Who is Dante and Who is Virgil and the Value Proposition of Bourbon

This really took a left turn as I worked on it and crammed in some other concerns I’ve been having. Its been dawning on me that the spirits industry has a tenuous relationship with beauty. When Arroyo used complex pH buffering on a rum wash, he was making his spirit more suave. When Bourbon producers adopted similar methods they were making a spirit that would merely mature faster to squeeze out value.

What path do you take when you’re a new distiller? And how can we mature the new scene so it compares to the better aspects of fine wine production culture? I think we need to put beauty at the center of things and build science around it. Things should flip so beauty is distiller driven and not merely reliant on drinkers.

The drinker with most distillers. Who is Dante and Who is Virgil is not what you’d think.

In my last few posts on American whiskey I described the reign of a generation of practical distillers who built their whiskeys like a brick house so the next generation of scientific distillers and their financiers would have a strong value proposition for buying them out. This was all supported by tax structure, production processes, and the fact that barely any producers even drank the stuff. We are certainly in a new era (that I’ve even named guided traditional processes), but the investigation did deflate a lot of my romanticism for American whiskey times of yore. I didn’t find a lot of concern for beauty.

Beauty is the composite of extraordinary sensoriality and exemplary human behavior. –Leonard Koren

Today I present two papers that support the value proposition theory and shed details on the stripping of Bourbon. Don’t let me seem too pessimistic, a lot of this could be improvement. Whiskeys of the practical era were not built to be their progressive best, instead they were practical. The passing of the torch saw a lot of improvement and we can only start to ask specific questions on what lines they crossed and where.

I don’t explain, I explore. -Marshal McLuhan.

The first paper is Whiskey Losses During Aging (1942) by the Seagram’s team of Milton Gallagher, Paul Kolachov, and Herman Willkie.

The second paper is Whiskey Aging: Effect of Barreling Proof on the Aging of American Whiskeys (1959) by the Hiram Walker team of C.S. Boruff and L.A. Rittschof. Remember, this is from many years later, but C.S. Boruff was the condescending scientist with horrible disdain for the practical distillers.

The beginning of the Seagram’s team paper even starts with the claimed savings of $750,000 over three years. Their main methodology of capturing the savings was to reduce the angel’s share and gravitational leakage. They did this by control for temperature in the warehouses and dropped it fairly significantly. They also controlled for humidity. Finally, what seems practical, but was overlooked in the old school by their claims, they increased scrutiny of barrel quality and were better about checking for leaks.

I just reread their paper and it is really enjoyable. Anything Willkie and Kolachov touched has been really good. When I’m down on American whiskey they inadvertently build it back up. They describe how foolhardy and extravagant it is to store your whiskey in such poor containers, yet we do. The excess and inefficiency of whiskey makes it basically art and probably most like a poem when you consider the similarities roundabout processes. It is a unique type of art, because its our art, that of the drinker. We are its patrons and it was commissioned by us. Who some think are the artists, are not. They are reluctant, often do not touch the stuff themselves and have a disdain for the poetic flourishes we want.

The paper moves on to describe the Carlisle Tables from the “80’s and 90’s”. These are tables of allowances for soakage and evaporative losses, but they are described as inaccurate and in need of updating. The system as it was made them pay taxes on nonexistent whiskey because the losses experienced were actually higher than what was provided for in the tables.

Therefore, the distilling industry must make the best of a bad situation. Every opportunity must be taken advantage of to reduce whisky losses during the warehousing period.

Flavor be damned! I myself am an artisan and I get commissions I often don’t agree with. I kick and scream as I execute them. My work (please share) is nothing profound. Recently a self designing home owner, the artist, gave me an 1890’s Corbin door set to strip and polish. Well, I’m in the Wabi Sabi camp. The century plus old patina was stunning. This artist and I were aesthetically opposed. The symbolism of impermanence plus the extraordinary sensoriality of patina are something more profound than the puritanical morality of ordinary polished brass (me versus them). They got charged ambitiously for violating all my life principles, just like y’all get charged ambitiously by whiskey makers that have a disdain for your wasteful decadent aesthetic.

We poets make Homeric offerings to our angels and let the oak also take a drink and they just don’t get it. The IRS has to step in to protect our speech from being squashed. All the sudden, we have new producers that actually like making whiskey and there is no kicking and screaming, and to be honest, for some reason, I’m just not into it. If you’re an artist that wants a stronger more straight forward bond with your artisan, drink rum (I actually say that idly, just to tease you).

The Seagram’s paper is great and even shows a little data on different tiers of whiskey stacked six high. Their modernization started in 1939.

The temperature of 55°F. was arrived at from two considerations. One was the fact that men in the warehouses do not work effectively or with any degree of comfort if the room temperature is much below 55°F. Another consideration was the possible decrease in the aging rate at the low temperature. The effect of temperature on rate of aging has always been the subject of discussion in the distilling industry. It seems logical to believe that aging proceeds faster at somewhat higher temperatures. Yet no controlled experiment has yielded conclusive data.

What is cool here is that even as man tries to dominate the terroir of whiskey storage with refrigeration, it cannot escape human terms. The crew must be literal blue collar comfortable. The industry hides this kind of detail from us, because they know that we as patron’s of the arts wouldn’t be happy. I’m glossing over some details. They actually let it get warmer than 55°F in the summer months. They do however go on to describe a 2500 barrel experiment in progress where the whiskey is kept at year round temperature of 50°F.

The impact of humidity worked very different from what I would have thought. Changes in humidity do not effect evaporation so much as tightness of the barrel joints. High humidity being not so terrible, but hard to maintain so it stresses the joints and creates leakage that way. High humidity was also tied to mold growth and sanitary conditions which probably has a bigger impact on the workers than it does on the whiskey.

A communication with the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory is acknowledged which is the government organization where I obtained the paper on Whiskey Aged in Plywood Barrels. This also brings us back to Public Foundation for Private Spirits Companies.

The care which barreled goods receive during warehousing was intensified. The practice in the distilling industry is to inspect every barrel of whisky periodically throughout the storage period. This inspection period was shortened so that each barrel is inspected every ten calendar days. Inspectors on these ten-day cycles repair minor leaks, patch cracked staves, and generally perform preventive maintenance. In cases where the leak is too large to repair in passing or a head is badly buckled or a cracked stave shows probability of leaking, these barrels are removed from the racks and the defective parts are replaced with sound staves or heads. In addition, newly filled barrels are inspected for leaks daily until they have been stored for two months. From then on they are cared for in the ten-day inspection cycle.

This could be looked upon as more Puritanical neuroticism, but it is hard to argue with. This type of spillage is not an offering. A buckled barrel is not a happy barrel. This also makes me wonder what new distilleries are doing. They obviously encounter these same challenges, but do they have any minor coopering skills?

To get an idea of the monetary saving represented by this decrease in excess loss, a calculation was made to show what the excess taxes should have been if the rate of excess loss had remained at 0.70 proof gallon per barrel. During this three year period 729,536 barrels were tax paid. If these had each been 0.70 proof gallon excessive, the quantity of nonexistent whisky subject to tax would have been 510,675 proof gallons. Over this period the rate of tax varied from $2.25 to $4.00 per proof gallon. Thus, the tax collected on nonexistent whisky would have been $1,425,256. From actual figures during this period the excess loss was only 272,917 proof gallons. Figured at the same rate of tax, this quantity of loss was taxed $725,328. Thus the saving of excess tax was $699,928. In addition, the actual whisky saved was 237,757 proof gallons. Figured conservatively at $0.30 per proof gallon, this saving was worth $71,327. Thus, it can be said that the value of the change amounted to $771,255, roughly three quarters of a million dollars, over the past three years.

The value proposition now has numbers and they’re big. You tell this to your finance guys and it all the sudden makes sense to buy up a bunch more distilleries and squeeze them. What did we gain and what did we lose?

The next paper is from 1959, but represents work that started eight years prior. It immediately raises some I don’t know how I feel about this.

Three whiskey distillates were barreled for aging at 1 10 (control) and distillation proof. Experimental barreling proofs were 118, 127, and 154. During 8-year aging in new charred oak barrels the percentage losses of whiskeys barreled at proofs above 110 were slightly lower than the controls; the tendency was not statistically significant because of the relatively small number of experimental barrels. Chemical characteristics developed during aging of whiskeys barreled at 118 and 127 proofs fell within normal limits, but at 154 proof were lower than normal. Flavor after aging 8 years was normal in the whiskey barreled at 118 proof, slightly less mature at 127 proof and different at 154 proof because of a spicy green oak taste. An industry-wide experiment is now under way.

Uh, industry-wide? I cannot opt out? I have to wait for Wild Turkey to start up to find an artisan I trust to commission my whiskey art? Are any of you even familiar with Tom Marioni’s The Act of Drinking Beer With Friends Is The Highest Form of Art. There is a rigorous conceptual foundation for all of my beauty and who is the artist arguments. I actually called up Tom on the phone many years ago to talk about conceptual art and cocktails. Many renowned painters and sculptors use studio assistants who end up doing a lot of the actual painting and the sculpting.

Liquor turns out to be no different. I drink both heavily and very discriminately thus commissioning a lot of works. These Bostonapothecary writings also pull a lot of puppet strings and so many distillers reading these writings inadvertently become my studio assistants. If we stretch it conceptually, so many are underneath my benevolent educational wing (muhahaha). I’m even going to commission more works when I teach a new skill set coming up that I’ve been holding out on people.

The grasping point here is that I’m both empowering you and liberating you. Drink consciously and become the artist. It is open to anyone. And watch your studio assistants. They can be a bunch of penny pinching dorks. They have no vision, they need the artist. If left to their own devices they come up with marshmallow vodka and cherry bourbon.

Well, back to the second paper, this C.S. Boruff, I just don’t trust the guy. He would sell you that stretched cocaine at the regular price. Don’t bring him into my studio. Read it for yourself to see what I’m talking about. Look what happened to the Hiram Walker liqueurs before the cocktail renaissance and still largely now. All the artists were gone. With no drinker driven vision to keep them honest, the Hiram team was left to their own devices and of course they ran it into the ground. When I keep saying guided traditional processes, who is Virgil?

Grow Roots and use Positive Nationalism to Displace False Populism

I’ve been working on a piece that explores the idea of positive nationalism as opposed to the more common negative form and I aspire to illustrate how the culinary arts plus hospitality industry are the places to find it. A problem is the topic is a little too big for me and probably needs to be broken up (so here we go!). As usual this is a continuation of my study of the Canadian philosopher economist, John Ralston Saul. All quotations are from the last chapters of JRS’ The Collapse of Globalism.

The roots we need to grow for values the majority of Americans hold, such as inclusion, are found in positive nationalism, a new form of nationalism unlike the old Westphalian model. This also segways right into a strategy of displacing the toxic white supremacist narrative creeping up.

It is hard for any society that slips into a vacuum to admit that it is no longer advancing in any particular direction. This is particularly difficult for those individuals who hold power. Their vocabulary, their image of themselves, even their skills have all been honed to fit the certainty of a direction that no longer prevails.

