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.

American Whiskey by the Numbers – An Unprecedented Look

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A unique mid century document came to me a few years ago containing the intimate but anonymous production parameters of 42 American whiskey distilleries producing 112 different whiskey mashes (85 Bourbons, 10 rye mashes, and 17 corn mashes). To my knowledge, the document is not known to any spirits scholars.

My plan to explore the document started with a scheme to unmask all the distilleries by tricking the conglomerates into matching their famous straight Bourbon labels to the old productions. I appealed for help, but didn’t get any interest, so it seemed like time to explore it another way. It was also complicated by the fact that these were just mashes and not labels themselves. Straight Bourbons could be picked out, but blends would be very complicated if not possible anymore.

Many brands making come backs have devolved into merely labels detached from the juice that was inside. As we will see when compared, many of the mashes were fairly redundant, featuring only slight variations. Brilliant progressive thinkers like Herman Willkie and Paul Kolachov were making production much more efficient in the name of environmental burden while also producing a great product. Their quest for genuine improvement was a big factor in the consolidation trend.

Distillery tourism is the new trend that may reverse the label detachment phenomenon and producers may be interested in de-consolidating their products back to more uniqueness so we have more places to visit, collect, and obsess over. The market for fine products and tourism make a lot of things newly viable, what we need then is a vision for style.

New players are entering the market that are financed well enough to be the truth seekers we need such as Kevin Plank’s Sagamore spirits. Sadly, they are starting with MGP, but they have picked up Seagram’s alum, Larry Ebersold. No doubt the parameters of gems like the legendary Baltimore Pure rye lie in the document. It shouldn’t be hard to spot the rye-est of all the ryes. Distillery no. 3, a conglomerate, made some brick house ryes, but distillery no. 38 made nothing but rye with one mash being a pure rye malt monster and their other mash being more econo.

To contextualize the document, I have reorganized it into a spread sheet that makes trends and patterns more obvious. I’ll do my normal barely appreciated dot connecting then hopefully some historians that have studied company timelines and have knowledge of the producer’s various labels can chime in and we can start giving probabilities of who is who. There are only two different wheaters and one corn producer using koji so it won’t be too hard to name the obvious. I’m hoping that Colin Spoelman swoops in and cleans up the list really nice.

The document gets specific and tells us the unique production parameters used by each distillery. Many only made Bourbon while others added a corn whiskey or rye and a few made all three. If they added that corn mash, they likely had a proliferation of labels for blends. Some mash bills were reused with different parameters and the spreadsheet lets us see that all comparatively. Most whiskey back then was commodity whiskey as opposed to the new fine market we see now and the document shows producers varying production parameters to make different crus, at least as blending stock, under one roof. This wasn’t the single barrel era yet. Who knows how they allocated production slots when they had multiple mashes in their repertoire. Some mashes were obviously modest while others were grander and some with a grand foundation were distilled to be a little lighter on their feet as supposedly was the trend.

The document was commissioned because fusel oil separation in continuous stills, the so called extractive distillation, was changing whiskey identity markedly. Only six of the forty two distilleries exclusively used batch distillation. Laws limiting distillation proof to imply character are all based on the assumption of batch distillation. A continuous still can be tuned so that its various side streams strip out the heavy character of fusel oil. Producers, no doubt led by Willkie and Kolachov, were also moving to advance fermentations, biological control, to alter much of a whiskey’s character pre distillation and aging (no doubt following the lead of rum, the most progressive spirit). The document was an attempt to mark a golden era of American whiskey before it went too wayward beyond “tradition”. Keep in mind, I may also be over dramatizing things.

For each itemized production, we have their:
•Mash bills, percent corn, rye, wheat, and malt
•Whether it was a sweet or sour mash
•Whether a lactic culture was added
•The percent of backset or stillage used to sour the mash
•The gallons per bushel of grain which implies alcohol concentration for the mash
•Duration of fermentation in hours
•I computed duration in days so we can think in terms of labor shift changes
•Plates on the beer still
•Min and max proof of the stripping run
•I compute the difference to imply how the still is refluxed to come to a relative equilibrium before the run is collected.
•Whether the doubler is a batch charge or continuous.
•Min and max proof of the doubling run
•I again compute the different to extrapolate a little more
•Proof of the final collected distillation
•Entry proof into the barrel.
•I compute the difference because the most grand brick house products will require the least dilution, just like a rum.

Corn is cheaper than other grains and too much corn in a mash bill can leave a rank taste at lower drinking proofs if distilled very low. It tends to be served above 80 proof to contain the flavor. In the era of the document, corn whiskey was still a thing, if not just for blending. Three distilleries exclusively made corn whiskey. One was still using the infamous ultra efficient and therefore cheap koji process developed by Dr. Jokici Takamine in the late 19th century. This is likely a Peoria Illinois producer, but possibly not Hiram Walker. Distillery no. 1 is likely the most heritage of all the corns. They still used batch distillation, though with a few plates, and no refluxing of the stills before they collected the run. Bourbons very high on the corn make me think of bottlings like Dant that I’ve tasted from the 1970’s that kind of sucked.

Higher rye content Bourbons, like Old Grand Dad is famously known to be, start to mark quality. Some whiskeys like example no. 3c were probably quite tasty. Distillery 3 was one of a few big conglomerates and it is interesting to compare their bourbons. Whiskeys 3a and 3b are subtle variations of each other and do not read as grand as 3c in terms of rye content, yet their fermentation times are slightly longer. Were any of these new acquisitions that were likely to be redundant and consolidated?

Speaking of conglomerates, distillery no. 3 is the most apparent, but the similarity of parameters in distilleries no. 5,6, and 7 make it seem like they were all under the direction of a single team. Could that be where Willkie and Kolachov come in?

Only two distilleries made Wheat mashes, and they loved their concept enough to make nothing but. One is Stitzel-Weller and the other is likely Maker’s Mark. Language in the document’s commentary implies that the wheaters are two distinct enterprises. Both distilleries used the same mash bill, the same single plate stripping still concept, similar lack of refluxing, and even the same barrel entry proof. Bill Samuels was known to acquire his recipe and receive assistance from Stitzel-Weller and the data could add conjecture to the extent of the help. My guess is that the more contemporary Maker’s Mark is the wheater that distills at the higher proof.

Malt is an interesting variable in a mash bill and it is thought only to provide assistance for converting starch to fermentable sugars, but it may also be stylistic judging by the varying proportions of its use. Malt is expensive and if a producer went heavy on it, they likely had a good reason. The highest malt content on the board is the 20% from whiskey no. 38b. That was from the rye exclusive producer and was matched with 80% rye which leads me to believe it was the Baltimore Pure Rye [*cough*cough* Sagamore, get on it! and talk to Wondrich about a three chambered still!]. I had been lucky enough to taste a bottle of BPR 1941 and it had a unique and dense maltiness very unlike any Old Overholt I had tasted of the same era. Overholt could possibly be derived in part from the ryes of distillery no. 3. which may be National Distillers (just a guess!).

Malted barley has a much higher diastic power than malted rye so when the malt figure is at the average, it is likely the more economical barley, but if it is as high as 20, it is probably decadently rye. Northern Brewer has started selling different malt extracts and their rye is quite singular. What would be cool to know is if there was a style of Bourbon mash that seemed like it was high on the corn, but was rye plus rye malt (instead of barley) so it really tasted distinctly high rye.

