The craft of distilling alcohol is believed to have originated in the Middle East in the 11th century, reaching Ireland by the 12th century and Scotland by the 15th. The methods employed then are still, in essence, used today, and comprise:
Spirits can also be produced synthetically by catalytic
conversion (cracking) of ethylene gas, a by product from the
petrochemical industry. The spirits, commonly known as industrial
ethanol, produced by this method are no less safe to drink than
traditionally-distilled spirits, but the EU only permits the use of
cereal and fruit based spirits for human consumption. As a result
the use of synthetic ethanol is restricted to non drinkable uses.
Other processes used to produce spirits include:
Reverse osmosis and evaporators are used mainly to extract alcohol from beer, wine and cider to produce low or alcohol-free beverages.