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I never think I get much done, but then I put together my end of year retrospective and wow was there a lot of posts! My productivity this year was very much eclipsed by both Cory Widmayer and Callum Upfold. All advancements on our fermentation work were on their end. They both isolated a hefty library of fission yeasts as well as developed a major advancement to accomplishing consistent high pH ferments that someday we hope to share with you.
The year apparently started in February with The Long Pond Chronicles, Part 1: A Version of the Story of Long Pond. This series was very cool but took a lot of time to put together because there was so much content to sort. When I started, I knew virtually nothing of Long Pond or how to contextualize it relative to Hampden or the other Jamaican distilleries. Do you want to know all the marks produced mid century? Dive in!
I continued with The Long Pond Chronicles, Part 2: The Whispering Gallery which presents a seldom seen glimpse of mid century rum sales culture.
The follow up was The Long Pond Chronicles, Part 3: Inventory Day At Myers and we see a vast supply of rums stretching back into the 19th century.
The next installment, The Long Pond Chronicles, Part 4: Missing Puzzle Pieces, contained fun errata for the insatiable rum enthusiast.
I wrapped up the series in late March capping things with a reflection piece looking back at the pivotal rum text by Hugh Barty-King: The Long Pond Chronicles, Part 5: Rum Yesterday and Today.
I’m not sure anyone liked the series because views were very low… Tough crowd out there!
I see an unpublished post draft analyzing three fission yeasts, but I never clicked publish. Onward! I was also acting as an interim bar manager at this time in the pandemic and quite out of my mind busy at work. One of my big hit drinks was the Twinned Negroni:
.5 oz. Sipsmith gin
.5 oz. Ransom Old Tom gin
.5 oz. Sweet vermouth
.5 oz. Dry vermouth
.5 oz. Campari
.5 oz. Gran Classico
I had all of Sansom street drinking these and in truth the ingredients rotated from a very large inherited inventory.
In May, I looked at the Report On Excise Restrictions By Mr. J. Steele, 1903. I was not aware of this citation and someone very brilliant brought it to my attention. Steele’s survey is absolutely wild and you see quite a few other islands that had Jamaican style ferments but eventually ceased rum production because of issues with viability. The extraordinary local biome must have washed over these dirty productions and protected them from the encroachment of the bland biome of civilization. No doubt they made fantastic rum but with terrible economy. Take a look at St. Kitts-Nevis…
Published in late May and among my favorite birectifier case studies ever was Birectifier Analysis of Rabbit Hole’s Boxergrail Rye. I have been really excited by this distillery and chose them as the only placement I made as bar manager during the pandemic. I snuck the rye into the Old Fashioned I put on the menu blended with Ancient Age to stay on budget. You could have 1/3 of the place drinking these. These next generation ryes are great achievements. I apparently sold enough that the distillery owner dropped by to check out the place enroute to NYC.
Skipping a bunch of unpublished drafts that examine case studies of experimental rums, it is onward to august and I put out Bulk Spirits Futurism. This was my first look at the single use glass issue that was born out of immediately tossing a vast mountain of glass as bar manager as well as the constant flash flooding that was plaguing Philadelphia. My basement flooded setting back my workshop projects by many months. Consumption disgust was setting in… For the coming year, I want every spirits professional to be introduced to the single use glass problem and understand all the easy solutions. The spirits industry has it a lot easier than the wine industry. Producers like Grey Goose need to change their ways because their bottle pointlessly weighs 50% more than Titos who is mopping the floor with everybody on sales. If Titos can win with economy glass, so can others.
Early in the year (or maybe even last fall), I developed an espresso martini recipe for the bar, but it finally went in print and became a phenom. What is cool about this recipe is that it does not use fresh espresso which is the kiss of death. Nor does it use cold brew concentrate like the Australians. Instead, it uses freeze dried astronaut espresso reconstituted with fine amontillado sherry to replace the espresso volume and the froth when you shake it is so good. This tone poem explores an alliteration of coffee expressions with espresso vodka and St. Georges coffee liqueur.
1.5 oz. Van Gogh espresso vodka
1.0 oz. St. George Nola coffee liqueur
.5 oz. Amontillado sherry
half a tube of freeze dried espresso
This became quite the phenom with the room swelling with them. The bar staff never cared because we fully batched the drink. It would not be crazy to estimate we sold over $50,000 of espresso martinis this year, were considered the best in the city, and never used an espresso deck or pod machine. If you need these kinds of innovations for a tasting room, feel free to contact me.