Few producers still made a sweet mash with two producers doing it exclusively. The rule of thumb with sweet mashes is that they can ferment faster and to higher alcohol contents than a sour mash. Distillery no. 2 made a sweet Bourbon mash, corn mash, and rye. Their rye is categorized as sweet but still employed 18% backset. Distillery no. 42 followed suit with two categorized sweet but also featuring 20% backset. The traditional quantity of backset for sour mash is 25% so anything less than that is considered sweet by the industry. Notice the first part of the rule of thumb falls part and distillery no. 2 happens to use decadently long fermentations though the second part holds true and they use a low gallons of water per bushel. Style points for no. 2! [that red three I think is their typo and should be a 13]

The addition of a lactic acid producing bacteria was something that surprised me when I first read the document. Co-fermentation of yeast with an innoculated bacterial culture is something that we think of in rum production, but here it was, thoroughly used in American whiskey and practiced for decades. I have yet to find an old research paper that focuses on it.

When you really get into it, the way they add their lactic culture is also very different than rum. Rum bacteria is all offense and aroma driven while sour mash’s lactic culture is all defense. Many inferior wild yeasts and aroma negative bacteria can not grow in the low pH medium produced by the lactic bacteria. Sour mash yeasts are unique and they used to be called wine-sour yeasts because they were selected for tolerance to soured mashes.

Innoculating with a lactic culture may seem high tech like sour mashers graduated from mere chemical control to full on biological control, to borrow some rum industry phrasing, but they were practicing it since before the 19-teens. They made it like yogurt. A small amount of a rye and malt specialty mash is held at about 120°. This temperature is beyond a yeast’s tolerance, but the lactic bacteria can grow and take hold. It wasn’t too fussy.

The bacteria basically infects the vat and accumulates in every batch to a point where fermentation is impeded and the vats must be chemically sanitized. These days under near complete biological control, some producers have advanced to the point where they have inline spectroscopy monitoring the beer telling them specifically if they need to clean the vats on the 18th, 19th, or 20th batch in the cycle. Too soon would be wasteful. If we get philosophical, we may even say that their involvement goes too deep. The windows for chaos are framed a little too tightly.

The sweet mash producers obviously did not add a lactic culture, but twelve sour mash producers also did not use it in any of their productions. These producers likely have a healthy variation of character during their production cycles and they tended to have smaller lineups such as one mash bill with variations of fermentation duration. I imagine Old Crow lying in this Bourbon philosophical territory somewhere. Its reputation was beyond the state of its production so the label was kept, but its mash bill was consolidated.

Gallons of water per bushel tells us how dilute the beer was and what its potential alcohol was. It also somewhat tells us how grand the aspirations of the ferment were. More water meant a larger mass to absorb the heat of fermentation which would keep the temperature down creating less aroma negative congeners that in the olden days would be a concern for batch distillation. More water also means more capital tied up storing the extra mass of the beer and far more energy used to boil it all in the end, so if you added it, the results had to justify it. Just like rum, progressive producers were migrating to temperature controlled fermentation vats and higher starting gravity fermentations to use less fuel.

There used to be legal minimums governing gallons per bushel (to promote hitting dryness) and even a provision for rum, but who knows where those ideas were by the time the document was commissioned. This relates to the idea of chemical control of a distillery. If you go way back, American excise officers used to actually help distilleries become scientifically competent. We just didn’t know enough about fermentation is those days and without care it was easy to get a fermentation stuck and squander potential alcohol before you distilled. The excise job would be phenomenally easier if all producers were guaranteed to ferment to dryness. The producer would also make more money and have less incentive to cheat.

When fermentation competence is the rule, the reason the excise job gets easier is because you can match potential alcohol from grain purchased to alcohol realized from the still. There will be losses but extrapolations can account for them. The excise officer becomes a stable pencil pusher and not a nosy detective with a flashlight only to find the distiller is incompetent. The scope of the IRS papers that keep turning up surprise a lot of people, but hopefully this explains their philosophy. Many of the excise guys no doubt loved whiskey. The bulletins they put out gave them a proper forum to influence the industry instead of being an annoying backseat driver on the distillery floor. I have written in the past about the public foundations of private spirits companies.

Longer fermentation times typically correlate to fuller flavored beers to distill (and there also used to be legal minimums aimed at helping hit dryness). This lesson is best learned in rum where there is a bigger spread in possibilities. In the document, we see fermentations as short as 52 hours for a corn mash and as long as 120 hours for quite a few others whiskeys.

One thing I did in the spread sheet was to convert the hours to days to look at the durations in terms of human labor cycles. Fermentation times weren’t exactly just carried out until specific congener targets were met, besides the obvious completion of converting sugar to alcohol. They were carried out until someone showed up to do the work of manning the pumps. If we look at distillery no. 27, an infamous wheater producing three variations of the same mash bill, they had a 72 hour fermentation, an 84, and a 96. In terms of days that is 3, 3½, and 4. So the question is, did they start with the objective of producing different styles or did it just happen when a runaway biological process met the rhythm of their labor cycles? Distilleries don’t employ a lot of people and that 84 hour ferment may have happened because he/she simply didn’t get to it yet. New distilleries are starting to encounter human rhythms dictating production practices while large distilleries have overcome aspects of it with automation.

If you know how to read things, the influence of a labor cycle can become a layer of our appreciation. I remember having a beer with a glass blower years ago, and across the room he spied a hand blown multi-globed light fixture. He said, “do you know why that last globe is darker than the others?”, “because he was tired.”

A new era was coming and it represents information not captured in the document (which might not really be true). All sorts of variables could change while producing roughly the same flavor if yeasts were more carefully selected or pitched in different quantities with different pHs plus a lot more options. They either specifically learned from rum, which was further ahead (*cough*cough* Arroyo!), or arrived at a lot of the same conclusions. There was a lot to gain. Producers could arrive at a product cheaper, they could reduce their environmental footprint which was a concern, or they could even make a product taste better.

Bourbon got pretty far without being too fussy about bio technology. Excise officers helped them out and the sour mash process took form without much more science than it took to make yogurt. They also grew and maintained fairly pure strains of wine-sour yeasts without owning microscopes. That was done using hops. Rum didn’t have hops to keep bacteria from their yeast and that is why Arroyo had to be such a thorough bio technologist (rum may have eventually picked up antibiotics). Lack of pressure led to lack of sour mash innovation. Arroyo was painstakingly conducting yeast Olympiads to find rum yeast champions employing large test fermentation arrays while Willkie and Kolachov didn’t hit the same level of science until probably twenty years later.

I’ve actually never looked into the specifics of Bourbon producing stills. I thought that maybe they flirted with fully continuous distillation and reverted back based on pictures I’d seen, but that isn’t exactly the case. The document differentiates between variables in the beer still versus what they label the doubler so it looks like the beer still is a discontinuous charge process while the second distillation is continuous. Multiple beer stills could feed a continuous doubler (but confirming that is still a google away). I could be wrong, I haven’t actually looked.

If a distillery operated a continuous beer still, and they definitely existed capable of digesting grain left in the mash, it would have between 12 and 20 plates. If a still had that many plates, they also likely wouldn’t need a second distillation. The most plates for a beer still in the document is 10 which is distillery no. 24 who exclusively made Bourbon. Mash no. 24b has a significant spread between the minimum and maximum proof so it is likely not continuous. Laws I’m not aware of may have dictated a double distillation scheme.

If their beer stills work the way I think, they had a typical heads and tales cut that was recycled. The plates, disclosed in the document, will somewhat correlate to the flavor passed on to the doubler, but not as much as the minimum and maximum proof of the beer run. Only three distilleries use a different amount of plates across their productions which could imply different entire stills in use or possibly just different columns switched on or off. Both wheaters use a one plate still which could imply a little more collusion.

