2020 Bostonapothecary Retrospective

I never think I get much done, but then I put together my end of year retrospective and wow were there a lot of posts! This has been a terrible year but at the same time a lot of incredible things happened. I’ve learned so much and brought a lot of Rafael Arroyo’s work to life with mentorship from my main collaborator Cory Widmayer. More birectifiers made it out in the wild. One went as far as Vietnam to an incredible talent while two made it into what is easily the most important new American distillery, and with a dedicated operator! A lot of bottling equipment made it out there and a new transfer bottle manifold was commissioned for Jeroboam sized champagne bottles! People are getting ready to celebrate the end of this pandemic nightmare. I also collected a massive trove of important Jamaica rum literature from the 1950’s I have yet to do anything with, so something to look forward to.

[Special edition Jeroboam transfer bottle manifold available upon request.]

2020 started with some political musings and I wrote What and Where is our Public Wealth? This post explores public capital as an added feature in the struggle of labor/capital. You may think you are only labor, but you are also a public capitalist and your single slice is so vast it may be more significant than your own labor. This becomes more evident in the face of the pandemic we are seeing. My labor has been taken away from me in the interest of the public good. It is briefly unsafe for restaurants to operate. I do not want the mercy of the senate, I want what is mine to support me in this crisis now. I know about Modern Monetary Theory, I know what is possible and yes I’d rather be at work, but I have to wait patiently. I don’t need a trillion dollar fighter jet to nowhere, I need domestically produced PPE and rent freezes.

In February I penned an Introduction to the Hansen Culture Box which was a laboratory tool for pure culture work featured in Studies on Rum. I cobbled together a smaller version, but plan to revisit it because my version was a little too small and I’ve since developed extra fabrication capacity. I had good luck with the operating principle, but I’ve since learned more about the power of bunsen burners and how some universities use them effectively out in the open.

In late February, blog friend Haresfur gifted me a sample to perform Birectifier Analysis of Bundaberg Australian Rum. He was curious about the unique character of the rum which I was able to isolate. Fraction 5 was quite interesting:

Fraction 5: Fascinating character. Estery aroma and something like rum oil. Flickers of menthiness. Not overwhelmingly concentrated. Similar character to what I experienced in a 1970’s sample. Could this be the TDN or TNN found by D.A. Allen?

In March, I wrote Automatic Titration Journaling because I had acquired a very high end Hanna Instruments automatic titrator and was working trough protocols for ferment and spirits analysis. Since then, I’ve done enough exploring that I could really give anyone a shortcut to practicing titration, be it automatic or manual. Experiencing automatic titration and the specific numbers and needs for accuracy instruct how to make manual titration faster and more effective for the distillery.

By April, I performed Birectifier Analysis of a Perfume, a “masterpiece of weird”. This was quite interesting and really illustrated how powerful modern fixative aromas are. The high boiling point aroma compounds lingered in the birectifier after multiple cleanings. This analysis showed how insightful the birectifier could be. There was definitely a lot of surprising lessons in there that could inform the distiller.

Later in April, I spent time with The Hemacytometer And A Few Notes On Distillery Microscopy. This has proven incredibly useful as I have started to grow fission yeasts and improve my starters. Cell counting is tedious to some people, but I found it relaxing and it helped build my confidence working with fission yeast. I also felt incredibly connected to history because I was viewing similar things to Ashby and Arroyo. I’m actually growing a yeast isolated in 1912 and was likely collected by Ashby or H.H. Cousins!

To pass the time as pandemic shutdowns began, I started looking at single botanicals again and started with Birectifier Analysis Of A Single Botanical (Caraway). This are always insightful and again demonstrates the power of the birectifier. I always say, its best value proposition may be to the gin distillery, but only if they are actually willing to do the work…

I continued days later with Birectifier Analysis Of A Single Botanical (Bay Leaf). Bay is special to me because I use so much in the kitchen and I love bay rum aftershave.

