin it. Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 18:36
  • A point is that there is not head in wine. Head as you mean contains chemicals which derives from distilling grapes etc. They are not produced by sugar fermentation in wine, or better, they level stays low right because the final product is not distilled. Moreover, a little amount of methanol is not dangerous if diluted by ethanol
    – Alchimista
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 16:29

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