It is not apparent to everyone, but we are fumbling through a vacuum that is bringing us back to nationalism and we have the choice of embracing intentional complexity and doing something positive or gravitating towards ideology, dangerous oversimplification, relentless scapegoating, and negativity.

We are here because globalism (not internationalism) has collapsed and the promises of completely free markets leading to prosperity never panned out. What we got was a lot of averaging down, a lot of wealth evaporation, and a dissolving of the public good. Corporatism and all those capitalist ills went global.

Multinationals have become so large they can damage whole large nations. The tax base that supports the public good has eroded detrimentally. Citizens have not been able to come together to solve our collective problems like climate change, the housing crisis, or our massive education gaps/debts, etc.

What only states and state alone are able to do is aggregate and purposefully deploy legitimate power.

Taxes cannot be raised on a multinational unless citizens come together as a nation to assert their legitimacy and even then it is tricky. With simple corporatism, a state cannot raises taxes because the auto industry will jump states, leave Detroit and end up in the America south (less China than you’d think). Amazon is currently playing every state against each other in a race to the bottom for its new headquarters.

This escalates and the federal government cannot even raise taxes because corporations just go multi national and jump the border for Ireland. It is not the easiest thing to see, but this cheapens your citizenship and your ability to solve problems alongside your fellow citizens. We are constantly divided and tricked into succumbing to inevitability instead of collectively forming as a nation to solve our common problems.

The economics of globalism get weird and we see multinationals doing things like trading with themselves to shift profits away from tax burden. This clear path of least resistance gets covered up with relentless negative nationalist scapegoating. Globalist trade is not the trade we learn in undergrad econ and is the reason increasing trade has not increased prosperity. Again, only the nation, respecting and colluding with other firm nations can deploy the legitimate power to reign in this colossal tax flight and theft of the public good.

The question is not what to do about global economic integration. It is how to ensure that this new nationalist era is citizen based, focused on the national common good and on developing binding treaties in a range of areas at the international level.

Reasserting the nation with a positive framework is tricky. Many people with wonderful common American values and common decency don’t have a matching economic understanding. They think the nationalism option is abandoning international trade and agreements in knee jerk reaction, but that isn’t the only option. It will be complex and gradual, but regulations can be adopted to rebuild the tax base and our commitment to the public good. A lot of this will be done through anti-trust and the need for it is starting to become more popular to Americans across the board.

When so much inarticulate concentrated economic anxiety makes its way through the American prism with all its baggage, much scatters as hate and we can only scapegoat in response. I optimistically believe a lot of that can change if we give people another option and displace the negative voices. This won’t be easy.

When young Americans are trying to figure out how they lost so much ground and why they will not have what their parents have, their options are complexity or scapegoating. It becomes no wonder why we have an uphill battle. Economic narratives like above can cut through the conspiracies, but we must admit that some of our recent leaders (BO,HC) were/are not suited for this vacuum (others are very clearly not).

A challenge to creating a new positive nationalism is that while many people weren’t looking, the American flag (usually twin flags), on the back of a pickup truck has been claimed by the negative nationalists and turned into a hate symbol. This is where the displacement comes in. Those who value inclusion and multi culturalism need to start waving the flag, en masse, to smother or displace the hate and give those simply gravitating towards nationalism a visible positive option. The American flag will always be a symbol of nationalism, we must fill it with inclusion and optimism.

The recent Boston free speech protest/counter protest featured possibly 50 white supremacists to 30,000 peace loving, liberal, inclusive counter protesters. Believe it or not, the white supremacists had more American flags than the counter protesters. I spoke to quite a few educated looking people who seemed as oblivious to economics as we assume white supremacists are. Even though their numbers were awe inspiring, the counter protesters were content to merely play word games with the other side and not grow deeper roots that can explain the economic anxiety leading to the new hate. (This is not completely true because the Democratic Socialists were there and the only people organized enough to have a PA system and give speeches. I do not completely fit in with them, but their message is ready to get updated and rapidly evolve to society’s needs/challenges).

Many people may want to have an international side to their lives, but they want to live in their communities. Or rather they do live in their communities. They want their civilization to reflect and build upon this reality. They don’t want this reality to be treated as recalcitrance or an accident. They have just lived through a period in which their elites have been obsessed with abstract theories of how economics must work at the global level. As a result it was deduced that citizens were first subjects of these theories and must do their best to fit in. There was an incapacity among our policy-creating leadership to begin their thinking with the real lives of their real citizens. When they’ve been faced by popular resistance, their tendency has been to wait it out or offer bagatelles, distractions.

I’ve been sporting an American flag on my motorcycle recently and I get some confusion from friends. They don’t know what it means any more. Is it hate of non citizens and the last refuge of a scoundrel? Or is symbolic of my understanding of how we are going to recover from globalism and rebuild the public good? If we had 30,000 American flags at the Boston rally more people would be curious about the latter.

The positive form of nationalism is tied to self-confidence and openness and to a concept of the public good. Negative nationalism is dependent on fear and anger and a desperate conviction that one nation’s rights exist by comparison with those of another nation, as if in a competition that process winners and losers.

If we harness the flag and a new human centered understanding of economics we can recruit Americans to inclusion and positive nationalism using a lot of the same techniques as altright=Nazis. We can displace their scapegoating with intentional complexity.

They have white bread, light beer, paralyzing cultural consolidation, and oppressive monopoly. We use inclusion to unleash the massive creative energy of multiculturalism and reap its prosperity. America’s vibrant culinary scene, our national treasure, is our clearest proof of what positive nationalism can do (and I will dive into it).

They write propaganda to reinforce their sham position and we need to rewrite our positions to include the nation, wave the flag, and dig our economic and policy roots. If you want to participate, and this will take an army of writers, the two forms of nationalism have characteristics to keep on the tip of your tongue.

Now the idea of choice is back. Much of it is tied to the return of the idea of national power. With that comes the democratic reality of choice. Choices for citizens. Choices for countries. Choices for coalitions of countries. And with choice come all the uncertainty that provokes fear in some and releases the energies and imagination of others.

Negative nationalism is brash, self interested, indifferent to or ignorant of the interests of others. It is often an expression of fear, insecurity, poverty, ambition, ethnic loyalty, appropriation of God to one’s side. Pride in ignorance is a trait or encouraged. There is often conviction that they’ve been permanently wounded. An obsession develops with the idea that human difference is negative.

Positive nationalism starts with an embrace of intentional complexity, self confidence and openness. It is also an expression of the public good. Human difference is celebrated (in restaurants!). It is about empathy, responsibility, and grappling with the other. Freedom is associated with the ability to be different. The disinterest of the citizen is emphasized as the path to freedom over the potentially damaging corporate interest. All religions are seen as equally true. Competition is valued over consolidation. Inequality is recognized as damaging to liberty. The public good is recognized as equalizing. Involvement and civic commitment are recognized as necessary for maintaining freedom. Inclusion is a creative, prosperity generating human force.

You could say that all nationalism is about belonging, about place and about imagining the other. It can take a positive, civic form, one in which belonging brings the obligation to reach out and to imagine the other in an inclusive, multiple way. It can also take a negative form, above all ethnic, dedicated to belonging as an expression of privilege and exclusion.

Before I end this, it is important to note that positive nationalism began with indigenous movements and the U.S. is a late comer to this party. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and I’m sure other nations I’m slowly learning about have growing Indigenous movements at the center of their recovery from globalism and their reigning in of capitalism.

The average intellectual in the U.S. did not know what it could truly gain if support was added to native Americans fighting to assert their sovereignty against the Dakota Access pipeline. Many intuitively felt the tribes were right, but they could not articulately tie our various struggles together.

There is this myth you hear in grade school that ownership of Manhattan was bought for a handful of beads from native Americans. But ownership is the wrong metaphor and we let it inject itself too deeply into our concept of capitalism. What was really intended to happen is that responsibility was transferred. And this wisdom of indigenous peoples, this emphasis of responsibility over mere ownership is at the heart of positive nationalism and how we will re-concept capitalism into a more sustainable form.

Originating in American universities, abstract ideas about economics and capitalism forced out any notions of responsibility because it could not be easily tidied up, measured and modeled. Western notions of capitalism were prone to skewed distributions relative to other nations that we’d categorize as collectivist and on the socialist spectrum. Anyone that overly embraced the new globalist notion lost while resistant countries, maintaining their own identity, like India and China, actually prospered.

North Korea wants to integrate into the international economy on its own terms (and sadly retaining its human rights violations) so that it keeps its footing like China. The West wants NK to integrate only on the West’s terms. The North Korea situation is very complex, but the character and qualities of capitalism is at the heart of it all. A lot of questions should be asked and answered any rash decisions are made.

We … made you into
Nations and tribes, that
Ye may know each other
(Not that ye may despise
Each other).
-The Quran, possibly analyzing the regional cooking of Italy.

So you see where this is going next?

Research Bulletin No. 5 and the Republic of Rum Letters

Lately there is growing interest in the work of, Puerto Rican agro chemist, Rafael Arroyo, and many are discovering my hosted collection of his lost works from a few years ago. Few realized Arroyo wrote so many journal articles because he is best known for an elusive book called Studies On Rum: Research Bulletin No. 5. Not many copies still exist because it was printed on such cheap paper that all copies are literally crumbling.

I have a wonderful scanning of this work, but I acquired it well after I started hosting the journal articles. By then there were many thousands of reads and downloads, but near no comments. This blog has wild readership stats for being so niche, but generates very little dialogue. Open hosting, a part of open culture has not exactly led to the open community I hoped for which is something that older generations of distillers enjoyed.

I made it known in that post I had a good scanning and after many months someone actually took the time to write me an email, tell me about their project, and ask about my scanning. Of course I shared it with them. But I told them: Only share it if someone asks, but of course share it! Do not volunteer it. Offer to discuss it. Create a Republic of Letters and not a society of lurkers. Pass on those same rules. In two years I’ve only gotten 15 requests, but from around the world. We’ve had great conversations on successes, failures, and ideas to try. Very cool things are happening, keep an eye on South Africa.

A notable recommendation to participate in the Republic of Rum Letters: write emails and comment directly on blogs. Avoid facebook and twitter because they are too ephemeral and all the great discussions get lost (FB is the biggest offender). Ask questions. Avoid hero worship. Contact very old writers. Recognize that we’ve all barely scratched the surface and truly know very little.

I don’t aim to control the book and it is pretty much redundant with all the journal articles, but the approach has started tons of great dialogue and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve read the book a few times and even wrote multiple articles on Arroyo and specific topics within Studies on Rum. The best passages, the stuff that would amuse and excite the rum drinker are all fully quoted in these articles.

The Prior Patents of Rafael Arroyo
Rum Comparatively: Understanding Anything Goes
Rum, Mitogenic Radiation & The Bio-photon
Cape Verde and Sugarcane Juice Rum Categories
Team Pombe and the Yeast Olympiad
Rum, Osmotolerance and the Lash
Aroma Breakage and Rum Design
Ageing, Accelerated Ageing, & Élevage ==> Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics
Arroyo’s Oidium

I don’t think a single article above has even gotten a comment.

