2014 Retrospective

Years ago I did a Bostonapothecary retrospective that a lot of people enjoyed because the blog is so large and poorly organized. This year I thought I’d attempt something similar. As I started to look back I didn’t feel that productive, especially as I watched my peers release new books, but then I looked through the posts and wow did I accomplish a lot.

The year started with the release of the Distiller’s Workbook which is the summation of massive amounts of reading and the start of a new school of cocktail-centric distillation that is gaining traction in England particularly with the amazing bar, Peg + Patriot. The book captured the interest of one publisher but was ultimately rejected for containing too much science. I’m currently re-working an introduction to the exercises.

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 1 of 15 Tabasco Aromatized Gin
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 2 of 15 De-constructing and Re-constructing Chartreuse
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 3 of 15 Mass Market Maraschino Mayhem
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 4 of 15 Joseph König’s 19th Century Curaçao
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 5 of 15 Hershey’s Chocolate Bourbon
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 6 of 15 Truly Stimulating Absinthe
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 7 of 15 Non-potable Pure Pot Still Purell; Wormwood Aromatized Hand Sanitizer
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 8 of 15 Chipotle Tequila
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 9 of 15 Double grain bill white dog
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 10 of 15 Rooibos & Rye a.k.a. African Rye Whiskey
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 11 of 15 Pisco Faux Mosto Verde #Fail
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 12 of 15 Marmite Aromatized Rye
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 13 of 15 Malta Goya Aromatized Gin (faux Genever)
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 14 of 15 Fernet Aromatized Maraschino Cherries
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 15 of 15 Hopped Gin

Then I covered Nature v.s Nurture vs. Cocktail: Holistic vs. Salient Creative Linkage and possibly came up with a solution to a conundrum posed by an article in the journal Nature. After spending time with a theory of acquired tastes this might be the coolest concept I’ve ever come up with.

Then I read a few massive contemporary texts on distillation and found a clear explanation of a phenonemon erroneously explained by Germain-Robin in his latest text on brandy making. This was one of the last major what-ifs of distillation I was trying to hunt down.

Through the same texts I covered the demisting concept which is very important to new distillers particularly those distilling multiple different products on the same still. The inquiries here are helping me to tighten up my comparative explanations of various cut making techniques.

Early in the year I was contacted by the executor of the estate of the most famous American vermouth company and he sent me some company documents that I shared up. Despite so many seminars and articles, many spirits professionals are still telling a pretty shoddy history of vermouth.

Later on I read countless historical interviews from figures in the California wine & distilling industry and even found an important lost paper in an appendix. These accounts are of staggering value and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what they can tell us.

The Tribuno Papers inspired me to take another look at the most current vermouth literature and I found a ton of stuff everyone else in the popular culinary scene had been missing. The torch was clearly passed from the University of California to researchers in India of all places.

My newest counter pressure bottler debuted in June and it has been a quantum leap in what is possible for applying carbonation to bar programs (and to bottling beer!). I had to develop some new molding & casting techniques to fabricate it that have been turning heads in the maker community.

For those interested in history I stumbled upon the collected writings of the agricultural experiment station in Jamaica in the early 20th century and found the best explanations of the Jamaican rum making process that contradict some of the finer points of popular explanations. I thought these ideas might really excite certain people but they haven’t really trickled down yet. The same did happen when I found chemical analysis from the IRS of pre-Castro Cuban rums with brand names that contradicted some explanations floating around.

My library skills keep getting more formidable and I finally found the lost IRS internal document detailing the aging of whiskey in plywood barrels. It was in the Forest Products Research Laboratory library! I thought this would turn some heads with whiskey fanaticism at its peak and a shortage of oak barrels but no one seemed to notice.

In the late summer I started exploring the standardization of gin botanicals for a product I’m trying to help a local distillery develop. I thought I’d promote my typical open culture of sharing ideas (a high tide lifts all boats!) and wrote some posts to hopefully save others both time and money. Right now I’m at the stage of tracking down rare pieces of glassware some times called a Clevenger Apparatus which differ from other steam distillation rigs.

Three newly found papers on whiskey confirm aspects of my fake aging technique that was developed way back when and gives hints on how to optimize it.

The year has pretty much ended with me sharing more rare material from texts on distillation. The shared orange liqueur recipe features complicated fraction recycling that needs more commentary and possibly an info graphic. I have just acquired a book scanner and am learning to use it and am using library connections to acquire a few remaining rare texts that I plan to digitize and share. Some of this material is out of copyright and some could be considered abandoned copyright. Hopefully the effort will launch some ships and if you have any ideas for texts please submit them in an email.

One very big thing I’ve been withholding this year is my latest bottling device which can handle all forms of small bottles from 100 mL to 375 mL and at very high pressure levels. The design works staggeringly well but I haven’t figured out how to monetize it yet. It will become the counter pressure bottler design for the next thirty years.

I’m also withholding a really fantastic hydrometry technique that I’ve been teaching to select small distilleries as well as some very choice research papers that I’m trying to do some special stuff with.

For next year in the earliest spring I’m planning a cross country motorcycle trip to visit as many distilleries and library special collections as I can from Boston to UC Davis via the southern route. If you’re a distillery and want to hang out for an afternoon talking shop or a bar and can handle a night of guest bartending, drop me an email! Have shaker will travel!

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