In the beginning of May, I looked at yet another with Birectifier Analysis Of A Single Botanical (Pimento Berry). I even took the fractions and constructed a special pimento dram featuring Fenaroli’s special effects technique of aroma abstraction. I have 2x the aroma, but only 1x the gustatory features of the berries. The post coincided with a very interesting rum industry disclosure about pimento berries… I don’t think many people caught it.

As pandemic and political hell dragged on, and America learned about its lack of strategic industrial capacity, I mused about a Civil Service / Jobs Guarantees / Select Nationalized Industries. I don’t say socialism, I simply say Public, Public, Public! Our private pursuit (and I’ve got them) are built on a public foundation. If you despair about employment, just remember that there is so much work to be done if we can organize it.

Mid May was a look at Birectifier Analysis Of A Single Botanical (Lavender). Lavender is very congruent with juniper.

Reflecting on a lot of rum correspondence, I decided to assemble the Top Ten Blog Moments In Rum and the list was wild. Hopefully people feel like we’ve added a lot of positive energy to rum in recent years. This is not exactly a consumer oriented blog and I feel uniquely that a lot of where we need to add both energy and education is with the producers themselves. This list was for the new generation of producers more than anyone else. Fission yeasts are our future!

Still in May, I look at Birectifier Analysis of LAB peptonized Muck, a topic near and dear to many people’s hearts. This was a simple but subtle exercise and again reinforces the practicality of the birectifier for answering questions relative to tools like GCMS.

The fifth botanical of the year was a very insightful disappointment, Birectifier Analysis Of A Single Botanical (Licorice Root). What was learned, which would be a big help to a gin distiller, is that the quality of my botanical sucked!

In June, I started Titrating And Interpreting The Formol Number For Rum. This classic titration is a simple extension of acid titration using an additional reagent. Formaldehyde is technically hazardous, but I learned enough about it to reduce the risks and make it no big deal. The formol number measures nitrogen in the ferment and this has helped me frame the numbers in my rum successes and failures. Winemakers understand this well and so too should distillers.

Bored in June, I recovered a lost Arak paper Kervegant had a citation for and translated a blockbuster: E. DE KRUYFF, ARAK MANUFACTURE IN BATAVIA -1909. This is easily one of the most important papers on the topic. It is fascinating to compare Arak to Jamaica rum and throw Arroyo in between. Its all about the fission yeast!

Later in June, I looked at Birectifier Analysis of Infected Dunder and probably made the biggest discovering of the year. I may have observed rum oil produced by bacteria as a counter method to Arroyo’s rum oil produced by fission yeast (themselves) under narrow pH conditions! Now there is two ways to skin the cat! And there is a fairly affordable way to analyze it all (the birectifier).

In July, I started exploring Birectifier Analysis of a High Acid Fission-Bacteria Dirty Ferment. The results were quite extraordinary and, believe it or not, can give some of the Velier stuff a run for its money. It went in smelling like cheetos and came out smelling like pineapple! If this could be produced at scale, this would be quite significant. To infect this dunder, I used a Jamaica technique that was trusted to me.

Next up was Birectifier Analysis of a High Acid Control Fermentation. I learned a lot about the correlation of pH to TA here. Lactic acid and acetic are both tiny little acids. You can have a huge TA, well beyond wine, while having only a modestly low pH. Jamaica rums become high acid, but not necessarily low pH. Organic acids may then create another dimension of inhibition that differs from that of pH imposed by strong mineral acids like sulfuric. This proved really enjoyable to drink but not exactly special because there was no rum oil. Something else to note is that a nice amount of vinegar went in, but very little free acetic acid came out. Much was converted to ethyl acetate or possibly even elongated by the fission yeast. Fission yeasts can consume acetate.

In late July, I got a request for Reports Of The Jamaica Sugar Experiment Station 1906, 1907, 1908. This distiller was in South Africa and was prohibited from accessing this document by google, despite it being public domain. Upon investigating, I found this was also true for many Caribbean readers so I decided to return this history and make these documents more accessible. It is sad to learn that many rum producing regions have not had the benefit of the literature for quite a while.