I’ve put Arroyo down for a while, but I have been concepting a distillery analysis laboratory based on his ideas plus everything I have read that came after. I aim to create an affordable, holistic, organoleptic, human centered analysis system for product design and eventual quality control that can generate actionable advice. There is no GC/MS. It aims to be more like a vinyl DJ; admired, marketable, and effective. Seductive, but non actionable technologies are ruled out. Fine winemakers perform tons of analysis but don’t get too advanced. They are human centered.

The system can also be integrated into brand marketing and story telling better than more technologically advanced methods. The budget is looking like $30K and it also encompasses my gin lab based on the original 1940’s Seagram’s botanical assay procedures I recovered.

I’m working on it.

The Playbook That built American Wine Builds The Alt-right

A few years ago I binge read through quite a few of the California oral history series on the wine industry. They are absolutely revelatory and I cannot say enough about how brilliant their first interviewer, Ruth Teiser, was. Some are technical while some are beautiful stories of entrepreneurship. Some are absolute thrillers like that of Antonio Perelli-Minetti’s where he participates in the Mexican revolution and breakfasts with Pancho Villa. One stands out in its own category, the Raymond Chandler category. I’ve held off writing about it for years to save it for a major piece, but I don’t think I can do it justice. That interview, actually two[1,2], is that of Leon Adams.

All of fine wine within the U.S., post prohibition, is the product of the elaborate propaganda campaign of Leon Adams. This guy was wiley and noir AF. The forward to the interview actually starts with the wine scene elder, Maynard Amerine, being tactful but eluding to how problematic Adams is. Adams was in the center of extremely active formative times for the industry. By interview time he was often the only survivor so we only know one side of the story (by a propagandist). We are left to take his word for it even though his frequent exploits put his integrity is in question.

I’m bringing this all up because we’re trying rid the White House (if not the country) of its Steve Bannons and Kellyanne Conways. This job is a challenge because most Americans do not know enough about propaganda. The tactics and impact of subtle things are blindsiding people. Leon Adams, thankfully, was mostly chaotic neutral, and lucky for us, used his compulsions to jump start the American wine industry. The Bannon’s and Conways are chaotic evil and their chosen obsession is tearing the country apart. If we don’t learn about these problematic personalities now that there is a strong template, we’re doomed to see tons of them, and they are all overly smart relentless workaholics.

To learn about propaganda and the minds addicted to it, we could turn to the great ladies of twitter (@sarahkendzior @mollymckew @rvawonk @zeynep) who are pretty much saving our uneducated asses and bringing the country up to speed. Alternatively we could briefly look at Leon Adams and see that so many of his tactics were highly effective towards his cause and are still in use today. This dangerous personality type, we glimpse in Adams, is in love with propaganda first and their almost arbitrary cause a very distant second. It has proven powerful enough to move a mountain that is/was American drinking tastes.

Adams was a newspaper guy and the time line of the story makes it seem like he chose a life of propaganda before he chose wine. His formative moment was reading Edward L. Bernay’s text Propaganda (page 13). Adams simply wanted a project full of characters to mettle with and wine had it. He does tell a great childhood story where his mother makes homemade Zinfandel in the Valley of the Moon and he enjoyed covering the prohibition beat. His early newspaper stories are very cool.

Leon Adams and many of these personalities are a bit shadowy and have a weird pathological compulsion for an effect they can have on society, positive if we’re lucky and negative if we are not. It becomes a cult of do unto others what you can get away with (Herod’s Law). When some see the template (while the rest of society does not) they join in and that is how you get the Milos and Louise Mensches, and it becomes no surprise that they secretly know each other. Why couldn’t they have just discovered wine?

Adams’ exploits over the years are wild and the read is very worthwhile. It spoils nothing to tell you how he dressed high school girls in Swiss peasant costumes to stage the first vintage festival after prohibition. There was no money for a real festival and he was able to relay the photo coast to coast through the associated press (fake news!). We see this same kind of thing now with twitter and viral media.

Wine then, in America, was a skid row beverage with exceptions you could count on your fingers (very cool stories with their own oral histories). All these propaganda efforts were luckily in sync with tremendous scientific work from UC Davis to build the science behind fine wine. Commodity wine was a salvage product. Table grapes were the priority then raisins then wine. It was often fortified and resembled cheap port. Demand had to change before the supply.

Control of language was a big part of the propaganda plan and we see a lot of that today. Adams passed bills using lobbyists in Washington and rewrote countless government documents and eventually educational books to establish table wine and dessert wine instead of fortified wine. When you are a drunk and you go before the judge saying you drank dessert wine, it reflects much better on the industry than if you drank fortified wine. Dessert wine is your own problem and spiked fortified wine is the industry’s problem. There were countless subtle changes and they all added up to pave the way. This was all figured out by a silver tongued devil with remarkable foresight. It also represents a startling amount of legwork that people of these compulsions are willing to go to. They work 80 hours a week to feed their compulsions.

We see the exact same behavior from the Bannons and Spencers. Scores of average racist people could not collude to invent the modern language of hate like we see today, but a few of the extra smart deranged types can absolutely spew it. The alt left is the dessert wine, subtle language changes with profound impact. You would not believe what it can do unless you see it in hindsight. So much of what just happened after the Charlotte protests were language games drawing false equivalencies to sway average people in Iowa, and it does.

We need to quickly diagnose these people and understand that they don’t even really care about their agenda. It is simply a narcissism and obsession with the magnitude of their impact that motivates them. They need be singled out and boycotted from their soap box podiums. The money trail encouraging them needs to be revealed and shamed to high hell.

My favorite Adams anecdote is how he wanted to jump start sparkling wine in the U.S. (page 79). No one really drank the domestic stuff or even table wine. It wasn’t yet respectable. J.B. Cella’s daughter was a torch singer and no doubt a real babe. Everyone obviously crushed on her so Adams turned an industry event (Raisin Day) into a Champagne ball centered around her performing to actually get the industry guys to show up. Black tie and ladies in evening dresses, very different than Raisin Day. Well, wine guys did not yet drink wine, they drank whiskey. Adams controlled everything at the event and served no whisky, only sparkling wine which no one had ever drank before. Events back then circulated through the society papers and all the photos no doubt showed a well dress crowd all with a new beverage and a fad was born.

Adams telling is really amusing and you can tell he was very proud of the stunt. It sounds kind of stupid, but we see neo nazis calling themselves the alt-right as a re-branding to also attain respectability. Motherfucking table wine getting an article in GQ about how dapper they are and we let them pull it off. There was outrage when this recently happened, but few had serious alarm bells going off that neo-nazis simply renamed themselves to get in the society pages. We did not have enough stories like the Adams story to see how powerful lame stunts like that were. We cannot forget again.

After that stunt, Adams goes right in to explaining all the ghost writing he used to do. You have to be ruled by compulsion if you are single handedly going to do all that legwork.

So, I went on from there. I realized the only way I’d ever been successful in indoctrinating anyone, personally, was by ghost writing. I did tremendous amounts of ghost writing. What I wrote would always be published under the name of some wine industry person. This had happened in other industries in which I’d operated as well. I would write my ideas into an article, and then people would praise the author whose name was signed, for what he had written. Then he would begin to believe it himself.

Bannon and Steven Miller did this for Trump and we see other variations of this where lobbyists write complete bills for politicians and ask them to simply sign their name. The New Yorker just described nefarious billionaire Carl Icahn pulling off this stunt for trump. When it was called out they retracted the document and claimed the wrong version was released. The New Yorker article is a heavy duty and very specific tale of kleptocracy and the evaporation of wealth. The quality of Icahn’s wealth is absolutely disgusting. There is little original prosperity, it is all transfer prosperity.

“You will take these characters!”—and I used Setrakian as my number one example—”you will book them on the luncheon circuit, to make speeches about what a wonderful industry the wine industry is. They will talk to every Rotary Club and every Lion’s Club and every Kiwanis Club and Optimist Club. You will distribute literature about the wine industry and about the uses of wine, especially table wine, about cooking with wine and so on. They will talk about all these things. I will give you a model speech for them to use, but don’t ask them to use it. I want them to develop their own speeches from your material. You book dates. They’ll make these speeches and people will applaud. When they’re applauded they will begin to believe what they said.” This was done.

This is the story of the birth of wine in America. Political propaganda, sadly, has advanced well beyond the tactics Leon Adams used which are almost standard guerrilla marketing these days. Remember, what sets Leon Adams apart from clever marketers is compulsion to keep doing it and satisfaction from the game he played. It was more than a pay check. He employed people we would think of simply as marketers executing ideas described above.

Politics has taken a dark turn towards blind siding so many with the concept that distraction is he new censorship. This play book creates room for a whole new group of sacrificial personalities. They will say horrible stuff they do not care about to create spectacles that eat up finite time or specifically distract from other controversies while time marches on. Ann Coulter would be a prime example. Any minute you devote to her hollow words is time you will not spend advancing your understanding of economics and wow does it add up. So much hate is actually based on simple economic misconceptions. This ilk has odd pathological issues and get secured the promise once they sacrifice themselves to live out their days in ivory towers and gated communities. They are guaranteed no consequences. At the moment we do not know how to properly categorize or quarantine these characters.

Resisting propaganda used to be easier before this recent era of dark innovation. We see too many intelligent people giving their finite time to trolls and too many young and newly engaged giving their time to Ann Coulter and not to economics. We used to line item protest and now these personalities and new tactics force us to juggle. We divide ourselves when we say don’t give time to that issue, they are trying to distract you from this yet both issues clearly matter. There is little advice on how to master these scenarios. Barnie Frank explained that you cannot look at the way a politician voted on an issue in isolation, it always has a larger context. Did they vote against something small they wanted to gain an ally for something bigger and trickier to achieve? Political activism for the citizen used to be arithmetic and now it is Barnie Frank’s calculus.

We owe Leon Adams a lot of gratitude for the effort he put in to jump starting the wine industry in America. In the comparisons I draw, my aim is simply to note a personality type. Depending on what they latch on to, they can have positive impacts on society or the very negative we are seeing recently. We are so fortunate Leon Adams aimed his boundless energy and creativity at something positive.

This is something I had to get out of the way before my next piece about positive forms of nationalism centered around inclusion and belonging. It will be a look through the lens of the hospitality industry. Leon Adams is worthy of some serious scholarly work and his oral history with Ruth Teiser will reward anyone that reads it.

Father, Forgive Them; For They Know Not What They Are Doing

When I wrote American Whiskey by the Numbers I had never before actually looked at Bourbon, though I’ve certainly drank my fair share. Believe it or not, I haven’t read any of the recent titles on the subject and I don’t really know what anyone else knows. Are all the mash bills, fermentation, and distillation parameters known, or am I blowing the lid open on a big story? It is slow going finding out and I probably got the lowest amount of interest ever in a story I thought was pretty significant. Be warned, this saga is a bit of a disillusioning mess.

Since profiling the document, I’ve read two older books on Bourbon plus a few great old research papers. Some really interesting things turned up and I’m basically convinced that Maker’s Mark saved Bourbon from destroying itself. I’ll get to that slowly. I used to think that the American whiskey story lacked the wide dimensions of other traditions, but boy is that wrong. It is full of churning culture wars that pushed it to the brink and they are still unfolding.

