By 1822, there had been several attempts at making column stills, attempts at lowering the cost and increasing the speed of making whiskey using traditional copper pot stills. Copper pot stills had been used to make whiskey in batches for centuries. (Watch how a copper pot still works, by clicking here.) That’s when Aeneas Coffey started working on an improved version.
He made changes to existing column stills, letting the vapors produced re-circulate into the still, instead of moving into the receiver with the spirit like current copper pot stills and previous column stills did. The result was more efficient, producing a ‘lighter’ spirit at higher alcohol content, and did so continuously — thus, producing more product. Coffey patented his design in 1831, and it is the basis for every subsequent column still. (Watch how a column still works, here.)
He tried to sell it to the Irish whiskey makers, but they felt it made an inferior, less tasty drink, and would have none of it, even adding an “e” to the word whiskey to distinguish it. Coffey, perfectly aware that the Scottish were a bunch of cheap bastards, took his invention to Scotland, where it sold gangbusters. We’ll start at the critical part (for this topic) of this video, but you can always rewind to watch the whole thing: