Specialist high alcohol content tolerant yeast strains and refined sugar based mash gets me close to 18% after fermentation stops, per my hygrometer.
Sugar amount is on the yeast packet I buy (about 6kg per 20L I think).
Add sugar and stir to fully dissolve in hot water and let mix cool somewhat in a wine primary fermenter pail before adding yeast, or the little buggers will be killed before they do their heavenly work.
Keep warm as per wine making, till the bubbling in the air lock dies off.
I then decant off the supernatant carefully to leave the lees (although in truth quite small lees, less than with grapes, when refined sugar is used to make the mash)
Cold distill in stages in a 5 gallon plastic pail with a tight fitting lid, of the sort I usually buy wine juice in.
Place a stainless steel salad bowl glued/screwed upside down to the underide of its lid.
Place a 1 gallon stainless vessel inside the pail on spacers (I use 3-4 small granite pebbles).
Add a glass tube type fish tank immersion heater with the tab stops broken off (to allow you to wind it up to a temperture that would slowly poach most fish) into the 1 gallon vessel.
Route the cord out the top of the pail (I drilled a hole for the power plug, and sealed the plug with electricians duct sealing putty. Power from a GFI/RCD protected plug is a good idea.
The vessel is postitioned so that the heated vapours rise, and condenses on the cooler outside walls and lid of the pail.
The salad bowl makes sure the condensate on the top of the pail does not fall back into the heated vessel.
The stones keep the liquid that collects in the bottom of the pail cooler than the heated vessel, so the whole pail does not warm up.
Nicer product if you discard the first half days worth of condensate or keep it to re - distill later.
Drain the condensate every few days, and keep the heated vessel full so the thermostat in the heater does not get clear of the liquid.
Research heads and tails. First run is heads, and not the preferred output
Dump the liquid in the heating vessel vessel after it gets under 5% alcohol on your hydrometer.
The collected condensed liquid needs polishing.
I run it though a vertical 4' tall 1.5" diameter copper pipe I had idle in the garage.
Added a large plastic funnel at the top, using SAPT rubber tape to hold it on.
Added a sink rubber plug to seal the charcoal top of the column when not in use.
Slunging it from and old tripod with a screwed up head I had laying around to keep it verical.
I sealed the bottom with a plate fitted with a dripper valve and then part of a stainelss steel pot scrubber went into the pipe and was tamped down to keep the valve clear of charcoal granules, and then fill the tube with actvalted granualted charcoal. (must be wasehd first, and generally kept wet once started.)
Put a pail under the outlet to catch the outlet product.
I would heat the distilled condensate in the microwave to warm it up, and add it to the water filled polishing column.
Open the dripper valve full on and feel as the hot condensate dispaces the water in the pipe. When hot liquid hits the pipe bottom, turn the valve to one drip per second or slower, and leave the full funnel quanity time to slowly percolate though the activated charcoal granules.
Output is what you want to keep. My hydrometer was not calibrated this far, but by extrapolation, it is around 35% or stronger alcohol content.
Add hot water at the end to fill the column again, so granules do not dry out.
I end up with 5 1.5l mason jars of kept product, and a bit more than 1L of 'heads', and the balance of the alcohol left in the supernatant and lees as tails
Not the smoothest stuff for cocktails but fine for mixing with soft drinks, and fruit cordials. Great lemoncello starting point.
A batch takes time to produce, but saved me cash, considering my government liquor outlet markets cheap vodka at over $30 per litre.
I gave up the vodka and wine making up activities when my time got more consumed with kids actiivites.
Nothing to keep me from going back to this in the future.