The first book I read was by Sam K. Cecil who’s big claim to fame was being the scientist counterpart to practical distiller Bill Samuels at Maker’s Mark. It was sort of a dead end, believe it or not. The book turns out to be a lot of births and deaths and locations which does interest a lot of people, but does not help our quest.

Even though Cecil was in the thick of it, his writing does not explain the document. I was hoping for someone as crazy as Fitzcaraldo grappling with beauty. I’m always looking for aesthetic opinions, style, and other criteria by which to judge what is fine, what is commodity, and what is flawed (regrets and missed opportunities).

Cecil, however, was kind enough to point me in the direction of Harry Harrison Kroll’s Bluegrass, Belles, and Bourbon (1967) which is chock full of confrontation with the 20th century and modernity told through the guise of a book on Bourbon. It is also told by a guy traveling around with a nun, sister Kathy, as a chaperone. Initially, I imagined it kind of like Two Mules for Sister Sara, but there never were any plot twists.

Before I complement Kroll, I need to lay down a few asterisks ∗† and luckily we all just received some excellent guidance in recognizing these matters from Wayne Curtis. Because the book isn’t solely a compendium of births, deaths & locations, and it encompasses all that grappling and confrontation, Kroll reveals himself to probably be a misogynist and a racist. He says uncomfortable crazy uncle things constantly. The writing style is unusually candid which provides evidence for my diagnosis. By the end however, when the book appeared to be about much more than Bourbon, I was getting the sense that his was a flexible mind. Kroll overcame prohibitionist ideologies, and I began to suspect that unlike David Embury, Kroll was not likely to die a racist. Sadly, I don’t think he was going to make much progress with his casual misogyny (Kroll actually died in 1967 so technically I’m very wrong).

You can really time travel in this country, back then and even now. I see a lot of it in the restaurant. Many people have hairstyles like they haven’t left the house in 15+ years. In that time they just did not absorb anything that influenced the style they present themselves with. You hear economic and political conversations that are 15 years dated like someone heard something so formative that they never read the news after. Eight years in and seven years to go, countless people will still be talking about her emails.

Kroll does a lot of that fifteen year time traveling, or he sort of watches himself doing it when he writes later. No wonder he must travel with a guide. He is constantly pursuing the effects of prohibition & repeal thirty years prior to his trip, revealing that for some people it wasn’t that distant. This can strike today’s reader as odd. The book becomes comparable to Infinite Jest with some readers being bored to tears by the parts on tennis and AA, but I actually enjoyed them the most.

A large part of the book, where the bluegrass and belles come in, is Kroll romanticizing his own typical American past where he grew up barefoot, eating squirrels, walking to school uphill both ways, and apparently had a very formative early job making barrel staves at subsistence pay. He keeps aligning himself with a young Abe Lincoln that did grunt work under his father at Watty Boone’s distillery. Kroll warms up that story a few times almost coming across as a senile repeater until he finally tells it, and tells the best version of it I’ve ever heard. He is either slightly nuts or pretty damn masterful in his gonzo ability to romanticize, humanize, build myth, and plain old story tell. He is a lot of Bourbon personified.

Eventually Kroll time travels from all this back into the bottling room of the day at Heaven Hill where teams of women are earning great middle class wages, the industry is proud of paying, and gives a “ya don’t say?”, like it all snuck up on him. Things are always sneaking up on Bourbon. The recent Bulleit story is no surprise. You don’t really know what the time traveler thinks about it. Was he happy American prosperity was spreading and women could be independent or did it threaten his masculinity and cheapen the hard years of splitting barrel staves he romanticizes? The time traveler walks an unclear line, but it has the effect of humanizing the industry.

The Shapiras snuck up on Kroll and he may have brought some antisemitic baggage to their “temple of iniquity” though it is never as pointed as his other major short comings. These furriners were an assault on his brand of Kentucky negative nationalism and they were getting rich. Hiring a Beam as master distiller didn’t make it right. Kroll keeps noting that he can barely taste the difference between bourbons so its all in what they represent to him. This experience was disillusioning.

Before I move on a little, I will quickly note that a possible reason we don’t see more information turning up about New England rum production pre prohibition may have been the influence of the temperance movement and the semantics of demon rum. Kroll, noting about doing his research, clues us into a pacing of the temperance movement I wasn’t really aware of. The peak of New England rum as modernized by Dr. Harris Eastman Sawyer unfortunately coincides with that tenuous time when it wasn’t wise to publish much about industrial demon rum. The right to a drink was hanging by a thread for quite a while before it was actually cut.

Our time traveler sets us up to see Bourbon’s confrontation with modernity. Practical distillers had to start competing with scientists (even though they had somewhat different objectives). The most practical of distillers had to compete with other practicals who were going huge and creating very large operations.

We don’t really recognize the practical distiller today yet they are blooming all around us. Kroll likes to celebrate them and believes they may be solely capable of making an uncompromising fine product even though so few then actually drank it (I never fully appreciated that last detail). Today many hold practicals with a mild disdain.

To be practical in this context means you have no formal education, and back in the early days, many were even illiterate. They never took a chemistry or biology class and operated from an old fashioned notion of empiricism and a heightened intuition. Practicals were viewed as born with it which kept the profession dynastic, male and mostly white (though there are some awesome stories of black distillers in America and Kroll notes a few). Practical can be authentic, but that is another term we haven’t given much thought.

Today, all the new American distillers are practical distillers with very few exceptions (and the acceptance of consultants). They’ve started their businesses with grit and determination plus probably only two PDFs and a skimming of this here blog. Start up costs are so high that they also often have generational wealth, IPO money, or predatory capital that will eventually rob the best. They compete with huge well researched scientific operations who have also monopolized distribution channels. The practicals still all sound all very American, but somehow the consolidated establishment, big Bourbon, has really won the public over.

The scientific distillers of Kroll’s era were the Seagrams, Hiram Walkers and their Herman Willkies and Paul Kolachovs which were all commodity producers. Commodity spirits aren’t exactly authentic, but authentic working people often only drink commodity liquor. See why I’m avoiding the authentic concept?

In a great chapter, Kroll singles out a wonderful new fusion of the two which was the team of Bill Samuels and Sam Cecil (he returns to this story!) working to build Maker’s Mark which to me seems like it saved Bourbon. When Kroll visited in roughly 1967, Maker’s was only producing 20 barrels a day relative to other operations that were up to multiple hundreds of barrels a day. Many of today’s craft operations are starting at one barrel per day.

Bill Samuels kicked off a new era of fine whiskey using a frame work I call guided traditional practices. The stylistic ideas of practical distiller Bill Samuels were proven scientifically and made to scale forward and up by lab guy Sam Cecil. Flavor returns as modus operandi, not price and volume.

Around this very same time, wine was going through the same paradigm shift led by Grigch Hills and Stags Leap plus the others that won the Judgement of Paris. Wine did however move in the opposite direction. Samuels got himself a lab while in wine, the lab guys like Mike Grgich got practical and embraced flavorful risk in ways not seen in the commodity framework. Wine in America, many don’t realize, started as a commodity product because it initially was a salvage product. The priority was table grapes, then raisins, and lastly wine, which was for a long time a skid row beverage. Walt Whitman probably didn’t drink American fine wine and there are no tales tying wine to great generals like there are of Old Crow.

It is really important to understand these tensions and transitions so we can understand other spirits categories. You could be a practical distiller in the Bourbon racket using yogurt technology (I say that because that is basically how advanced it got) and get pretty far, but could you do it with rum? Can you do it with grape brandies like Cognac?

Jamaica rum, as we revere it, was success at random until the top Victorian scientists stepped in. These guys were following the development of modern chemistry and yeast technology by the day. Cognac is the most quality focused spirit out there because it has it’s back up against a wall. Every acre of the appellation is pretty much planted so they cannot expand, they can only improve. Cognac has easily moved beyond the merely practical or scientific to the complete state of guided traditional practices. Tequila is just entering the end of its commodity phase. Consultants have gone in, homogenized everything with pure yeast cultures and efficient processes, stripped all individuality and beaten the price into the commodity floor. A few productions are finally starting to investigate the flavor they left behind and revive it with more than marketing speak.

Before we move on, I should quickly state my theory that the scientific era probably allowed women and minorities into white male dominated production positions. If you could handle the lab work, you could handle the job and all the white male mysticism was no longer relevant. Seagrams early on, employed some notable female chemists.

Kroll gives us some great insights into the document. He visits Yellowstone noting their huge operation and their production angle of mellow mashing to make a light whiskey distilled in a giant column and he implies the removal of fusel oil. If you remember, this was the controversial technique and avenue for loss of identity that provoked the IRS survey of whiskeys that is the document. Am I grasping here or is that umbrella-like do-dad not a fusel oil separator?

No itemized list is presented, but we also get the sense that there were far more distilleries in operation than what the IRS selected for their survey. Very interesting to note is that the exclusively sweet mash producers like distillery no. 2 and no. 42 likely weren’t tiny little heritage operations. Their sweet mash did make inferior whiskey according to Kroll (and production theory) and he sadly doesn’t even bother to name names, but he does note that they were in Daviess county. There is a bit of ambiguity to the logic of his paragraph, but he may imply that some sweet mashers were among the largest in the state.

Towards the end, Kroll goes to visit the Medleys and gives us the greatest hint behind the M&A churning that has always been a hallmark of the industry. Taxes were everything. Distillers would build up value in the business then unleash it all at once in a sale instead of taking it steadily year by year. Capital gains taxes were very different than income taxes and I don’t think it was proper to have private jets and write off your golf outings like we do today. Corporate decadence came in the 1970’s from Barbarians at the Gates culture. That is what consumed Tribuno vermouth, remember?

Who knows how long that tax logic was true, but it makes a lot of sense to these highly rational thinkers who didn’t even drink the stuff they made. Foreign money would come in and the labels would get traded around. The foreign money would have to pay the dynasties of practical distillers again to operate the places. It was a little bit of a racket.

These practical distillers often said dumb patriarchal shit like he could never make whiskey as great as his father (and on up the line), but none of these people ever really cared that labels were getting swapped and not corresponding to their juice. Bill Samuels may or may not have carried a family yeast, but he did use Stitzel-Weller as a template, mash bill and all.

Beauty, that thing we’ve been trying to confront, has always been a little lopsided in American whiskey. Beauty is the composite of extraordinary sensoriality and exemplary human behavior. Here its git-up-and-git over the specifics of grist. Grain bills don’t matter, If you’re allowed to pick one thing, they pick yeast because it is the easiest to mystify. We’re supposed to admire hard work and tradition with a lineage that leads us through Lincoln to pastors like Elijah Craig.

If you pursue that other side of beauty, that aesthetic sensory side, which with distillation takes startling science, you’re headed down a road to decadence and demoralization. Stick the Venus of Willendorf in the bottle and you’ll just get alcoholism and depravity. Did we learn nothing from the temperance movement? Teams of conspiring scientists, corporatism, undermine the individuality of the loan practical man. Bourbon is just fraught with moral peril. Who’s side are you on?