I computed the difference between the minimum and maximum proof of the beer still run. The idea was so see if they refluxed the stills to bring them to relative equilibrium before collecting the run. A pot still is not at equilibrium and the run has a significant curve when you graph the proof over time so you see a big difference between minimum and maximum. A column still can be operated at relative states of equilibrium flattening out the curve. Collection from a column still can be paused by going full reflux, but the alcohol content in the column will increase. The ability to reflux means that multiple beer stills could be synced up with a continuous doubler even if they didn’t exactly heat at the same rate.

The document does not tell us about the cutting routines or the fraction recycling options the distilleries used. A heads cut from the beer still could be taken and recycled back to the next distillation run just like classic pot still double distillation and the tales cut could be collected in its own receiver instead of being passed on to the continuous doubler.

It would be so cool to see the same data from ten years prior. I suspect the industry was much more susceptible to trend than tradition. They all no doubt read the same research papers and bulletins especially with excise officers ever present and ever helpful. They likely also had consultants and I doubt anyone was too guarded which is how Maker’s Mark could emerge out of Stitzel-Weller without a scandal. I say that all by looking at the data and the industry research papers I’ve read that may have influenced the numbers. I don’t actually know any specific industry anecdotes. I have never particularly paid attention to American whiskey before so there is lots of room to add to or tear apart all my ideas here.

Continuous doublers must have been around for quite a while if so many people had them. There was probably a generation of equipment used right out the gates of prohibition that lasted maybe twenty years then everybody upgrading at the same time possibly as they exited the pressures of World War II.

You would think continuous stills would all be operated very similarly with very tight spreads between the minimum and maximum proof of distillation and quite a few producers had really tight spreads. Yet there is also a lot of variation such as distillery no. 14 distilling handsome seeming Bourbon mashes, but having a significant spread of 42 proof on their doubler relative to only 10 on their 2 plate beer still. Those numbers are very different than distilleries no. 5,6 and 7, which may all be the same conglomerate. The spread on 5,6, and 7 is as tight as the probable margin of error. Distillery no. 9 supposedly starts collecting from their continuous doubler at zero proof which may be possible if they are collecting steam and not allowing the column to come to any state of relative equilibrium before they collect their distillate (excise officer is rolling his eyes). There are some gaps in the data where distilleries did not answer the questions denoted by a “-“. It is hard to say if that zero should be taken at face value, if its an error, or if someone did not understand the question. The questionnaires were actually filled out by excise agents. Distillery no. 2 also operated their continuous doubler with unusually wide spreads. The wheater, no. 16, also did, but I am not confident in those numbers because they are exactly the same as used in their beer still while the second wheater’s, no. 27, are not.

Final distillation proofs and then barrel entry proofs are hard to read into. Classically, econo whiskeys and just plain junk were distilled at higher proofs to make them more palateable. Grander whiskey would be distilled lower, but then there was the trend to lighter on their feet whiskeys. At the same time, and the whole point of the document, was that producers were slowly learning to use their continuous doublers with the ability to easily separate fusel oil and changing American whiskey identity markedly. I bet there was even one infamous Bourbon that set the precedent while everyone watched in amazement. I would not be surprised if Kolachov had anything to do with it and it shouldn’t be hard to figure out what whiskeys had his name on them. All of the rules of thumb were falling apart. A new era of whiskey abstraction was dawning, special effects.

What I’ve barely mentioned so far is that all the data came with a commentary, but they don’t explain or explore pretty much any of the stuff I just presented. Their vantage point was much different. There is also lots of data I’m not showing because it is a bunch of boring congener counts. That data is boring but powerful. Columns could be added to the spread sheet with all the major congeners classes. We could then use econometrics and software like SPSS to find correlations. This would possibly generate statistically significant actionable advice such as increase the fermentation time if you want to increase the X and decrease the Y. We can leave that all for another day.

The authors were concerned with the potential of extractive distillation which is a method of fusel oil separation. Laws stating that distillation could not exceed 160 proof was not guaranteeing anything anymore. They were positing writing into law natural flavor standards for each congener class. The impact of extractive distillation may not have hit whisky yet, but the future comes at you fast. If natural flavor standards had to be created, they needed good numbers representative of tradition while they still were reliable.

The authors also explained a few bits and pieces in the data. The two curious “water-mashes” with no backslopping could make a whiskey lighter because less congeners are recycled by the backslop. They were also using early forms of GCMS and connecting chemical compounds to the infamous hog tracks of some new make spirits

The authors note that the maximum allowable entry proof was raised in 1962 from 110° to 125° yet average entry proof for Bourbon’s was still 109.8°. None of the bourbons were entered at the maximum allowable proof. That makes it hard to understand why the laws bother to change. The commentary section of the document has a table that compares various similar surveys conducted between 1898 and themselves. I have seen a lot of them and none are as comprehensive or have such an extensive table of mashing and distilling parameters.

It has often been stated that whiskies produced today are not as heavy or full bodied as those produced in the old days. To find evidence that would either support or refute this contention, a comparative examination of chemical data from the better known studies on whisky has been made and is shown in Table 7.

The data leads to the conclusion that not much has changed.

Possibly the heavier charring of the barrels resulted in the so-called “heavy whiskies” of the old days.”

It was a lot of fun to reflect upon and finally do something with this cool document which I am intentionally being partially vague about. Hopefully it will launch a few ships, start a few friendships and generate new chapters of American whiskey writing and scholarship.


Wild Turkey was an non distiller bottler until the 1970’s and started as a supermarket brand.

Distillery no. 41 is likely Continental Distilling of Pennsylvania based on the 41C mash bill of 37/51/12 which is likely Rittenhouse Rye

Heaven Hill has used a 75/13/12 mash bill so they could be distillery no. 10,15, 18, 21 ,23, 24c, 25, or 30. Basically its the most popular mash bill. Wild Turkey eventually became a 75/13/12 so they could be descended from one of these producers.

Distilleries 16 and 27 are likely Stitzel-Weller and Maker’s Mark.

Distillery 24 could be Four Roses because they do two different mash bills. Currently one with 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley and another one with 60%, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. The rye percentages could have changed from the days of the document as ideas in malt changed. Four Roses uses five different yeasts! Holy Biological control Batman!

Distillery 19 is likely George Dickel. Their current mash bill is disclosed as 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted barely which doesn’t match anybody. The document would consider them a corn mash producer and the only producer of quality doing exclusively corn mashes is no. 19. Dickel was a contemporary plant back then so it is probably not distiller no. 1.

Distiller no. 7 could be the Barton distillery because of the 75/15/10 mash bill that they claim to use today, but don’t forget they may some how be linke to distillery no. 6 because parameters over lap.

Today Maker’s Mark discloses uses the same mash bill as in the document.

Distillery no. 9 is likely Jack Daniels because of the 80/8/12 mash bill. Others used the same mash bill, but no. 9 was the only one that produced exclusively that. I’ll have to check the chemical data and see if there is anything odd that makes it look like its definitely charcoal filtered.

Distillery no. 17 is likely Brown Forman because of the 72/18/10 mash bill, but it looks like that distillery also ran a 74/16/10.

If distillery no. 3 is National Distillers, bourbon 3c could be Old Grand-dad, 65/25/10. These days the Grand-Dad mash bill is disclosed as 63/27/10.

If Michters at Bomberger’s distillery was always a pot still distillery, they could likely be distillery no. 41. but at the beginning I thought that was Rittenhouse. Which could mean they are definitely Pennsylvania Rye numbers.

