|Classic Moonshine Still|
Nineteen people have died from consuming alcohol tainted with toxic levels of methanol in Costa Rica, where the Ministry of Health issued a national alert. Fourteen men and five women ranging from 32 to 72 years old have died in several cities across the country since the beginning of June, the ministry said.
The government has confiscated about 30,000 bottles of alcohol suspected to be tainted, affecting several brands. The Ministry of Health advised against consuming alcohol from a number of brands because samples had tested positive for methanol adulteration.
Adulterated liquor often contains methanol, which can make people feel inebriated. Adding methanol to distilled spirits enables sellers to increase the amount of liquid and its potential potency, according to SafeProof, a group that lobbies against counterfeit alcohol.
Methanol is a byproduct of the production of ethanol. The head is the first part of the distilled liquid to be produced and mainly contains unpleasant substances that would give the liquor an unpleasant sour taste, as well as methyl alcohol, which is toxic, and therefore needs to be eliminated. Fortunately, these substances have a lower evaporation point than the "noble" substances of the liquor, and therefore are the first to come off of the still. The skill of the distiller consists of the ability to establish when the heads of the distillate ends and when the so-called hearts begin. Proper distillation methods will, make sure that these foreschots and heads are discarded. These make up about 25% of the output of or a distillation run. Using these in the final mix is either done by someone who is unscrupulous or has no knowledge of the process. This is not as uncommon as one might want to believe.