No doubt clutching his copy of Huysman’s Against Nature, Hiram Walker’s own C.S. Boruff writes a plotless listicle of actionable aesethtic advancements for the journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry in 1937.

Repeal of prohibition ushered in an important new phase of the business of manufacturing whisky. Chemistry, biology, and engineering meant little or nothing to the old industry, occupied as it was with its deep obeisances to age and hoary tradition. To the reborn industry, science and technology have become essential tools.

Who you callin’ hoary?!

Age was the fetish of the distillers and of the drinkers of alcoholic beverage of two decades ago and with many it still occupies a sacred niche. Even the niche has vanished before the enlightening discovery of research which form the basis of today’s distilling practice.

You’re going to let him talk about your Pappy that way!?

Necessarily there are three steps in the manufacture of beverage alcohol: fermentation, distillation, and maturing. For many reasons which will become apparent, the ancient practice of distillers place particular emphasis on maturing over long period of time and the fetish of age became the idol of the industry.

This guy is quite confrontational.

The crude distillate of old-fashioned stills was harsh and unpleasant and long aging in charred oak barrels was known to accomplish a remarkable change in it. After long maturing, whisky lost its rough harshness, acquired a pleasing aroma, and delighted the palate. Chemists explained this as the removal of certain unwanted constituents and the chemical rearrangement of others to yield a palatable result.

So the practical distillers produced ends to justify their means, but this guy gives credit to the chemists. The ends didn’t matter if you didn’t understand them. It is an assault on intuition that would build throughout the rest of the 20th century.

Either this fact failed to reach distillers or they were too busy with other matters to heed it. In any case, it remained for the reborn whisky industry to apply this fact to its operations to the advantage of all.

“What we need is a bigger ideology”

The new technic is exemplified in the operation of Hiram Walker & Sons, in a plant at Peoria, Ill.

No one ever calls it Hiram Walker & Sons!

In the old practice of the distillery, fermentation was allowed to take place as it would in open wooden tanks which were never sterilized and into which every possible wild yeast was encouraged to come and grow.

This is an assault on yogurt technology! And a criticism of the IRS!

Distillation was conducted for the prime purpose of recovering every bit of alcohol possible from the mash without regard to other constituents. The result was a distillate which contained all the volatile (with steam) constituents found in the fermented mash and whose maturing required long stretches of time to correct its deficiencies.

Dr. Science here thinks he’s superior to a practical distiller. But, we just learned from Kroll that they built up value in their distilleries via inventories then unleashed it all at once in a sale. Practicals were no fools and they dangled the promise of the buyer extracting value by walking down the aging times. Clever like a fox! Problem is, its a routine you can only use for so long before it is worn out and Kroll was wading through the late years and a talking to a cast of characters like Marcella McKenna who had already played that hand.

The vital importance of the maturing process justified analysis and investigation, and from this came the key to the whole situation. Maturing was found to consist of two parts. (1) corrective aging and (2) maturing. During the corrective aging period the objectionable flavor and bouquet-producing substances found especially in whiskies made by the “rule of thumb” method, are absorbed and modified through assimilation, while during the second stage (maturing) slow chemical reactions occur between the congeners (nonethanol constituents) of the distillate and the wood extractives, whereby the desired bouquet is attained.

Rafael Arroyo, writing at the same time on rum never talked down to anybody like this. Boruff goes on and starts to walk the reader through procedures like yeasting. Yeast has been that one thing that practical distillers had really latched onto to build myth and create exclusivity, but they never did perform any analysis that could prove that their chosen organism hit objectives better than another. Boruff doesn’t tackle this issue, but mainly claims that all practical distiller’s ferments were tainted by aroma-negative wild yeasts.

The concept of whiskey of two decades ago reached the point of making the product an alcoholic solution of a quantity of congeners—that is, compounds other than ethanol present in whisky. In other words, the congeners themselves became the prime objective of the distillery and the alcohol merely a convenient carrier for these flavors. On this basis long maturing to permit the completion of slow chemical reactions in the distillate and the dissolving of extractives from the oak barrels containing the spirits was essential. The new industry, however, has been built upon the concept that the primary objective is the alcohol in the finished whisky and that such congeners as are present make this potable. The difference between these two conceptions has enabled the new industry of whisky distilling to provide whiskies of high potability and palatability, and yet whiskies which may possess quite different characteristics from these of even a quarter century ago.

Wow. Did Kroll ever have any sit downs like that? Sister Katherine would have started murmuring over and over, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.” That is where tequila is at right now, but we do know that if we pray hard enough, the next phase will be guided traditional processes, and be delicious.

In the old art, the fermentation was conducted and the choice made of the raw materials used in it to foster the formation in the ultimate distillate of alcohols, aldehydes, and acids in variety and abundance. This end was accomplished by encouraging the growth in the mash of organisms other than the yeast. When the product of a fermentation of this kind was distilled, the distillate was an extremely unpalatable product, requiring extensive subsequent correction to give it the desired bouquet and flavor. The larger the proportion of congeneric substances, the longer the period of aging required and the greater the quantity of extractives needed to balance their effect.

Boruff is describing a large aesthetic shift and it doesn’t start with consumer demand for lighter whiskeys which is the narrative we’ve been peddled. These guys were simply condescending the work of the practicals and chalking up the old sensory experience to randomness, accident, and byproduct (but not the regrets and missed opportunities that are flaws). They also had to extract value from brands they paid huge prices for. A departure of style was needed to justify themselves.

In contrast to this, the new whisky industry has devoted its efforts to finding methods of fermentation and distillation which control the original formation of congeners in the mash and which subject those present to logical treatment. Smaller proportions of congeners are balanced in the finished whisky by smaller amounts of extractive matter, and at the same time, since extent of the chemical reaction involved is materially reduced, the time required for them to occur is much shortened.

What is cool about this is that these guys were in some ways neck and neck with Arroyo and rum. At the same time, they were moving in opposite directions. I’ll leave that for another time.

In other words, by making distillates containing predetermined amounts of congeners, the subsequent treatment to make the alcohol palatable is predetermined.

They didn’t quite make good on this inevitability engine, but they kicked off the pursuit. Currently it is at work in the industry using startling amounts of inline monitoring and data science. How else could you manage scarce resources and scale products to global demand?

In the selection of the grain the primary consideration is its starch content, since other constituents (proteins, etc.) are always present in ample amounts. In the old days, distillers apparently failed to recognize that differences exist between the starch content of various grades of grain and consequently always bought the cheapest. The fallacy in this has been amply demonstrated and the first and second grades of corn, although selling at higher prices per bushel, have been found actually cheaper sources of starch than the lower-priced inferior grades.

What are we dealing with here? This can go a few ways. Boruff paints the practicals as ignorant even though upthread he describes them as having wholly different production objectives. Were these backwards aboriginals that were thought devoid of technology yet somehow wanted for nothing and built an elaborate civilization no one noticed?

Again, this can go multiple ways. We’ve already found economic incentives for practicals to operate exactly as they did given their sellout culture. Dan Barber presents another angle in his lovely op-ed, Why Is This Matzo Different From All Other Matzos? Traditions can be a bit arbitrary and often they have unintended benefits. Part of the guided traditional processes framework is to make no assumptions of backwardness. Wine makers have found it a safe bet to assume brilliance in tradition and that techniques that survive were democratically selected for advancement even if it is not apparent. Dave Hickey won a McArthur for the concept if you need the art angle.

It is worth reading to the end of Boruff’s paper, but we need to go no further here. American whisky was fraught with cultural collision for decades after prohibition, well past Harry Harrison Kroll. Maker’s Mark clearly looks like the precedent that moves Bourbon past the creepy shortsightedness of C.S. Boruff et. al. and moves the spirit into the era of guided traditional practices. It took a while to capitalize, but this framework is where all of Bourbon’s recent prosperity comes from. There is still opportunity to do a lot more reflection and understand the place of all the new practicals popping up. Now that we better understand American whisky and its historic tensions, we can also reflect a lot more on comparisons to other spirits as their histories also start to fill in.

That Crazy (or not so Crazy) Koji Corn Whisky

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My introduction to the idea of Koji process whiskies came from an awesome reader who sends me great papers he finds. Its a whopper of a story complete with a secret efficient production technique, monopoly ambitions, horrible anti competitive behavior, and a little bit of mobster strong arming. That was the turn of the century century (maybe) and it didn’t pop up again until the 1960’s research I just put out in American Whiskey by the Numbers. Only one distillery, no. 40, was making a corn whiskey with the process and they didn’t make any other kinds of mashes unless they also produced neutral spirits that might have escaped the report.

So the eccentric seeming process survived! But is there anymore to the story? Was it ever a way back fad? Do we see it by degrees in anyway today? Was it ever used in a fine context or was it only relegated to commodity junk?

To start, the idea is widely known, and could be said to be a home distillers fad, but probably not connected to its root history. Quite possibly the lineage of the idea was broken and brilliant home distillers quickly reinvented the old wheel.

Three papers have turned up and it is important to throw them on the easily searchable historic record returning it to people so they can understand and contextual what they are doing, not doing, or if they are a Momofuku devotee, naturally what their next business venture will be.

The first paper comes to use from Dr. Jokichi Takamine himself in 1914 from The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry.

Enzymes of Aspergillus Oryzae and the Application of its Amyloclastic Enzyme to the Fermentation Industry.

This article is very cool and very readable adding to our timeline of the processes beginning. He does not betray his mobster monopolists or possibly this is where he was recruited.

Takamine defines Taka-Koji (named after himself!) and differentiates it from Japanese Koji which implies a culture grown on steamed rice. He also brands an extract of Taka-Koji Taka-diastase.

This article actually gets kind of awesome and I wish more papers were written with his tone and style. Takamine encounters failure, reflects and then returns to repeat experiments with new ideas. He even constructs an apparatus from a mason jar and a clock mechanism to revolve it like a drum! Hence the drum technique.

I don’t want to take away Takamine’s voice but he notes (and at length quotes) a Hiram Walker collaborator duplicating his work in Canada and presenting his findings to the Congress of Applied Chemistry so this idea was no quiet fringe finding. It is a great summary and I like it because it explains how they conducted their first experiments. This may help and inspire a small distillery to give it a one batch go for a special barrel.