The Mazaruni Scorpion

In Georgetown there is a certain drink made of green granadine, rum and ice. It is called the ‘Mazaruni Scorpion’ and is sometimes given to unsuspecting visitors who praise its pleasant taste and are beguiled by its receptive mildness. They ask for more. After the third or fourth drink the ‘Mazaruni Scorpion’ may turn on you and, like its namesake, it is found to have a sting in its tail.

This 1957 paper by Dr. Audrey Butt published in the Guianese journal, Timehri, is really “a study of the symbolic significance of tattoo patterns among the Akawaio”. The drink, described above, is named after a classic tattoo pattern worn by the old breed of Akawaio women that appears to be a scorpion’s tail protruding from their mouth. The green granadine in question is likely a lime cordial so the drink is most probably a daiquiri sold with a local name. It would be no surprise if the globe trotting mining engineers of David Wondrich’s recent daiquiri narrative brought the drink to Georgetown. The Akawaio may seem remote and exotic, but it is a small world.

This short excerpt and Wondrich’s article are important because they drinks as being connected to a deep and powerful mythology. Too many drinks today are written and exchanged deprived of any connection to life. They symbolize near nothing and they aren’t even part of a conscientious aestheticism movement (that I used to rock!). We have countless new drinks with no tales.

Mythology often proves authenticity and that a drink was formed and perpetuated by the noble pressures of the zeitgeist. Thirst and necessity of stimulation were the mothers of its invention. Anxiety, complacency, cementing memories, and retrieving memories were all to be solved for the imbiber and not brand kick backs, narcissism, and ego stroking for the bar star living in a bubble.

There is this strange thing going around in the new circles discussing drinks where everyone talks in the dialect of a conformist business school grad and not the rebellious dialect of art nor the dialect of the mythology creating bon vivant.

It is noticeable in written accounts of the Guiana tribes and also in my own investigations that there is a particular connection between the patterns and the making of sweet drinks and sweet cassava. The women bear the symbols of bees on their arms and faces and the ingredients of the tattoo dyes always include, something sweet —wild honey or sugar cane. Even the ‘aluai skin’ pattern is related to this stress on sweetness since the skin of the aluai fish is said to taste sweet. Farabee noted that “… the tattooing serves as a distinguishing mark, but it all appears to be most important in rendering the drink sweeter to the taste.” Roth maintained “that among the Makusi, Patamona and Arekuna “The honey, with which the pigment is mixed, is believed to act as a charm or bina to make the drink taste ‘sweet’ “.

What did we do with all of our charms and symbols? In the early days of the cocktail renaissance you used to look for that jigger, or that stir, or fuck even that tattoo to know your drink would be the right kind of sweeter, the kind steeped in mythology, connected to a lineage of people that were fun and helped you to simultaneously remember and forget the correct parts of your life. Now all the old symbols and signifiers have been stripped from us and commodified. Now half the time you look for the place to be scuffed up enough and not over renovated. You look for stuff to not be on the shelves, meaning no one panders to the reps and you look for the glassware to be clean, but modest. You still want to see the sacred silver repoussé relics used to convey sweetness, but not piles of their stamped reproductions.

When we drank Wray & Nephews years ago, we had to find it. It wasn’t brought to us with five other options and sometimes it wasn’t even written about yet (When I first drank Fire I found it myself and loved it). Our choice wasn’t only relative to a scene. Sometimes we were being lumberjack sexuals. Sometimes we were trying to retrieve the memories of spending three weeks in Jamaica drinking with a construction crew (they drank J.B. Trelawny with Campari). Ed Hamilton’s stories of the oil industry are actually the best out there and you’ll want to drink along. Other times it was gravitation to an authentic drink, drunk by real people and helped ground us after we worked away in cubicles and only broke a sweat artificially in a gym. Sometimes it was a fetish for something in a tiki book, but I never got into that.

The young generation wonders how politicians can get so corrupt, but a bunch of people that consider themselves artists go on paid trips and get politely in the pocket of their hosts so quickly they ask no questions and contest nothing. They feel they do no harm if they don’t open their mouths and that is why so many come back in silence. I’m not allowed to go because I’ve read too much. I ask too many questions (with no great writings, no great tales [except Matt Pietrek]). I demand to see things. I want to know what they’ve read and where they’ve been. I write letters to their old timers. I’m like a fucking U.N. weapons inspector, but you’ve got to be if you don’t want to be a pawn in a globalist marketing scheme. The pharmaceutical industry is going to start poaching these malleable people and then maybe we can get back to drinks that are a reflection of lives lived.

If you are lost in a post-modern drink scene with so much churning long after all the precedents were set, look to the Akawaio as a guide back to authenticity. Strip everything back down to its stinging and biting essence then start again.

On the practical side, they are believed to assist the bearers of the pattern in these specific tasks. They are formalised, symbolic representations taken from nature. In every case, the creatures which have inspired the patterns are those which are regarded as producing the essence of sweetness or of stinging and biting. The combined essence of this sweetness and powerful stinging is brought into the closest contact with those who require to stimulate it in their activities —the women who, years ago, made the cassava bread and chewed the ingredients of the spree drinks. Their aim was a sweet, powerful drink to make the men merry and drunk during celebrations and to achieve this they enlisted the aid of the creatures which possess the necessary characteristics and by symbolic association they thought to reproduce these same qualities. It is the Mazaruni scorpion which puts the kick, or sting, in the Akawaio drink!

The drinks world has gotten so lame I turned all of my creative energy over to the Houghton Street Foundry.

Australian Rum Oil and reisling TDN?

[By the end of the post, connections start to be made that I didn’t have a good enough memory to make from the beginning. The existence of this paper was a tip from a particularly smart reader. The punchline may be that components of the mythic rum oil may come from at least two channels. The first is the splitting of glycocides by the enzymatic activity of yeast while the second may be from carotenoids present in the cane itself. Tons of work still needs to be done, but these are some good preliminary guesses of where to look. At the very least, they may point to realizing more terroir in rum, molasses based or otherwise.]

Here is a unique paper, Less Volatile alcohols Esters and Hydrocarbons in a Raw Australian Rum, 1975 (Bundaberg!), which may have a follow up if ILL can track it down. [The follow up is A new approach to the identification of flavour components in rum from the Australian Wine, Brewing, and Spirit Review, 1973. This brief paper was in the bibliography of the other and offers a great summary of what will follow.]

I read this after reading two different modern rum-GCMS papers which were kind of useless for the purpose of learning more about rum history or production. I’ve been aiming to highlight a unique thesis I found with some fantastic explanations of the evolution of chromatography, but I’m short on time and I think I may contact the author first to ask some questions.

In the paper, D.A. Allen reads two early (1966, 1970) rum-GCMS papers and wants to play along, but doesn’t have access to the same equipment. The authors used pentanes to extract congeners from very small samples of rums then analyzed them with GCMS to name volatile components. I’ve actually played with pentane extraction to produce artful creations, but that is another story for another day. Allen could not work with such small samples so he comes up with the novel idea of collecting fusel oil from the side stream of the Bundaberg production then toying with it. Allen’s idea is comparative to that studies that inspired it because most of the unique compounds everyone is looking for are less volatile. The paper ends a little bit abruptly, but he ends up finding the notorius reisling congeners TDN.

I’ll try to describe a little bit of the experiment, but what I should first note with disappointment is that Allen never organoleptically describes anything he is working on. Is he working with that peculiar, wonderful, desired rum oil or is this just low volatility junk? We never really find out here, but maybe we will in his other paper. The whole significance of this paper becomes the old fashioned extraction procedures he uses which may help the contemporary small scale fine producer. Another new possibility is that rum oil congeners may have appreciated in value enough (with our new found fine market) that it is now economically viable to harvest them from a formerly discarded fusel oil fraction. Maybe it is already done for the fragrance industry? Who knows.

