During WWII, Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc. operated 14 distilleries in Kentucky, one in Indiana, and several more in Canada. They needed a lot of distillers to run all of those distilleries and were famous for the high quality of their distiller training program.
Continuing our conversation about chambered stills, Thomas McKenzie, Master Distiller at Finger Lakes Distillery in New York, and his assistant, Jerry McCall, submitted the diagram above and the description of it that follows, both taken from the Seagram's text book, Fundamentals of Distillery Practice, by Herman Willkie and Joseph A. Prochaska (1943).
After reading this and the rest of the series, I think what we have in the chambered still is a transitional technology, bridging the gap between simple alembics and continuous stills. That's why they disappeared after a short run and why they never caught on in some places, like Kentucky. My question is this: is there any way in which the continuous still is not superior to these chambered stills?
The description is as follows:
Charge Still. A charge still usually consists of three or four large chambers superimposed one above another. Heat is supplied at the base of the column, either directly in the form of steam or indirectly by means of an external tubular heater and causes the vapor to rise from chamber to chamber, whereas in a continuous column, liquid does not flow from section to section. At the beginning of the operation, the chambers are filled partially with the liquid to be distilled. After the liquid in the bottom chamber has been freed of alcohol by distillation, the chamber is emptied. The contents of each of the other sections are transferred to the next chamber below. The top section is refilled with fresh feed along with some distillate of low alcohol content which is obtained toward the end of each operational cycle when the liquid in the bottom chamber nears exhaustion.
Although there is a high consumption of steam and a pronounced thermal decomposition of beer, a charge still may be used for distilling material containing a large quantity of suspended solids.