“On account of the numerous great variations in the price of barley malt (in two consecutive years the price varied 100 per cent), it would be of great value to the distilling industry if a converting medium of moderate and more uniform price could be employed instead of barley malt. Eliminating, therefore, the different grains as a source of converting medium, I turned to the diastase produced by a microorganism, the Aspergillus oryzae. Takamine was the first to introduce the Koji process in America. As far back as 1889 he advocated the use of Koji in the distilling industry. Instead of growing the fungus on rice, Takamine employed a material far cheaper for this country, namely, wheat bran. An extract of the wheat bran, on which the Aspergillus oryzae had been allowed to germinate, contained the diastase, produced by the Aspergillus, and this extract was mixed with the mashed grain, bringing about the conversion of the starchy materials. Lately, I understand, he has succeeded in adapting a modification of the Galland-Henning malt drum system to his process. This should be a great improvement over the old floor system, in so far as it makes it possible to work under absolutely sterile conditions. For my experiments I decided to use the Taka-Koji itself instead of the diastatic extraction of same and add it to the mash in the same way as malt. Before beginning the practical experiments in the distillery, laboratory experiments were conducted on a small scale to ascertain the amount of Taka-Koji which was necessary to convert a certain amount of starch into sugar, and also the optimum temperature at which to conduct the conversion. It was found that 4 g. of Taka-Koji was sufficient to give a complete conversion in a mash made from 96 g. of corn and rye, the corn containing 15.o per cent of moisture and the rye 14.0 per cent. Three experiments were made in the distillery. For the first experiment only a 14 gallon can was used and a portion of our ordinary mash from the mashtub was employed, the mash being taken from the main mash just before malt was going to be added for conversion. The second experiment was performed on a somewhat larger scale. Instead of using mash material from the mashtub, the mash was made separately. It consisted of 500 kg. altogether, of which 20 kg. were Taka-Koji. The third experiment was performed on a good-sized working scale. Two mashes, each consisting of 3,401.94 kg. (of which 131.j kg. were Taka-Koji), were prepared. The two mashes were filled in Turn No. 25 of Friday, May 26, 1911. Turn No. 25 was distilled separately and the yield was 36 liters of 100 per cent alcohol per 100 kg. of mash material, just a trifle higher than the yield of the other mashes which were made the same day. In judging the adaptability of Taka-Koji for use in distilleries several questions must be asked and answered:
“Is Taka-Koji capable of giving a complete conversion of the starchy materials in the mash?
“Yes, 4 per cent of the air-dried Taka-Koji will in 15 to 20 minutes give a complete conversion of well prepared mash material.
“Is the fermentation a satisfactory one?
“While it is accompanied by a strong odor, which is prevalent in the fermenting room, the fermentation, however, is very rapid and complete, and on this account should give rise to the least amount of infection.
“Is the yield of spirit satisfactory?
“Yes, the yield obtained was a little higher than the yield gotten from the barley malt mashes, although the total fermentable extract available in the mash material was less. The yield of 36 liters of 100 per cent alcohol per 100 kg. of mash material is of course only a comparative yield. In distilleries which employ cookers and boil the corn under pressure, a higher yield would naturally result.
“Therefore, I should say as a final conclusion that in distilleries which make commercial or potable neutral spirit, the Taka-Koji process could be introduced to advantage. Aside from a probable higher yield in spirit, the saving in malt bill would be worth while in years with normal malt prices and very considerable in years when the malt prices become abnormal.”

Questions arise immediately. Is the aroma pleasurable or the product of ordinary off-aromas? Would the aroma have market now that we live in a world of mezcal and funky rum fetishes? Can a one barrel product fine rum product be justified? Who knows, but more importantly who is qualified to find out? I want to drink it, but the discovery may have been colossally important to the product of industrial and fuel ethanol. I hope Takamine lived long enough to profit and see the fruits of his labor.

The next paper is from 1939. Saccharification of Starchy Grain Mashes for the Alcoholic Fermentation Industry: Use of Mold Amylase.

This paper is kind of cool to breeze through. First we learn

The authors prefer to use the term “amylase” since it avoids confusion that sometimes results from the fact that “diastase” is the French term for enzyme.

Then we learn more of where the Takamine-H. Walker experiments ended up.

Use of mold preparations to replace malt in the fermentation industry was suggested by Takamine, and large-scale tests at the plant of Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc., in Canada in 1913 (9) proved entirely successful, yields of alcohol being better than with malt. However, a slight off-flavor or odor was produced in the alcohol, and since the flavor is of paramount importance in beverage alcohol, Takamine’s preparation has not found favor in the alcohol industry, Now, however, with the increasing interest in power alcohol, it would seem that a procedure similar to Takamine’s should hold much promise for production of industrial alcohol.

They go on to imply the Hiram Walkers process was private and with interest in industrial alcohol it would be beneficial to experiment and make a publicly known process available. We used to see more of this publicly funded research aimed at aiding private enterprise and generating competition. The acknowledgements at the end do imply a private grant.

What I want to know is what were these aromas like? Reminiscent of baijiu? Sweaty feet and bubble gum? Are any home distillers coming to an off/aroma-negative conclusion or is it avoided if an extract of the enzyme is separated from the moldy bran?

Their experiments gets into finer details and provides best bets for anyone wanting to play along. They do not return to the subject of the aroma because they are interested in non-potable alcohol. Their bibliography has a bunch of Dr. Takamine’s patents which go back as far as 1894.

The third paper is from 1949 and also published in the Industrial and Engineering Chemistry journal (which has published lots of other great works on beverage distillation). The research was conducted at the Northern Regional Research Laboratory, Peoria, Ill.

Grain Alcohol Fermentations: Submerged Mold Amylase as a Saccharifying Agent.

First off we should note that Peoria was home of distillery no. 40! The introduction makes it seem like they are doing some reinventing of the wheel or duplication of the 1939 experiments and the 1939 paper is in their bibliography but for some reason listed as 1940. The addition here might be the exploration and comparison of an “amylo process”. It is acknowledged that the processes have been already used commercially. Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc, Peoria, Ill and E.R. Squibb and Sons, Inc. New Brunswick N.J. are noted in foot notes. I basically skimmed to the end and found no mention of aroma nor whisky.

To sum it up. Koji is in culinary vogue, but is anything cool and promising happening here? Probably not. Does this have any impact on Bourbon as we know it? Commodity American whiskey may or may not have used percentages of industrial enzymes. I’ve heard murmurs but never read anything specific. I’ll have to keep an ear to the ground. If you know anything specific with a reference, do send it in. Fine American whiskeys likely do not flirt with industrial enzymes. One long shot idea to consider is that ethyl carbamate, a regulated congener comes from malt (among other things). To reduce it under a threshold for trade purposes (it is basically an artificial trade barrier), percentages of industrial enzymes may be used to hit target numbers. Who really knows, that is just from little bits and pieces I’ve read about regarding a barely understood industry topic.

This Cocktail Kills Fascists (and Culture Consolidation)

This is my one draft synthesis of the situation reported on in Kevin Alexander’s Thrillist article. The article is by no means bad, but I think it misses a lot.

I was just on a motorcycle road trip from Boston out to Indianapolis via NYC, and Pittsburgh then back through Buffalo. I stopped to grab lunch and gas outside of Columbus Ohio in something like a multi stranded mega strip mall. In this bustling area there was not a single independent business. Not a pizza shop nor an ethnic restaurant. I was witnessing the massive consolidation of American culture. This is what the cocktail revolution has really been about. It has been an effort to dispel complacency and de-consolidate American culture. It may have started or grew wings with a bunch of list checking elitists catering to other elitists, but it has done a lot that goes beyond cheap thrills.

A lot of the greatest ills of our country are from corporate consolidation into monopoly and people are only finally waking up to that. An ill that still isn’t noticed is the cultural consolidation phenomenon. Mega brews and dumb shit like Mike’s Hard Lemonade used to be drinking culture. We didn’t have many choices or options. David Brooks recently wrote something idiotic about a friend of his being afraid of Capicola on a sandwich, if not threatened by it. This is what happens after a generation long stretch of aggressive consolidation. At its best, the creative energy unleashed by cocktail movement turned this all on its head at a time when we really needed it.

We shouldn’t be focused on trivial things like how people in the middle of nowhere are finally serving drinks with massaged marjoram and interpreting it as jumping the shark. We should think of how many independent businesses we formed or strengthened because we created a demand for independent experiences. The cocktail movement should also realize that it was bested and absolutely dwarfed by craft beer, though they are both always standing on each others shoulders.

Near every major town in the country has its own brewery (tens of thousands!) which is a giant blow to one size fits all Applebees culture as well as the complacent white bread mom & pops. We are up to nearly a thousand new distilleries, though that sector actually needs the most help, and because it is unexplored, has the most potential to amuse us thus spreading culture.

The cocktail effect is harder to quantify. Who cares about sales figures for premium spirits. What we should be concerned about is independent job and culture creation. List checked experiences are not necessary culture. Something has to stick around and endure to be ingrained in our culture, and we need broader culture desperately.

The culinary movement is not well understood because it has moved so fast and few have slowed down to look at the tangential problems it has solved beyond simply feeding us. It is the vital arm of inclusion and positive nationalism as opposed to negative nationalism which comprises naive protectionism, nativeism, and white male supremacy. We are living in a vacuum created by climate change and the collapse of the globalism and the culinary movement has done nothing but positive things to fill dangerous voids. A lot more could be said about this, but the point is that below the surface the various culinary movements are epicly profound and need a little more thought than “maturing to statehood”. I do not live in a red state struggling with the concept of inclusion, but as an artist I can subversively export my culture therefore weakening dangerous negative nationalism.

Politicians have been slow as shit to figure out how to get educated young people, particularly entrepreneurs, to stick to cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They so thoroughly don’t understand what they are doing and feel at the mercy of inevitability (a force at the root of globalism) that they let things like major airports disappear making it more expensive to get to their mid western city than Rome, Italy. On the other hand, many of us are like fuck it, I love my city (positive nationalism), I’m going to create a bar to amuse myself competing in the culinary game for culture points. Well, all the energy unleashed ended up creating glue (sticky places to belong), and more and more people started sticking to cities rebounding them. In Buffalo, I had drink related cultural experiences so significant I think I could live there happily.

Many are discovering, but maybe some don’t have a frame of reference, we are also in a new golden era of road tripping. You can visit second cities and have better culinary experiences than many premier cities for less expense and stop at wonderful breweries and distilleries in between (just not yet in central Ohio).

A reason the cocktail movement slowed down is that few could articulate its significance and the writers mostly suck and squander opportunities. The way they write about creativity blunts what it can actually achieve. They also cannot participate in this narrative I’m giving because they are so quick to let corporations dictate their narrative. The movement degenerates from a spontaneous economic engine, away from articulate positive nationalism, into ten thousand monkey arriving at Shakespeare and good things happening merely as byproducts of elitists trying to amuse each other.

The point is the movement can still keep moving along if we figure out how it helped make our country more livable. The movement didn’t start with contrived articles about a new product sponsored by a brand. It will also end if people don’t learn about and celebrate the concept of involvement. We haven’t even scratched the surface aesthetically if you want to explore that route. If you want to get specific, there are still rums in Cape Verde that haven’t been discovered. Portugal is full of amazing spirits and liqueurs yet to be recognized. New distilleries have not yet realized what they are finally legally allowed to do. Hell, no press has ever even covered my Champagne bottle manifold which is used in some of the best bars in the world.

A unique cultural force that helped coalesce American culture in the beginning has been re-coalescing America after a generation long stretch of dangerous cultural consolidation. The new beverage scene is only going to die if no one figures out what it achieved in the first place.

Hubert Von Olbrich, Über rum completeist \m/(-.-)\m/

I have long been procrastinating a major lead on rum history given by Hubert Von Olbrich in his contribution to the 1975 rum symposium.

Olbrich authored a very large bibliography of 300 years of rum thought, but very curiously he mentions a reference from 1936 regarding Percival Greig that he doesn’t list in his bibliography. Well, I’ve finally tracked down Olbrich’s text, Geschitche der Melasse, from 1970 and found that missing citation. I even digitized Olbrich’s section on rum and hopefully some translators will appear to help the cause.

