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Rectified spirit, also known as neutral spirits, rectified alcohol, or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin is highly concentrated ethanol which has been purified by means of repeated distillation, a process that is called rectification.
It typically contains 95% alcohol by volume (ABV) (190 US proof). The purity of rectified spirit has a practical limit of 95.6% ABV when produced using conventional distillation processes, because a mixture of ethanol and water becomes an azeotrope at this concentration.
Neutral spirits can be produced from grain, grapes, sugar beets, sugarcane, or other fermented plant material. In particular, large quantities of neutral alcohol are distilled from wine. Such a product made from grain is "grain neutral spirit", while such a spirit made from grapes is called "grape neutral spirit", or "vinous alcohol".
Neutral spirits are used in the production of blended whiskey, cut brandy, some liqueurs, and some bitters. As a consumer product, it is almost always mixed with other beverages to create such drinks as punch, or is sometimes added to cocktails in place of vodka or rum and is used in Jello shots. It is also used to make homemade liqueurs, such as limoncello, and in cooking because its high concentration of alcohol acts as a solvent to extract flavors. Rectified spirits are also used for medicinal tinctures, and as a household solvent. It is sometimes drunk undiluted.
Neutral spirit is legally defined as spirit distilled from any material distilled at or above 95% ABV (190 US proof) and bottled at or above 40% ABV. When the term is used in an informal context rather than as a term of U.S. law, any distilled spirit of high alcohol purity (e.g., 170 proof or higher) that does not contain added flavoring may be referred to as neutral alcohol. Prominent brands of neutral spirits sold in the US:
"Grain spirits" is a legal classification for neutral spirit that is distilled from fermented grain mash and stored in oak containers.
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Availability of neutral spirit for retail purchase vary between states. States where consumer sales of neutral spirit are prohibited include Minnesota, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, and West Virginia.
In Polish, spirytus rektyfikowany means rectified spirit. The Polish product is labelled as 96% ABV. There are several different Polish companies that sell rectified spirit. Many of these were part of the former state-owned monopoly Polmos, which has now been privatized.
Pure spirit is widely available in stores and is mainly used as an ingredient of home-made infusions and liqueurs. Spirytus Rektyfikowany 96% is imported and available in some states.
In German, rectified spirit is generically called Primasprit (colloquial) or, more technically, Neutralalkohol. It contains 95.6% alcohol (191.2 US proof) and is usually available in apothecaries only (some Russian food stores do sell it as well). In the former East Germany, it was available in regular stores.
In Germany, Primasprit is most often used for making homemade liqueurs; other types of use are rare. Most of the Primasprit produced in Germany is made from grain and is therefore a neutral grain spirit.