Distillery oil, removed in litre quantities from the side of the still was shown to contain these compounds and can be considered as a concentrate of the higher boiling point flavour compounds of rum.


Fractional distillation of distillery oil produced « fusel oil » containing the higher alcohols (n-propanol, isobutanol, isoamyl alcohol and active amyl alcohol, BP to 132°C) and a residue termed « rum » oil containing compounds with a higher boiling point than isoamyl alcohol.  Only the analysis of the « rum » oil will be discussed.

Allen uses both a Lecky and Ewell still and a Bower and Cooke still to purify the fractions for analysis. He has citations for each still and it may be helpful to dig them up to see what they were like. A lot of this equipment is still very useful.

He has got an entire liter of rum oil and does not say how it smells. There are a lot of esters in the oil and they get hydrolyzed with sodium hydroxide to concentrate the remaining compounds. The hydrolysate gets fractionally distilled and the fractions analysed. Part of hydrolysate is alcohols that were liberated from the esters by the sodium hydroxide. Due to how the sample was separated from fusel oil, some compounds like acetals reported in rum oil by others may not have survived.

Allen goes on to perform continuous liquid-liquid extraction on multiple liter batches of raw rum. Its seems like he does five batches and winds up with 5 liters of pentane to distill from. The non volatile product is an oil and the volatile product is split into two fractions. The ethanol was in the first fraction and the second fraction was an oil-water azeotropic mixture. The oil was separated, dried with anhydrous calcium chloride and added to the water-free residue in the pot. It would be nice to know how they smell before he blended them together!

This oil gets redistilled in the same apparatus and separated into two fractions collected up to 132°C so everything is well over the boiling point of water. What isn’t clear is if pentane is used in this distillation. These days this distillation would be done under vacuum and a teflon coated spinning band distillation column would be used because holdup, or the clinging of liquid to the glass apparatus, starts to become significant. Descriptions of what is explicitly happening by now have become a little disjointed and I’m having trouble following the transitions.

This oil was redistilled in the same apparatus and separated into two fractions. The larger fraction, collected up to 132°C, contained the higher alcohols to isoamyl alcohol and was called fusel oil. The residue (100 mL) in the pot contained compounds with higher boiling point than 132°C and was called « rum » oil. After four more such distillations, the combined residue amounted to 500 mL.

If any of this smelled really good, wouldn’t he be likely to mention it? Wouldn’t he be likely to show it to a distiller and get some gears turning? Wouldn’t Bundaberg rum be less likely to be so lame?

In the next step, the specialized stills get some use which apparently feature vacuum and a series of 10mL sample were collected until the temperature hit a certain point. The pressure was dropped and more 10mL samples collected. This multi stage pressure drop to avoid decomposition may have been because the equipment was a little more primitive than what we commonly use today. All of the collected fractions see some spectroscopy to identify what they are.

The rum oil goes through some more hydrolysis with more sodium hydroxide with the products extracted into more pentane.

The paper seems to get cut short after Allen identifies 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene. Allen does not use the modern abbreviation of TDN, but this is a congener that is infamous in aged Reislings and is responsible for the petrol character which at the right levels is often prized. Allen drops a little bit of history on this compound but does not mention wine at all. I linked to this paper on TDN in the beginning, but here it is again if anyone wants a primer.

The entire work seems to be the basis of a masters thesis to which the next paper I’ve requested may add to.

I really don’t know what to make of the TDN discovery. Allen does torture his sample and we should remember that in continuous column distillates, this fraction is mostly discarded. Google searches for 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene +rum yield nothing.

But, when you read the AWRI paper, TDN is noted as related to carotenoids and extra smart blog reader Matt Power brought them up recently (Matt actually inspired the tracking down of this paper after mentioning 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene, but I did not immediately connect the dots):

Are components of rum oils microbiologically derived in these manners, rather than from the canes themselves? Carotenoid bio-decomposition is known to lead to a spectacular array of interesting chemicals

This comment come from the Arroyo’s Oidium post about ethyl tiglate and relates to my hypothesis that the peculiar character of rum oil comes from the splitting of glycosides by the enzymatic action of alt yeasts like Schizosacharomyces Pombe. Rum oil may be more complex and the product of more mechanisms.

Outlining the mechanisms may even unlock the potential for finding more terroir in rum from molasses. A rum can only tell us a story of a place if we learn to read it.

[It may be possible to take a modern GC-MS look at a heavy rum and try to categorize all the low volatility congeners found. This may give us a distribution of what channels they come from.]

Whiskey Verdigris

A search for something to help a blog reader prompted me to take a trip back through the databases. More and more literature is digitized every year or has its copyright expired.

This paper on Whiskey Verdigris was a fun one for me because I love looks at distillation phenomena that are seldom explored. If you encountered a still puking verdigris as a first time distiller it may be a ‘wtf?, that’s not in the text books!’, but it is a phenomenon understood to be normal by experienced commercial scale distillers. My very first explanation of the phenomenon was back in 2014, A Still Operation Phenomenon Explained.

The paper is from 1937 and the experiments were conducted down in Kentucky from a sample of whiskey verdigris secured for the authors by a former University of Kentucky alum. This is all pre chromatography era so they explore and torture their sample MacGyver style to elucidate what the hell it is and how the hell it got there.

Copper is reactive and distillation is all about concentration so waves of reactive compounds move through the still. The end of a spirits run also has a unique relationship with the beginning of the next as we learned in Demisting and the Spirits Safe. Stuff at the end of the run, distilling primarily with water vapor (but not necessarily water soluble), has a tendency to be sticky. This stuff often gets stuck in the condenser, affixing to the copper, but is liberated by the next run where it is soluble in the very high alcohol content of the heads fraction. Chemical reactions happen with the copper producing a colored patina that takes the name whiskey verdigris though it is chemically different from the classic verdigris of the decorative arts (but no less beautiful!). Another strange phenomenon can also come along depending on how a distillery preps its beer (they usually try to avoid this). If the beer has not been de-gassed and liberated of its CO2, as it heats, it will have a tendency to belch. The liberated CO2 has both a corrosive action and a force that can scour the inside of the still and puke out whiskey verdigris. If you have this going on you may want to figure out how to de-gas your beer because the raw copper revealed can negatively impact your flavor.

The short paper is worth a read. These chemists were brilliant and it is fun to try and keep up with an understanding of what the hell they are doing. Among the many parts of their experiment, they are making whiskey soap and getting to smell isolated fractions that few of us will ever get to experience. Wonderful stuff.

If you have some, either send in a photo or mail me a canning jar of the stuff. I will turn it into paint and create a neo-pointalist self portrait.

As the concentration of alcohol falls in the doubler a white, insoluble, fatlike material appears in the trial box. Although most of this goes back into the singling tank, some collects in the condenser and is partially dissolved and washed out by the higher alcoholic content of the next distillation. This appears in the heads or foreshots of the next distillation and is colored a distinct green. This part of the insoluble material goes directly into the whisky well and dissolves in the strong alcohol present. Thus a part of the original volatile fatty material collects in the singling tank, and part finds its way into the whisky. The trade calls this material “verdigris” which is an unfortunate name since it has no connection with the verdigris of commerce.


The amount of this material is small in comparison to the volume of alcohol produced. Probably 250 grams per 30,000 liters of high wines would be a fair approximation, although no exact figures are available and would be very difficult to obtain.