Anonymous.: “Die Fabrikation des Jamaika-Rums und des Batavia-Arraks.-Ein über die wichtigsten Originalarbeiten, besonders englischer und holländischer Forscher”, Deutsche Destillateur-Zeitung 57(1936) 114, 123-124, 145-146, 159, 182-183, 205-206.

Percival Greig left Jamaica after positively identifying the fission yeast, schizosaccharomyces Pombe, as being responsible for the unique character of Jamaican rums. He went on to start his own distillery, but it is not known where he went. The citation may spell it out or offer more clues.

Hubert Von Olbrich is a unique character and very significant. Besides being a globe trotting super consultant sugar technologist, he was also a bibliophile and historian. Very much like Maynard Amerine, Olbrich was a linguist and capable of digesting the different languages that go into telling the history of sugar cane and/or our interest, rum.

He was convinced that nothing notable happened in the development of rum technology between Percival Greig and Raphael Arroyo. I would argue that isn’t completely true, but Olbrich’s bibliographies are missing one important scientist, who I won’t name for selfish reasons, that Arroyo built upon.

I don’t speak German and I only gleaned a little bit by using google’s translator, but the chapter looks particularly interesting and may explain what Jamaica rum concentrates were all about and how they were used by Germany as blending stock, especially after WWII. The writing is also full of question marks and exclamation points so hopefully it freely dispenses aesthetic opinions of beauty.

The end of Olbrich’s text features a timeline that extends from basically the beginning of recorded history until 1970, the book’s publication. The time line is in German, but one curious thing is easy to pick out. Along the way, in 1893, he starts a countdown of Jamaican rum production. Olbrich lists how many distilleries there were and what they collectively produced.

1893    73,400 hl (hecto-liter)    148 distillereies
1901    58,200                               110
1912    40,000                               67
1922    62,400                              48
1936    43,500                               29
1948    134,700                             24
1957    70,000                               21

This was the path of consolidation. There was also a curious entry in 1934. Only that year did Puerto Rico begin rum production.

Scouring the bibliography, I can across a reference to H. Warner Allen’s wonderful Rum: The Englishman’s Spirit and was able to find this scanning of it. It is a spectacularly thoughtful history of rum and probably no one writing today has learned to convey their love of the subject quite like Allen.



F. I Scard, The Chemistry of Rum

The name F. I. Scard has come up before in a drab paper, Scientific Control of a Rum Distillery. That idea turned out to be slightly more exciting in our recent reframing of Bourbon where we saw that scientific control was something that was significantly aided by onsite excise officers which the West Indies didn’t seem to have in those days. Better control made the collecting of tax revenue much more predictable.

Scard returns with another short paper, The Chemistry of Rum, from 1920. There is some great language in there and some unique factoids.

What might be called the beneficient bacteria of rum, which cause the distinctive flavour, are the acetic acid organism, which produces acetic acid from the alcohol, and the butyric acid organism, which gives from the presence of organic matter peculiar to sugar cane molasses, butyric acid—the same body which gives the characteristic flavour to rancid butter.

We use that rancid butter factoid as common trivia these days, but I’ve never seen it stated that far back.

During distillation the acids mentioned above combine with the alcohol, forming what are known as “esters” or compound ether, and it is these esters which impart the flavour to rum and give it stimulating properties.

I highlight this because Scard mentions stimulating properties. I posited stimulating properties in rum back in my infamous Mezan XO spirits review that ended up with the Mezan XO challenge! Scard was writing before the wide recognition of rum oil as a congener category, to which I attribute the mysterious stimulation rather than esters. Does the logic of his language imply pharmacological stimulation, apart from ethanol, or am I grasping? We have only seen real rum re-enter the market recently so I suggest you drink more to make a better educated decision.

The object of adding sulphuric acid to wash is the produce a certain acidity, thus putting an obstacle in the way of the putrifactive bacteria, which feed on yeast cells, at the same time helping the development of the butyric ferment,  which requires an acid condition for its development. It is the ester formed from this acid which gives the “pineapple” flavour to Jamaica rum. Its presence is essential to all rums, as without this ester the spirit ceases to be rum.

A strong aesthetic pronouncement! Those are rare.

And here we go…

The reason why Jamaica rum contains so much of this body, and is consequentially so valuable, is as follows: The yeast which provides the fermentation in sugar-cane distilleries is derived from the cane itself. The ordinary variety consists of round cellular bodies which grow by budding—that is, one cell buds out from another. This variety, unfortunately, will not flourish when the acidity gets beyond a certain point. When this point is reached—and the production of acetic acid soon brings it about if the fermentation is slow—alcohol production ceases. But in Jamaica there is an especial yeast which will grow in a highly acid medium. Unlike the other yeast, it is rod-shaped, and multiplies by splitting up. The presence of this yeast, therefore, enables the fermentation to be prolonged, and substances such as bottoms, dunder, &c., to be used in the wash, which are favourable to the development of butyric acid.

Here we see the return of our especial hero, Schizosaccharomyces Pombe, which is still not widely recognized in contemporary rum connoisseurship. We don’t exactly know who is using it currently and who isn’t and who was and who stopped. The first person to bring a Pombe rum to the U.S. will have a lot of success. And I’d be happy to help them. There are ways to achieve great ends without a Pombe ferment, but they do not tell such an archaic story of questing Victorian geniuses. They will not be as dank, concentrated, or brick house powerful.

In this connection it may be remarked that the writer on one occasion added butyric ether (ester) to a puncheon of rum in Demerara, which was reported upon in Mincing-lane as “resembling Jamaica”.

There is a lot here besides the admission of fraud. First off, Scard is an island hopper which shows yet again how ideas and know how easily spread between the islands. Everyone was following everyone. Therefore the forces that created style were largely economics, risk tolerance, and responsibility (to process mountains of molasses or not). Mincing-lane was a market for rum and other articles from the West Indies. Lots of tasting descriptors were developed in these markets.

The cane-juice itself is an important factor. Different kinds of canes give a different quality of rum, due, partly, to the case itself and partly to variations in chemical treatment necessitated there in the sugar manufacture. Even the different conditions of the same variety of cane will affect the flavour of the rum. On one occasion some Demerara rum made from very rank Bourbon canes were reported upon as being “green and stalky.” There is therefore outside the ethers specified some bodies present in excessive proportions which come down from the cane itself.

Scard here is arriving at a notion of proto-terroir. He isn’t exactly celebrating variation, but he is noting that variations exist. I’m a little confused by the “rank” canes. These could be moldy rum canes which were prized or be something else. Distilling them could also have been an experiment, and if they were fermented and distilled as a fresh juice rum, they may have had that character on account of not being centrifuged like the fresh juice rhums we know of today.

His closing remarks are nice:

Another agent in flavour is the nature of the still.

Bulletin Relative to Production of Distilled Spirits

Bulletin Relative to Production of Distilled Spirits
United State. Internal Revenue Service, United States.

I came across this wonderful text while researching my last post on mid century, golden era, American whiskey production. The 1912 text is basically a primer on distillation encountered in American distilleries for excise agents who were working alongside the distillers.

It is early and gives a glimpse of the industry before products like Bourbon really took definite shape and consistent production traditions stretched out. There is a picture of an ordinary pot still, a three chambered still and a continuous beer still, but not the Bourbon still setups that we know today.

The text also has a unique tone and mentions what was in vogue in regards to production. A relationship between distiller and excise agent emerges.

The data contained in this bulletin has been compiled and is furnished for the information of all internal-revenue officers, and particularly for the information of those whose duties bring them in touch with the operations of distilleries.

These excise agents had to know what was going on to spot fraud and monkey business, though it is not explicitly spelled out that way.

It is hoped and believed that the information furnished herein, so far as all internal-revenue officers are concerned, removes anything that may be of mystery from the operations of these plants; and it is further expected, and in the future will be required, that every distillery officer shall sufficiently familiarize himself with the simple laws of chemistry and physics involved in the production of spirits so as to understand their application to the materials and the equipment in the plant to which he is assigned.

As I framed in the last post, the IRS had a big incentive to be technically helpful to the industry. In 1912 fermenting to dryness was no guarantee, and if a distillery gained enough control to hit dryness every time, grain purchased would match alcohol produced and the agent wouldn’t have to turn into Columbo constantly unraveling mysteries of what the hell happened. This is probably taken for granted these days now that distilleries do not have live in agents and everyone is on the honor system.

It is not intended that this bulletin shall constitute a primer or a guide to the production of spirits. An effort has been made to give a general description of the various processes in common use, and an explanation of the reason why certain things are done; and, further than this, that the information herein shall furnish a method by which, from knowing what is done, the officer assigned to a distillery can ascertain whether or not the amount of distilled spirits normally to be expected has resulted therefrom.

The relationship between the IRS and the distillers evolved, but for 1912, the last line here is key.

Barley is the grain generally used for malting purposes, because it is considered to have the highest diastatic power of any of the malted cereals. Considerable rye malt is used in the production of an all rye whisky and a little corn malt is occasionally produced and used. By diastatic power is meant the measure of the activity of the malt in changing starch into sugar.

Here is a little fun factoid relating to ryes like the Baltimore Pure Rye.

A certain quantity of water is added to the cooker, about 20 gallons to the bushel (the exact quantity depending upon the ideas of the distiller) ;

I highlight this excerpt from the mashing section because it shows more of the unique tone.

Things get interesting when they describe three different mashing methods with the last being called old sour mash process:

Third, the small tub or old sour mash process. The details vary, but the following is the general process: A certain quantity of hot slop, about 20 gallons to the bushel, is placed in small tubs (capacity about 50 gallons, sometimes more) ; the meal is then added and the entire mass thoroughly stirred with the mash sticks. This is allowed to stand overnight, in the morning it is broken up by means of mash sticks; the malt and rye is then added, in some places without heating the mash, in others after heating to about 160° F., allowed to stand for some time and then sent to the fermenters.
This process does not give as good results in mashing as the open mash tub, because a smaller number of the starch cells are acted on in the process, and a smaller yield is obtained.

The hot slop is backset right out of the still. If it stands over night it may or may not grow lactic bacteria, especially if it is in already infected vats. It would be very cool to try this out and see what happens. My question then is would the enzymes actually have time and ability to act on the rye if it wasn’t heated after being added? Everything has to be back to room temperature after sitting over night.

If I were running a distillery tourism program, I would try and do some interactive exhibits to show we progressed from the most rudimentary processes to what is currently practiced. Create a living history type of thing.

There are three methods of yeasting in vogue: First, to allow the tub to be yeasted by the yeast organisms which fall into it from the air or are remaining in the fermenters; second, yeasting back, or the use of “barm”; third, the preparation of a yeast mash in a quantity representing from 2 to 4 per cent of the grain bill.

The first method is how we think of fermenting wine, but distillation is all about abstraction. Abstract quantities of yeast, beyond what is already present in a vat, are used in near every class of distillate with few exceptions. Arroyo has the best systematic explanation of how this abstraction avenue can be varied.