July’s Birectifier Analysis of High Acid Ferment #3 was a unique dirty ferment with a very low formal number. This also featured a lot of free butyric acid.

This kicked off a will it even ferment series and produced Birectifier Analysis Of A High Acid Ferment. Many other ferments were conducted that I did not profile as the limits of volatile acidity were pushed. I found many ferments that started vigorously but then became stuck with alcohol levels possibly in the 4.0’s that would not be considered viable. One problem I later resolved was losing track of the VA because of no adequate method to measure it. Some of my ferments had much higher VA than I though, challenging even a fission yeast. To mess with some of these dirty ferments, you need analysis!

August saw Birectifier Analysis Of A Unique Outcome High Acid Ferment. This ferment actually rose in pH! I had been exploring widely to observe the full spectrum of behavior.

A beautiful translation of Distillation of Molasses for the Manufacture of Tafia and Rum (1871) was contributed by blog reader Nathalie Dwane which helps fill in more of Kervegant’s bibliography. I feel incredibly lucky to attract such great friends of rum!

Strange circumstances had me finding and translating the lost text of Grignon — L’Eau-de-Vie de Cidre — 1890. There were no real secrets revealed, but a lot of beautiful historical context.

In late August, the RD80 Volatile Acidity Cash Still finally arrived and it was love at first sight. This classic winery tool will hopefully allow the keeping track of VA in ferments as it accumulates in dunder. I collected established protocols and worked out a rum centric method.

In September, I spent some time with Muck Processing. At the time, I could not say a lot about productively using muck but I think I’m starting to learn a bit as I’ve made observations. Muck can bring a lot of flavour, but one of the chief things I think it can do is inhibit the evil scourge, mycoderma vini. The mycoderma impresses some people because of its dramatic pellicle, but the aroma is all junk and it is a big drain on economy.

I felt so fortunate to be able to perform Birectifier Analysis of Clairin Sajous which is an absolutely stellar rum. The question was raised, is it a fission yeast rum? And is there a relationship to the legendary cœur de chauffe? If you see it, buy it.

Fraction 5: Oil droplets all over the surface. The aroma here is far more complex than I imagined almost feels like it has intersecting facets. There is almost a green and delicate gin like pininess. Then there is a rounder ester aroma. I have only ever surveyed one rum before that had the vesouté aroma and I’m not sure if it is responsible for the fresh top notes you get here. I remember that other rum did not have so much depth to its fraction 5 as this one. There is a subtle acridness on the palate, likely from concentrated esters. In general this fraction 5 is far less concentrated than that of the heavier Jamaica rums and there is no distinct rum oil.

In October and November I was slightly burned out despite carrying on work and I’m seeing a lot of drafts I never published which are mostly just notes I took. I’ve also spent a lot of my time directly communicating with collaborators on ferments which has been incredibly rewarding.

In December, an incredible friend of rum gifted the rum community a digital copy of Arroyo’s Studies On Rum – 1945. One of my own PDF’s had floated around and been shared with producers, but this is pristine and searchable and should be available all over the world. A goal of the blog and its collaborators is returning rum technology that has been inadvertently locked up in libraries (stored for safe keeping!) to the producers to lay a foundation for a lasting rum renaissance. This book is a big piece of the puzzle. No rums currently exist that look like the fine rums produced by Arroyo, but that is changing and we are bringing them to life. Cory Widmayer has been creating mind blowing Arroyo style ferments with fission yeasts and I’ve been trailing in his food steps duplicating them (as best I can). New collaborators are popping up around the world and we are creating really useful experimental frameworks and experience with the high pH pure culture ferments of Arroyo as well as the high acid ferments of Jamaica.

The last post of the year was among the most exciting and introduces a new collaborator from New Zealand. Birectifier Analysis of an Experimental Geotrichum Rum looks at an experimental rum using a seldom seen category of yeast explored by Arroyo in Studies on Rum. The potential here is off the charts and I cannot wait to see more.

Happy New Year!

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