To distil mineral or organic material, the material is heated by means of a hot gas entering into contact with and traversing the material in a horizontal direction. The vertical retort is charged with material from the hopper and hot gases from the furnace after traversing the boiler enter the preheating zone, pass through the slots and charge therein and are educted through connection by the blower. The charge passes downwardly to the distillation zone wherein hot gases from the heater are passed via pipe and slots through the chambers and to the pipe controlled by the dampers. These gases are recycled by the fan through the heater and chamber, that portion of the gases corresponding to the amount of vapours evolved from the distillation being evacuated via the pipe to the condensing plant not shown. Steam and/or a limited quantity of water may be admitted to the distillation zone.