First method, no yeasting used.—At a very few small distilleries no added yeast (neither mash nor barm) is used. The mash is prepared and placed in fermenters, the distiller leaving the tubs to nature, and as yeast cells are present nearly everywhere, some cells drop into the mash and fermentation begins. As other organisms also develop, this fermentation is a poor one and the lowest yields are obtained from this process. In the early days of the industry this was the general method employed.

It is so hard to believe that anyone would do this, even in 1912, except possibly a fruit brandy producer. He may be describing it in terms of a grain mash just to help his narrative.

Second method, yeasting hack, or the old sour-mash process. After the mash has been prepared in the small tubs, as before described, and emptied into the fermenters, the new mash is yeasted by taking from a tub set the day before and presumably in active fermentation the “barm”; that is, the top is skimmed off, containing a large number of yeast cells, which will immediately begin to grow in the new mash. After this tub has been fermenting 24 hours, the “barm” is skimmed off of it for use in the next tub, and so on. In this method the yeast is less vigorous than in the third method, hereinafter described, because in addition to the race of yeast desired there is an abundance of other types of yeasts and various bacteria which interfere and tend to cause a low yield by a development of other substances in place of alcohol. The longer the process of yeasting back continues the less vigorous the barm becomes, as far as the true yeast is concerned, though it becomes very rich in the varieties not desired.
Finally the tubs will become so foul that a fresh start has to be made by obtaining a quantity of yeast from other sources. In a distillery operating strictly on this plan there would be no yeast tub on the premises.

I’m taking the time to highlight all of these options because it is 1912, Jamaica versus America if you’ve followed this blog. A few years prior Jamaica was writing its great treatise on rum production at its agriculture experiment stations. These explanations are neck and neck and no one really seems to be ahead explaining what they are doing. The state of the art happens to travel fast.

The yeasting back idea is also important to understand because even though it is less efficient in theory it often is more efficient in practice. Massive Brazilian ethanol distilleries using yeasting back because when extra logistics are factored in for their medium, it can produce better results. Yeasting back can also be pragmatic and used when labor is not scheduled to grow a proper culture which takes active time and planning. You can yeast back in a pinch.

The average system of making a yeast mash is somewhat along the following lines : A yeast mash is prepared of malt, or malt and rye and hop water; this will have a gravity of 20 per cent or more; it is stocked with a good yeast and allowed to ferment. At the proper time, after active fermentation has ensued, it is drawn off into jugs of one-half gallon or more capacity. These jugs are used as stock and will keep a month or more before the yeast contained therein will degenerate.
Each day a “dona” is prepared by mashing barley malt and adding a little hop water; this is cooled to the proper temperature and set with one of the jugs ; it is then allowed to ferment overnight or even 24 hours. A yeast mash in the meantime is prepared by mashing one-half barley malt, one-half rye, cooled and set with the dona.
This mash is allowed to ferment overnight or longer and is then ready to add to the fermenter. The grain represented in the yeast mash is from 2 to 4 per cent of the total grain bill for the day (and as all of this grain produces alcohol it should be included in the grain account). In the preparation of the yeast mash at some distilleries another step is taken : After the mashing of the rye and malt the mash is held at about 124° F. from 18 to 24 hours to sour; that is, to permit lactic acid bacteria to develop. This bacteria is not injurious to the yeast, but is an enemy of certain bacteria which are harmful to the yeast. After the souring the mash is either cooled and pitched with the dona or heated to kill the lactic acid bacteria, and then cooled and set (this is called “wine sour”).

The first time I read about the hop water trick they were putting their yeast down a well to keep it cool until the next season. A lot of this is like a cooking show where they put a turkey into the oven then pull another cooked turkey out. If that can’t be arranged, you have to yeast back. The yogurt technique is mentioned here when they create the wine sour medium for their cultures. When you have multiple potential yeasts, one will be suited for the medium, it will grow the best, and that will be your wine sour yeast.

There are four legal periods of fermentation in the United States—that is, the statutes recognize four different periods during which a tub can be filled but once.

That is an interesting way to put it.

First. The sweet-mash, process, in which 72 hours is the maximum time, and 45 gallons of beer must represent not less than 1 bushel of grain.

So the ferment cannot be too long or too dilute. You’d think all the guidelines would aim in the opposite direction.

Second. The sour-mash process, in which 96 hours is the maximum period and in which 60 gallons of beer must represent not less than 1 bushel of grain.

These rules looked like they changed and in the document, 50 years later, there were sour mash fermentations as long as 120 hours. Again, maximums.

Third. The filtration-aeration process, in which 24 hours is the maximum period, and 70 gallons represents not less than 1 bushel of grain. (This is a process in which yeast for bakers is the main product, and alcohol more or less a by-product.)


Fourth. The rum period, in which 144 hours is the maximum period, and 7 gallons of beer represents 1 gallon of molasses.

You don’t see many acknowledgements of American rum in the literature, but there you go.

For me, and after reading Arroyo, this all raises the question, do you pitch only enough yeast to finish fermentation by your 72 or 96 hours?, or is the yeast done when it is done and the extra time is for action by bacteria and effects of resting? In the document we often saw three different time variations for the same mash bill, but did they pitch different amounts of yeast to create them? Arroyo was big on a resting period as benefiting rum, but he had lots of stipulations. He was also big on explicitly counting the yeasts that you pitched.

Note.—A distiller who desires to use molasses and make alcohol, and not rum, can have his distillery surveyed on a sweet mash period of fermentation and use 7 gallons of beer to represent 1 gallon of molasses. The advantage in the shorter period lies in the opportunity afforded for operating with fewer fermenters.

Fascinating, distilleries were surveyed.

Let’s cover the three chambered charge still in case they come back in vogue:

Charge chambered beer still (see illustration, fig. 4) .—This still consists of from two to four chambers, and is so arranged that each chamber is a unit in itself. The beer is placed in the top chamber and after one distillation the contents of the top chamber is lowered into the chamber below, and a quantity of new beer dropped in the upper chamber. The method of heating is by live steam entering in the lowest chamber. The vapors, consisting of a mixture of alcohol and water, pass from the lower chamber through a vapor pipe to the bottom of the chamber above, these vapors in turn heating the beer in this chamber, boiling the spirit out of it. If there is a third and fourth chamber the same process is repeated. From the upper chamber the vapors pass through a vapor pipe into a doubler, which is a large cylindrical copper vessel, into the bottom of which is placed, at the end of each charge, the heads and tails of the previous distillation. A vapor pipe from the upper chamber enters at the bottom of this doubler, the hot vapors, boiling the heads and tails, pass up the doubler into another vapor pipe, and hence into the condenser. The time consumed in the distillation of one charge is determined by the spirit runner judging by the proof of the distillate. When he is satisfied that all of the alcohol has been boiled out of the beer in the lowest chamber the spent beer is emptied into the spent beer tank and in turn the contents of each chamber is emptied into the chamber below; steam is again turned into the lower compartment and the process continued. It takes approximately 30 minutes to run a charge and there are as many charges as are necessary to distill the beer for that day. These are the stills invariably used at the larger houses in the distillation of rye beers. The distillate of each charge of this still varies in proof, beginning at a low proof, say 40 or more, running up to a maximum of 140 and then down to approximately 10. According to the ideas of the distiller, this distillate is cut off into heads, middle run, and tails. The strongest part of the distillation being classed as middle run. All the middle runs of the various charges distilled during the day are mixed together and called singlings or high wines. The heads and tails of each charge are, as a rule, mixed together and at the end of the distillation of each charge are placed in the doubler of the beer still where they are subjected to a further boiling, and thus the alcohol contained therein is saved and the product called the middle run is kept free of the undesirable substances present in these heads and tails. At certain houses this separation may not be practiced, but all the different distillates mixed together, the disadvantage being that a lower proof is obtained.

This is so attractively archaic and it is easy to appreciate the operators skill and understanding of what they are doing. The chambers quickly become symbolic and recall Wu-Tang. It should be noticed that the charges are dropped (another hip-hop metaphor) before they are fully liberated from alcohol, but when all the drops add up (3 or 4 chambers of death!) all the alcohol is removed. You could stop the distillation when the lowest chamber hits 212° F. I don’t think you could take that measure from the vapor pipe in between chambers because of all the super heated live steam moving through it which would bias the number.

At one time it was a general practice to filter the distillate of the beer still through charcoal filters, or as they are called “rectifiers.” This practice is still followed at several distilleries. Sometimes the singlings are leached (as it is called) and bonded without redistillation; at other houses they are redistilled.

The author, and his unique vantage point, make it seem like charcoal filtration was a trend that moved through the industry at one point. In the beginning it was seen as a way to avoid second distillations, but eventually refined by producers in Tennessee.

The next section of the text is simply titled “Control”.

Nearly all of the larger distilleries keep a scientific control of their operation and production. From the earliest days the Federal statutes made provision for scientific control by the Government, and these statutes, which internal-revenue officers have not availed themselves of generally in the past, will be utilized fully from this time on. The possibility of scientific control lies in the fact that the amount of alcohol capable of being produced depends absolutely on the per cent of sugar in the mash, and this amount of sugar can, by use of the saccharometer, be accurately measured and the amount of alcohol developed by fermentation definitely ascertained; and by intelligent observation, by a competent officer, of the processes followed in any plant, the amount lost in fermentation and distillation closely estimated, and the production that should be recorded as entered into the cistern room closely calculated.


Whenever an examining officer visits a distillery he is expected to test the beer in each fermenter and compare his results with those of the distillery officer. If the results indicate that the proper gravity has not been taken and recorded by the distillery officer in charge, the examining officer will make immediate report to the revenue agent in charge, using his judgment as to whether such report should be by writing or by telegraph, and the instructions issued by this office with respect to keeping of Form 88 should then promptly be followed by the revenue agent, and prompt reports relative thereto should be forwarded direct to the bureau.

You are not allowed to be incompetent as a distiller!

Heavy responsibilities devolve on distillery officers and they must be as thoroughly trusted as any class of Government employees. In no other position in the Government is there greater necessity for alertness, competency, and intelligent action at all times. The Bureau of Internal Revenue believes that it is to be congratulated on the internal-revenue officers as a whole. It is the constant effort of the bureau to further raise the standard of these officers by discovering and visiting with severe punishment the few unworthy persons who from time to time find their way into the service.

No nonsense, and then he jumps right into some math! Can you imagine if our police departments used language like that?

Revenue agents, deputy collectors, and examining officers are expected to use every care in checking up distilleries and to render every assistance to distillery officers in the performance of their duty, and immediately report any incompetence, lack of intelligent effort, or irregularity on the part of any distillery officer, with a view to furthering the purpose of the bureau that there shall be collected for the Government every dollar of revenue due with the least possible annoyance or interruption in the business of the legitimate taxpaying manufacturer.

I like the language, lack of intelligent effort. I will borrow that when I scold people. He then goes into Form 88. Basically then collected data on every aspect of production and knew everything on everyone. It would be wild if we could request some of these records.

It turns out 1912 was a important year and the results of IRS technical assistance were starting to pay off. Increasing the yield of commercial distilleries also made them more competitive against illicit distilling.