UNSAPONIFIABLE MATTER. The ether extracts of the soap solutions upon evaporation yielded 1.4 grams of a viscous oil having somewhat the odor of corn.


The green solid when leached with hot alcohol was dissolved, leaving a brown solid. Upon filtering and cooling, the alcohol solution deposited green crystals; hence the palmitic acid is considered to be held as a cupric salt.


The higher fatty acids and their derivatives found in whisky verdigris without doubt originate mainly in the corn (3) which makes up from 60 to 89 per cent of the total grain used in making Bourbon whisky from which the sample was obtained. The corn oil alone does not offer an explanation of the presence of laurate and caprate esters, although Hilger (6) reported the free acids to be present in fusel oil. The occurrence of the various fatty acids and their derivatives in the beer is easily understood, but their presence in the distillate is more difficult to explain. Although it is known that the higher fatty acids are volatile in steam, or at least volatile in steam containing the vapors of more volatile acids, it must be remembered that this is not purely a steam distillation.


It is possible that the acids distill and cling to the copper condenser, and that partial salt formation (11) and esterification take place there. The majority of the esters are probably formed in the beer, and many other possibilities are obvious although none appears to explain satisfactorily the absence of stearic acid or its derivatives. Although this acid has been reported in fusel oil (6), the writers were unable to find any indication of its presence in whisky verdigris.


Whisky verdigris has a strong odor of green whisky and may be said to be yeasty: although none of the substances mentioned by Hochwalt and others (7) were found, their hydrogenation process may owe part of its effectiveness to the reduction of the unsaturated derivatives which otherwise become rancid.

These two photos come from rum distiller James Copeland christening a new still.

An accumulation of beautiful whiskey verdigris.

Insoluble flecks collected in a low wines receiver.

Whiskey verdigris can even end up as a precipitate in the tales fraction.

Insoluble flecks can be collected in cheese cloth suspected over the low wines receiver.

The last four photos were courtesy the wonderful Kings County Distillery which primarily produces a bourbon.

This last photo is from the Auchentoshan distillery in Scotland. Courtesy an astute reader with an eye that doesn’t miss much.

Feel free to write in and add to the photos. They can be attributed or submitted anonymously with the type of spirit distilled.

The Evaporation of Wealth

John Ralston Saul, in his 2005 Collapse of Globalism, keeps mentioning the evaporation of wealth. The concept is curious, elusive, and basically not talked about by anyone else because it challenges a lot of ideas in economics. We have to remember that money is not real and something that always sits a top the value of an asset is the concept of utility (which is hard to measure so economists hate it). We all know economics eventually have to go beyond a focus on GDP and switch to harder to quantify measures like happiness, but that is barely discussed. As JRS likes to remind us, if you ask around at economics schools if they’ve changed their curriculum since 2008, they will admit not by much.

There is a growing anxiety related to the not yet widely understood evaporation of wealth phenomena that is driving the democratic socialist movement which many elites like to ridicule. Our leadership and even our intellectuals are really weak on economics so they tend to grasp for or mock ideas like socialism. They cannot seem to see giant problems staring them in the face.

The easiest way to begin wrapping your head around the evaporation of wealth (exacerbated by globalism) is to consider decades ago what happened when women were added to the work force. If a family has two incomes, it should be wealthier, but that just hasn’t been the case. We once had a prosperous country where a family could support itself and achieve considerable happiness on a single income often working only 40 hours a week. Somehow we have evaporated that entire extra income as well as a hundred years of other accumulated assets. A lot of this has to do with how we allocate the tax burden and how we allow sanctioned corruption in the political process (lobbying).

A lot of people think of the evaporation of wealth only as inflation and deflation as well as speculation, but there is a lot more subtlety to it. Evaporation may also not be the best metaphor, but it is a good starting point. Evaporation also happens by degrees and is not an on or off phenomenon. Not all saving is evaporative, but some is significantly as the piles grow and the amounts in the billions lose productivity. When middle class people benefit from tax cuts and can save, their savings have normal utility, but when the 1% and .01% get a tax cut, the money has significantly different utility and is essentially evaporated or put into permanent storage where is does not contribute to the prosperity of the country. At the moment there is only one Elon Musk, but more on him later.

The main focus of this blog is the collecting and republishing of old beverage technology research papers and they are a great example of evaporation (my library card is my condenser!). These papers were publicly funded research that took place over large spans of the 20th century and they should be part of accumulated American wealth and resources with utility to draw from, but somehow they managed to become hidden.

This is just like money we stashed and forgot where we put it, but it also gets wrapped up in various infamous pay walls that privately tax you when you try to access your public wealth. We do not understand our miscellaneous public assets. We improperly archive them by under funding our libraries, allowing private gatekeepers that should not be there, and essentially evaporating vast utility. Americans have so thoroughly forgotten their public resources that they’ve allowed lobbyists to hijack our copyright system, robbing the public of wealth that is supposed to accumulate.

The new American distilling scene is approaching a billion dollars in market value and for some reason this rickety blog is the largest source of advanced educational material because I condensed a forgotten trove of public research returning our wealth. I’m currently holding multiple pieces of forgotten public research I haven’t shared that will dramatically advance every major distilled spirits category (I just leaked the most major piece to a spirits writer you all adore).

The biggest art museums which are quasi public-private (but essentially have public missions) are quick to tout statistics like only 3% of their collection is on view at any one time. This means they evaporated nearly 97% of a few millennia of art they rounded up and put in warehouses. Civilization should have accumulated so much fine art by now that it is coming out of our ears, but we put it in storage where it has near no utility. This art could adorn our public schools which look like prisons and countless other public spaces like post offices and public libraries. If the West is turning its back on Enlightenment values, spread that damn Enlightenment art!

Vladamir Putin is thought by many to be the richest man in the world, but all the wealth he robbed from the people of Russia has very little utility. It is all hidden and sheltered because he is not supposed to have it. Russia has vast natural resources and it has been extracting them for decades during their recent kleptocratic era, but all that wealth basically evaporates because they have no Elon Musk who can create new prosperity from so much accumulation. Kleptocratic wealth is not original prosperity, but merely a transfer from the public good. Much of it goes to countless 40 million dollar Manhattan apartments that no one lives in. Though many of these investments have a dollar value, they have no typical utility.

We drag along far more military these days than our grandfathers did who supported large families working one blue collar job which is a wide avenue of wealth evaporation. The world may have changed, but it takes us so much more military to get the same utility (hell, we may get less because we are in perpetual conflict). At forty hours, we used to drag along diplomacy and the draft, but now we drag along bloated pork project fighter jets and multi million dollar missiles that are useless (declining utility) against the increasing irregular warfare phenomenon.

Spending on police or the TSA is relatively less evaporative because it is labor intensive and employs the middle class, but that is starting to change as the police militarize and use expensive swat teams to serve simple warrants. We are also evaporating money into settlements for police misconduct that we likely aren’t even legally allowed to track and study. The expense of wrongful death after wrongful is a part of that albatross around the neck of every citizen keeping them from supporting a household on 40 hours a week.

Much global tension comes from the rapidly deflating value of fossil fuel assets. All parties know their fossil fuel wealth is slipping into relative uselessness and there is a race to unlock this wealth before it evaporates. As a non-OPEC member, the U.S. is currently winning big time and as demand slows, the U.S. keeps opening its faucet to keep the price down though many parties have innovated and automated to the point they can make money on $35 crude.

In the new era of fossil fuel divestment, there is actually multi tiered evaporation going on. First, oil wealth is evaporating like just housing wealth in a deflating real estate bubble. Then secondly, this wealth is distributed to where it’s utility is low so it does not create a diverse economy that can help the civilization it serves move on. Petrol-states rely on a template of transference prosperity, they have proven unable to create hard won original prosperity.