In September, I performed this wacky case study which turned out to be an educational failure: Birectifier Analysis of Capers as a Possible Novel Botanical. I was able to very affordably rule out the value of capers. I took the rest of my sample and make picatta sauce!
In October, I introduced the world to a new fission yeast collected by Cory Widmayer. Birectifier Analysis of a Philippines Fission Yeast was a great joy to conduct.
The quick follow up was Birectifier Analysis of a Mellacei Fission Yeast and Cory’s high pH ferments were being demonstrated on a new generation of yeasts!
Cory won a bet that he could tame the character of Brettanomyces and I took at a look at the results in Birectifier Analysis of a Brettanomyces Rum. Brett might turn out to be another below average fusel oil producer and hold value in that regard as well as being a very efficient ethanol producer. Understanding a yeast’s particular metabolism is key to avoiding off aroma. Many yeasts deserve to be reconsidered.
I take another look at the single use glass problem in Bulk Spirits Futurism: Round 2, Tackling The Glass Problem. This issue gained in importance after losing my beloved motorcycle to climate change. It was in for new tires at the local BMW dealership but was destroyed with 200 other bikes in historic flooding of the adjacent river. Following this post, I was given a private introduction to Eco-spirits and am very excited for the future! Switching to sustainable options will be very easy for the spirits industry. However, any delay is predatory delay and should not be tolerated. As a buyer, it is not hard to drop a tone deaf producer. The big rule of thumb is that the carbon footprint of the bottle is higher than the distillate inside. It is malpractice at this point for an article to tout the carbon neutrality of a distillery without mentioning the single use glass problem. The main audience for my post is journalists trying to champion the issue and needing a primer.
An exciting case study was Birectifier Analysis of a Butyric Acid Bacteria Infected High pH Rum. I give some background from the literature on ferments that feature butyric acid bacteria and posit the idea that some train wreck ferments may have just been used to juice up the retorts and the acid gradually drawn down in subsequent distilling runs. However, there is nothing specific in the literature to support this idea besides the general complaints that grand arôme rums cannot be produced consistently or consecutively.
Out of the blue, I appeared on Distiller’s Talk #76 with Alan Bishop & Christi Atkinson. Hilarity and heavy duty rum talk ensued.
November’s Birectifier Analysis of an Extreme Duration Rested Ferment looked at a ferment that sat around since my flooding incident and was educational but contained disappointment. It helped rule out some early theories about how rum oil gets into some ferments.
One of my favorite projects of the entire year was Birectifier Analysis of a Fission Yeast Single Malt Whiskey. Callum’s hard work helped bring to life an idea that had been floating around since my last trip to Jamaica to present at Lallemand’s wonderful Alcohol School. We even learned a lot more context on the origins of a fission yeast single malt. Glenn Elgin! Interest was far bigger than I thought and this stuff deserves to be commercialized. People rung in from around the world with hopes, dreams, and snippets of related information. We need to see cooler spirits before the world ends!
I performed my annual checkup on some missing Kervegant references and came across Observations on the manufacture of sugar and rum in Jamaica. London 1843. This strengthened my opinions on proto-rum before the birth of true rum in the mid 19th century. Rum was just starting to gain intentionality. In this paper we see a rare early reference to Wedderburn that is worth knowing about.
Another important Kervegant reference finally surfaced: Some analyses of genuine Jamaica rums., 1907. It has great candid notes that draw fun speculations. The authors are amazed by the low fusel oil of genuine Jamaica rum. That is the tell of a fission yeast!
We bypass some more drafts after I was encouraged to drop everything and translate the famed Le Cognac by R. Lafon, J. Lafon and P. Couillaud (1958). I had seen it referenced, but did not understand the importance until one of my favorite distillation thinkers brought it to my attention.
In mid December, Cognac vs. Arroyo vs. Birectifier and Congeners that Bounce was my first synthesis of everything learned from Le Cognac. I invent a metaphor to explain some of the French pot still practices.
Finally, I was on another podcast! Rum Cast: Deepest Rum Rabbit Hole (w/ Stephen Shellenberger). Will Hoekenga and John Gulla asked some tough questions and wondered why this blog mentions a lot of ideas that everyone else in the rum community seems afraid to touch. I try to explain myself but also focus on all the beauty I see in rum as well as my optimism for the future.
Happy New Year!