2018 Bostonapothecary Retrospective

The year of the analysis lab has ended with me moving to Philadelphia and offering my services to the local distilling community. Did I get a lot done this year? I never can tell. This year the blog had me traveling to Kingston, Jamaica and back, talking the technical history of rum. I made a ton of friends and had correspondences going around the world.

I left a lot for 2019. There will be more Kervegant translations. I finally cracked the rum oil code and now I have to write it up. We will be exploring birectifier assisted chromatography as an isolation and olfactometry companion for typical GC-MS. Hopefully we will finish up the birectifier automation kit.

On New Years day I began by putting out the gems of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, where I found higher resolution scans of papers I’ve shared for years.

Ideas were building to write the Grand Arôme Rum Tease which I would revise immensely now that so many specifics have emerged. The post slowly launched ships with a lot more to come.

A few 1920’s German translations crossed my desk from Dr. Kurt Brauer. One of German Rum and another on German Arrack. Brauer taught us about Traube’s rule and how we can examine the surface tension of rum to look at its long chain carbon molecule content.

In February, I translated an important paper from Dr. Luckow which also introduced the birectifier.

A late 1960’s German document on Batavia Arrack cross the desk and then another on analysis that was not too significant.

In March, Stephan Berg helped resurrect one of the most important historic rum documents, published in Deutsche Destillateurs Zeitung. It kind of melts your brain because there is so much going on.

The great sugar technologist, Prinsen Geerligs, told us of Arrack in 1905. It is a uniquely cool paper.

As you know, there is a big difference in quality between the brands of arraks produced in Java. This expression finds an extraordinary difference in the price paid for those examples. Often one pays three times as much for Batavia-arak as for coastal arraks, so that it appears that the former undoubtedly possesses properties that are very well-liked for consumption above the other examples.

I eventually explored Wüstenfeld’s Exhaustive Test. This can be used to measure the persistence of a whole spirit which is very much tied to its value, or in the context of birectifier fractions, the test can be crudely used in place of titrations to make comparisons. It is basically a $100 method of getting answers when you cannot perform other tests that often cost $1000’s.

Late Winter sucked so I started translating Vorderman’s Analecta. An Introduction to the Probiotic World of Batavia (1893). It gives us incredible context for the vast fermenting world that was Batavia which makes the arcane arrack processes seem less strange.

I was very proud of the title of this one: Ye devils… Roast me in sulphur! The last two German tests. I re-enacted Arroyo’s curious sulfuric acid test with drain cleaner channeling my inner MacGuyver. The test leaves a lot to be desired, but its quite cheap and easy. The second test is the tasting glass evaporation test, which is so subtle but quite insightful.

Le Rhum Grand Arôme (1936) was my introduction to Desiree Kervegant, and of course more was to come.

I spent even more time with the evaporation test.

April, saw the publishing of Organoleptic to Actionable with the Birectifier which was pretty major.

A few days later I finally made the birectifier available: For Sale: Birectifier Beverage Distillate Analysis Kit ($1800USD). There weren’t really any early adopters. Very few people had ever read Arroyo’s Studies on Rum, and even when I did, the birectifier was not the most salient thing.


A lost Arroyo document, The Birectifier in Rum Manufacture (1945), really started to explain things. I only found it after buying a special copy of Studies on Rum from a rare book seller in Canada and finding an ancient photostat tucked into the pages. The BPL helped find the citations.

The book was owned by a Seagram employee and I also scored a copy of Kervegant’s Rhums et eaux-de-vie de canne which is much rarer than I thought.

I was initially quite shy about publishing my first: Deconstructing a Well Known Rum With the Birectifier. The rum was kind of lame which proved even more so as I accumulated other case studies.

To help distillers, I wrote more on interpreting birectifier samples: Yeast Exploration, Fermentation Optimization, and Still Tuning With the Birectifier.

Lots of playing and I think I developed a useful new test around the fixation concept. Hopefully I can do more with it.

In early May, I stuck rum oil! I also fractioned a historic New England rum.

Among the most exciting case studies I did was Fractioning Pear Eau-de-vie With The Birectifier. It was a masterpiece by St. George.

I had some stumbling and false starts with All About Pycnometers And Accurate Practical ABV. The solution may lie with a new piece of glassware I’m having commissioned, but we’re a little bit behind schedule.

Deconstructing Old Overholt Bonded Rye Whiskey was quite exciting. The birectifier lends itself quite well to whiskey.

I tried my hand at Imagining A Future For The Industry. The bottom line is we need a lot more thinkers and public intellectuals if fine distilling is going to go anywhere like fine wine. Agrotourism is also everything.

Among my favorite birectifier ideas was Sensory Sketches For Apprentices. You must dip your nose in there and grapple with beauty.

In June, I looked at the first gin with the birectifier and the future was bright. Gin distillers have more to gain than anyone else because the value proposition is so high. No other tool can give such insights.

I finally translated from Spanish what I think is one of the most important documents in all of rum, Arroyo’s Circular 106. An absolutely beautiful requisite read for any distiller and I think I did a good job with the translation.