Many futurists are starting to discuss the parasitic city where housing crisis are developing. Housing speculation is transference prosperity and those that benefit from it fall into the petrol-state template and can likely never create original prosperity. Money is sucked up from would-be middle class innovators and perpetually put into storage. Vast wealth is sucked up by the land lords to create pretty mundane lives of no particularly amazing happiness (I know countless of these people personally via my restaurant). Ostentatious behavior would condense the wealth and we don’t even see that. The only place the money ever goes is to corrupting our political system.

Commodity speculation is a classic hated layer of evaporation. Imagine the supply and demand curve of the price of oil. Now add another elusive pulsating curve atop it and the space between is the meddling of the spectators. When you reach in, you cannot grab that efficient price, you can only grab something from that layer above belonging to spectators and pay their private tax. Speculation is a transference of wealth from those trying to create original prosperity with the commodity to the speculator who is often Goldman Sachs, Exxon, or actually myself.

I have had great success as a commodity speculator and have funded a lot of my art projects that way. The wealth I transfer (should be illegal) is not evaporated because I use it at normal utility. Putting the money to use, I am overall a prosperity originator. The first dollars Goldman Sachs makes are not exactly evaporative because staff eats, clothes themselves, drives to work, and participates in gross ostentatious behavior supporting original prosperity. The last dollars, the majority, are supremely evaporative.

Oil is a strange ethical case. If the price is high we will use less creating less environmental burden and alternatives may seem more viable. If the price is low, oil isn’t always worth taking out of the ground. Oil companies make significant money on speculation and at the moment it keeps the price up in a viable zone. Banning speculation by financial regulation is a choice we are allowed to make and could eventually propel oil out of it’s viable zone downward toward staying in the ground. This is complicated by the fact that a lot of speculation these days is betting against oil. It starts to melt your brain and I would rather make my money via my workshop.

I work in an odd neighborhood restaurant in a super zip where I’ve noticed hundreds of millions in pretty evenly distributed wealth sitting around on a Sunday night. The modesty is amazing and there are bank executives with Timex watches that drink $9 Montepulciano by the glass. Everybody knows our names and there is no hint of any gross culture associated with Wall Street (so I’ve set the scene with all the “elites” you hear about #banalityoffinancialevil). Second only to 45, everyone talks about Elon Musk. These bankers, real estate tycoons, heirs to fortunes and family businesses are all enamored with Musk’s massive scale original prosperity and intuit that his wealth draws from a more noble category than theirs (but sadly they leave it at that). Their money is in storage because they don’t know what to do with it besides protect it from taxation while Musk is commanding hundreds of billions and knows what to do with every dollar like someone on minimum wage.

Musk is what we thought trickle down economics was for. Reagan might have had the best intentions, but the country could not produce enough prosperity originators for all the evaporators. Those that didn’t spend their capital actually inventing stuff, the evaporators, they had plenty of money to influence government and here we are today.

There turned out to be no trickle down economics, but there certainly is the evaporation wealth.


If you are intrigued, I took a break from beverage technology blog work to write:
Optimism is your weapon!, Inherently Good, and the Public Good
What is water? Swimming in the Public Good
Our Social Contract, Taxes and Charity
Ideology and the Supernormal Stimuli
A New Institution of the Public Good: Mandatory Civil Service

You can check out my Victorian door hardware workshop on IG: @houghstfoundry

Arroyo’s Oidium

In Arroyo’s 1945 Studies on Rum, he presents two different paths for symbiotic fermentations to produce full bodied rums. The first path uses a bacteria while the second path claims to use an Oidium (a mould), but recent research shows it may actually turn out to be a type of alt yeast.

Where did he get the idea anyhow? Arroyo has pretty much no bibliography other than the classic rum texts, but appears to cast a wide net and is well versed in emerging ideas in bio technology. He mentions finding this “mould” on the sap of a tree in a shade grown coffee plantation (shade grown coffee is really interesting). He does not say exactly what specific tree so it is hard to pin down because shade grown coffee plantations are known for spectacular diversity.

Besides, a mould of the Imperfecti group, Oidium Suaveolens, was also found very well adapted for the production of a special type of heavy rum.

Pages later he tell us more:

Another special type of heavy rum was produced during our studies and experiments. This time the raw material used was sugar cane juice. The yeast strain used was No. 764 and the auxiliary ferment was a member of the Fungi Imperfecti, Oidium Suaveolens. The Oidium was found and isolated by the writer from the sap of a tree much used in Puerto Rico for shading coffee plantations.

A study of this Oidium revealed that it would grow very fast in cane sugar juice media with the production of a thick film over the surface of the liquid. It was further discovered that it hardly touched the sugars in the medium, but that it was a good producer of esters and organic acids from the proteins of the raw material. A fragrant odour, very similar to that of ripe apples was the predominant aroma observed.

This Oidium was used as an auxiliary ferment for the production of heavy rums from sugar cane juice in two different ways: (a) a sterilized sugar cane juice mash of from 12.0 to 15.0 per cent total sugars was inoculated firstly with the Oidium culture. After the Oidium film was formed on the surface of the medium it was allowed to act up it for a period that could vary between 24 and 72 hours or more if desired. Then the mash was inoculated with an active footing of yeast No. 764, and the fermentation was carried to completion. (b) In the second method the yeast was allowed to operate alone in the substrate, and towards the finishing of the alcoholic fermentation the Oidium culture was inoculated. The Oidium fermentation was allowed to act then for variable number of hours, as desired.

Both methods worked satisfactorily in the creation of a new variety of heavy rum out of sugar cane juice mashes; but the rums obtained differed somewhat in each case, those produced by method (a) being of intenser taste and higher aromatic tone.

Many databases exist like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility that have listings for the organism, but they contain no spelled out history of discovery that may elude to where Arroyo got the idea (A Russian database points us to Geotrichum Frangrans which can be purchased here from the American Type Culture Collection ATCC). Arroyo did name the organism correctly as Suaveolens, and calling it an Oidium may point to the Russian biologist Krzemecki who possibly discovered it in 1913 based on language included in the GBIF entry. Arroyo may have also been hip to the organism by reading the mycologist Christine Marie Berkhout. Or maybe Arroyo never read her 1923 doctoral thesis that (quoting wikipedia) was later described as marking “the beginning of the rational systematics of the anascosporogenous yeasts” (I’m way out of my depth, but trying to bridge the gap between Arroyo’s mould and the recent researcher’s recategorization as yeast. The difference between a mold and a yeast is that molds grow with multi celled hyphae while yeast’s are single celled).

We are building up to some links to great modern research papers, but we should pause for a moment. The whole point of this exercise is to (a) celebrate how fucking cool Arroyo was, (b) help modern rum writers who may talk to producers and find evidence of these techniques used in a production, (c) help new producers jump off on this, and lastly (d) celebrate the contemporary researchers who will help us bring more of Arroyo back to life and create new exciting styles of rum.

Contemporary research on this organism and my realization that Arroyo may have been incorrect about it being an Oidium are lead by Thomas Petit and Eric Grondin working on the island of Reunion off the coast of Madagascar.

This brief info graphic style paper by Petit mentions participation in a European COST (cooperation in science & technology) bioflavour project. After scouting yeasts, Suaveolens, came up as their most significant flavor producer, specifically producing the valuable ester, ethyl tiglate (a known semio-chemical #pheramone).

To back track a bit, from an old text that summarizes abstracts, we can glean a little bit of the interest from 1923.

A study of Ester-Forming Yeasts.
Ulrich Weber, Biochem. Ztshr., Berlin 129:208, April 19, 1922.
Experiments are described that sought to determine the conditions under which the formation of fragrant esters takes place in some lower fungi. The question was dealt with by physiologic experimental methods. There were employed Willia saturnus Klöcker, Oïdium suaveolens Krzemecki and Siachsia suaveolens Linder. These organisms were raised in pure cultures in nutrient glycerin and mannite solutions under different conditions.

Results showed: In the observed yeasts and imperfecti fungi the ester odor typical for normal cases is not developed under all conditions. Cases occur in which, in spite of the most abundant development, no ester formation takes place, as in the case of growth in a carbon dioxide atmosphere. Esters are formed only when the simultaneous fermentation of carbohydrates assumes the role of sugar fermentation and liberates the energy requisite for the decomposition of albumin. Addition of alcohol enables a qualitative alteration of the ester odor to be attained. The employment of different nitrogenous nutrient media achieves an alteration of the odor only when other amino-acids are thereby presented simultaneously. Following addition of leucin a distinct odor of amylester is perceived. The ester odor of the species here investigated, which is always observable under normal conditions, is therefore capable of being influenced experimentally both qualitatively and quantitatively, as it is possible to alter both the character of the odor and also to prevent its occurrence in spite of the best development of the fungus.

The Yeast, A Taxonomic Study has some useful information on understanding what exactly the Saprochaete of Saprochaete Suaveolens entails.

Swedish Wikipedia provides a great bibliography.

And finally we come to a few spectacular modern research papers:

RTFM: Big & Small Bottle Bottlers, Counter Pressure Bottle Fillers

Welcome to the Bostonapothecary Bottle Bottler series of counter pressure bottle fillers. You have just purchased a very unique tool, unlike any bottler on the market, from a very tiny Boston workshop.

Purchase: Large Bottle Bottler ($190USD)
Purchase: Small Bottle Bottler ($115USD)

This series of full enclosure bottle fillers is ingeniously built around very specific design revisions of commercial water filters. The incredibly durable filter sumps form a high pressure seal all the around the bottle instead of just with the mouth so that a wider variety of bottles can be used and the negative space can hold chilled water to cool the bottles. The heads are carefully machined to integrate Cornelius quick release fittings and bleeder valves. No other bottle filler in its price class can transfer at pressures high enough to effectively bottle sparkling wines or carbonated cocktail creations.

•The Small Bottle Bottler handles bottles sizes from 100 mL bottles to popular 200mL bottles all the way to Champagne 375’s.
•The Large Bottle Bottler handles bottles from 22 oz. beer bombers to Champagne 750’s.

Both designs operate on the same principles. To operate:
1. Put in your bottle of choice and securely screw the top onto the sump with the down tube sticking down the center of the bottle (refer to pictures).
2. Connect the gas hose and release the side valve to flush the bottle of Oxygen. Close the side valve which also brings unit to the same pressure as the keg. Disconnect the gas line (you are probably only transferring at 20-30 PSI).
3. Connect the liquid line from the keg and slowly release the side valve to create a low pressure system drawing liquid into the bottle. Close the side valve at your desired fill level.
4. Disconnect the liquid line and let the bottle bond for 30 seconds so that it does not foam upon releasing pressure (at this time you could start working on another unit).
5. 30 seconds later… Release pressure using the side valve. Remove the bottle and promptly cap it.
6. Start a new bottle!

RTFM: Keg to Champagne Bottle Manifold, Bottler, Bottle Filler

Welcome to the Bostonapothecary Keg-to-Champagne counter pressure bottler. You have just purchased a very unique tool, unlike any bottler on the market, from a very tiny Boston workshop.



This device is convertible between acting like the original Champagne Bottle Manifold and performing as a counter pressure bottle filler. When acting as a plain bottle manifold, the long down tube will be removed and a shortened one inserted in its place to help create a seal with the top Cornelius fitting. A Guinness silicon check valve (from their keg couplers in case you need to source a replacement) will be inserted into the food safe silicon seal so that when agitated, liquid cannot enter the gas line. When converting to counter pressure transfer operation, the Guinness valve is removed and a down tube is inserted through the very top fitting straight down the body of the manifold. The Cornelius fitting will create a seal so that no liquid will enter the inner cavity of the manifold. The cavity stays open so that air can be directed upwards to vent through it out the side port reducing pressure so that liquid is slowly drawn from the keg filling the bottle. The silicon bottle seal contains a tiny slit which air can move through when the down tube is inserted. The slit is closed when the Guinness valve is inserted.

The manifold is carefully designed so that if you lose a component it can be quickly replaced, often from third parties that have expedited shipping.

An optional tool recommended for use during counter pressure bottling operation is a bleeder key with gauge (pictured above). If this tool is not present, an object can be used to depress the Cornelius fitting, venting the bottle. With practice, you can get quite good at it and may not want to use the bleeder. The advantage of the bleeder is that you get consistent bleeding among inexperienced operators and the gauge can be used to measure carbonation levels in a bottle for product development tasks. A bleeder with a gauge can also be used to measure the pressure in the keg to keep carbonation levels consistent.

Counter pressure bottling happens at pressures typically under 35 PSI. If too much pressure is used, the liquid will increase in dissolved gas during transfer while if too little is used the liquid will decrease in dissolved gas. As rules of thumb, without knowing your specific equilibrium pressure or the resistance of your jumper line, sparkling wines and highly carbonated cocktails can be transferred at 35 PSI while beers can be transferred at 20 PSI. Liquid transfer hoses can be as short as 12 inches to reduce resistance and minimize warming of the liquid during transfer.

To start a liquid transfer, the chilled bottle needs to be brought to the same PSI as the keg (your keg pressure may need to be brought down to your transfer pressure). A gas line is disconnected from the keg and connected to the top fitting of the transfer manifold (this single fitting shares both liquid and gas). At this time the bottle can also be vented of atmospheric oxygen. The down tube will flush air straight to the bottom of the bottle, up and out creating a very thorough flush.

When the bottle has the same pressure as the keg, the gas line can be moved back to the keg and the liquid jumper line can be connected from keg to bottle manifold. The liquid will be nearly indifferent on moving between vessels because the pressure is the same. When the pressure is reduced on the bottle by venting the side port, liquid will flow across the jumper line into the bottle. When the bottle is filled, the liquid line can either be disconnected to stop the flow or the gas bleeding can also be stopped.

The manifold seal on the bottle cannot be disconnected right away or detrimental foaming and loss of dissolved gas may occur. Bottles often need to bond for upwards of 45 seconds depending on how cold they are and how much dissolved gas they contain. Chilled kegs and chilled bottles help everything move faster. Bonding time can slowly be reduced by empirical testing to maximize productivity. Once the bottle is released, it must quickly be capped. The inactive time of counter pressure bottling is significant and the transfer manifold is designed modularly so that multiple units can be used to reduce inactive time.

Adding a down tube and a second gas port adds lots of functionality to the transfer manifold beyond classic counter pressure bottle filling or acting like the original bottle manifold. Tubing can be put over the down tube to reach the bottom of a bottle and a gas-in line put on the side port to turn a bottle into a mini keg for research tasks. Chilled uncarbonated liquid can also be put into a bottle, such as a magnum, and gas moved down the down tube and vented out the side port, very much like the mechanism used by a Soda-Stream, to carbonate liquid in a bottle without agitating like is done with original bottle manifold use. All of this versatility means the transfer manifold can be in use 24/7 in your institution.

Congratulations on your smart purchase and thank you for supporting our small workshop.