Bacardi 10 was full of surprises. I asked very critical questions of it, but now that I’ve surveyed so much more I must upgrade its standing in my mind.

In July, I spent more time with Alcoholimetry, but I still need to do more. Here I present ideas about sample size and accuracy, plus introduce the Lang-Levy pipette I learned from NIST. I’ve commissioned a jumbo distiller’s version which may replace the classic pycnometer.

A Fortaleza case study was a revelation. It would be great to seem them use the birectifier.

Another of my favorite spirits: Deconstructing Yellow Plum Brandy With The Birectifier. Role models are everything and we can learn so much from them.

I mulliganed with Coganc, but still enjoyed tasting through my errors. Cognac oil…!

In July, I made available the rarest book in brewing with the hopes of launching delicious ships: Odd Nordland: Brewing and Beer Traditions in Norway(1969). It is quite interesting to examine their colder mashing techniques.

I tried to look at raw grains with the birectifier as well as a brewer’s beer. There is so much to learn here and we desperately need more comparative looks.

Examining Mezcal was another beautiful revelation and it would be great to examine others. Small scale Mezcal producers have a lot to gain from the birectifier. Current quality is no doubt a mixed bag.

Wray & Nephews Overproof Rum turned out to be another great role model.

In Advanced Fractioning and Volatility Basics I described the importance of constant throughput and explained how the birectifier sorts congeners so we can get so much more from organoleptic analysis.

There was even ASCII illustrations:


The groups at the top are line up and sorted by the birectifier while at the bottom they bleed across each other. The bottom is great for production while the top is great for analysis. Toying with the birectifier and experiencing the output will tech you a ton about how stills work in general.

I started translating the first 50 pages of Kervegant’s Rhums et eaux-de-vie de canne in August. It proves to be quite extraordinary.

Now that some users are emerging, I wrote about developing a birectifier heating routine. My aim is to get people working productively as quickly as possible.

It made sense to look at a historic gin and then a 1970’s Cointreau. I think we can use the birectifier to reverse engineer triple-sec’s to successfully produce small production versions.

I added my ten cents on the Thoughts on the Terroir of Distilled Spirits after a great article by Clay Risen in the NYT.

I found a dynamite lost writing by S.F. Ashby on Yeasts in Jamaica Rum Distilleries. He even had incredible photos of Pombe yeasts in 1909!

I now know the organizational secret of Chartreuse, but I’m not telling. I also had a blast looking at Angostura bitters. They really spill their guts to the birectifier.

Flor de Caña 18 was depressing while Appleton 12 renews my faith in rum.

We can even look at Vermouth with the birectifier, and I have quite a few ideas after doing it.

Tufo finally struck when looking at Demerara rum. I drank and thoroughly enjoyed it anyway.

No one seemed to get The Tart, The Sugared, And The Flabby, but I think I’m correct.

In October, I presented at Lallemand’s Alochol School in Kingston, Jamaica on the Grand Arôme rums. There was quite a lot of interest in this from the Reddit crowd for some reason.

I also found Arroyo’s first report where he debuts the birectifier and introduces some ideas like Suaveolens we’re bound to hear more about. A colleague may have just isolated the culture in a very clever way.

Rum Fire was FIRE! This was easily one of my most rewarding case studies. Vivian Wisdom is quite brilliant.

I wrote a little more about the rum industry and the Alcohol School. Before you even make rum you have to have a plan to dispose of the effluent. After that you much finish your season on time. Only after that can you slip in some full bodied nerd rums. Rum also is going through reconciliation with its forgotten past.

More lost S.F. Ashby tell us of being overrun by budding yeasts in Pombe country (1913).

In November, I scratched an itch and used the birectifier to examine vinegar.

The BPL helped recover a lost test and I translated Laguarigue de Survilliers’ Manuel de Sucrerie de Cannes (1932). We learned a bit more about Grand Arôme rums:

e) Rum of high taste. – The rum of high taste or rum grand arôme is prepared by some factories. It has a special strong aromatic flavor and is a premium on the market because it supports better than ordinary rums cutting with neutral alcohol or other rums that are a little flat. As it is, it is a mediocre product of direct consumption.

The manufacturing process is secret, but from what we have said about the formation of impurities in rum, it is suggested that this rum is produced by a slow and acidic fermentation of highly concentrated musts. Moreover, there is a knack for the interested manufacturers to have just as little knowledge as possible.

Analyzing a single gin botanicals with the birectifier was quite illuminating and I think will be a strong method for gin distillers. I’m itching to do more of them.

A geographer gave us a great review of Kervengant as I continued to translate more with pages 51-80 and 81-100.


2 thoughts on “2018 Bostonapothecary Retrospective

  1. Thank you for carrying out your work publicly, and with such detail. It is rare to hold an appreciation (let alone aptitude for implementation and improvement) of the value of primary research in the “craft” alcohol beverage space.
    My view – batch spirit production is meaningful when it broadly advances replicable quality for the industry as a whole. Keep shining the light.

  2. Thanks Bobby. I’ve got some very cool stuff coming next year. Stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Boston Apothecary

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close