2022 Bostonapothecary Retrospective

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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! As usual, my productivity this year was very much eclipsed by both Cory Widmayer and Callum Upfold. Just like last year, all advancements on our fermentation work were on their end. I personally had a challenging year and underwent five hand surgeries from a tendon repair that had complications.

The year started with my Book Bounties for 2022 and we collected a few! The two 1980’s Seagram documents were found! One is the bible of multi-column continuous distillers and does not hold value to anyone else while the other is the second testament of Bourbon production and I may write a detailed book report to unpack its value. I located Kervegant’s missing work at UC Davis, but they would not share it and I also located the Commerce Report on rum, but it take be a motorcycle trip in the spring to recover it. The holding library would not share… I tried in vein to get the missing Rum Pilot Plant documents, but may need to plan a trip to Puerto Rico and do it in person.

January proceeded with Birectifier Analysis of Rivers Grenada Rum which was an exciting case study of a very important distillery.

I then followed up with Birectifier Analysis of Plantation’s 2004 Clarendon MMW. In this case study, I encountered the mythic pineapple aroma beyond my wildest dreams and its aroma flowed from the condenser of the birectifier like Niagra ice wine.

Mid month, I recovered another paper featured in Kervegant’s bibliography from 1938 titled: Damage Caused to Rum Puncheons by Boring Beetles. I am always trying to learn what I can about cooperage used in the rum trade.

Mid February, I acquired a new French paper from the INRA series to translate: Formation of Higher Alcohols in Rums by A. Parfait and C. Jouret, 1975. This team of microbiologists did incredible work that will be the cornerstone of future advancements in rum technology. The paper reinforces the point that high value aroma behaves the same as fusel oil during distillation so exotic distillation processes will not be enough to solve excessive fusel oil; it must be pursued at fermentation (Arroyo said the same).

A new blog friend sent in an extraordinary paper on rum production from the early 19th century: Distillation of Rum or Spirits, As Conducted in Jamaica, With Remarks on Cisterns or Vats, and Stills (1821).

In March, after many requests for documents related to American whiskey, I published The Sci-Hub Book Club which presents a list of papers, mainly published in the AOAC journal that can be downloaded. In one of these legendary papers from the late 1960’s, the mash bill and major production parameters of near every American whiskey is published.

Later in March, I conducted Birectifier Analysis of Two Cinnamon Samples. One thing I found was that one sample was clearly inferior to the other. I also experienced what it was like to assay a botanical with an essential oil denser than water and the limitations of the birectifier method for certain botanicals that don’t have a broad spectrum of volatile aroma. I’m currently working on a project related to this post and it is just hitting its next stage. Stay tuned!

A few days later, I shared a paper that I had collected and read long ago but needed to be made more accessible. Caribbean Rum—Its Manufacture And Quality 1987. This paper is worth revisiting because Barbados is seeing a renaissance with every distillery making exciting investments.

Another new paper came in from a great friend of the blog: Brown-Forman Boosts the Barrel (1949)—A Silver Tongued Tale of Bourbon Production. This paper is a must read for any lover of Bourbon. I link to the PDF then provide some comments and quotations from parts that excited me. I thought that this post and a few others I link to are a good template for writers; they show what is possible.

In early April, I posted Cory Widmayer’s translation of a paper Callum Upfold found. A contribution to the ecology of fission yeasts on grapes (1977). I am not the only bibliophile translator! The paper is quite interesting and shows that Schizosaccharomyces pombe is not just confined to the tropics and is basically in our backyard. What we see is that when fission yeasts were used to de-acidify wines by metabolizing malic acid, it wasn’t just a novel foreign yeast brought to wine but rather a hidden voice that was in many terroirs all along.

Mid April, I conducted Birectifier Analysis of Haitian Orange Peel which was always a botanical that captivated my imagination. It may interest anyone who works with botanicals.

In May, I published a paper found long ago titled: Microorganisms Causing Fermentation in Cane Syrups, Especially Barbados “Molasses” because it was relevant to conversations I was having. One of the takeaways is that rum oil may be produced by butyric acid bacteria under narrow conditions (that are not understood). This would add an additional channel to what we already know is possible by fission yeasts at higher pH and certain late stage LAB.

At the end of May, I recovered a lost paper referenced by Arroyo, but cited with the wrong year: Haupt, A. “About German Rum”, 1921. This paper covers German attempts to replicate Jamaica rum with their native beet molasses. One unique idea is the author adding dunder to an already fermenting wash.

In June, a lost paper on Jamaica rum production crossed my desk. Manufacture of Rum, Jamaica, 1889. I was looking for something else and this was not it, but it still is a very important look at common clean rum making. This was recovered with the help of the National Library of Jamaica.

Sticking with the hunt, I found what I was searching for which was referenced by Percival Greg, but with an incorrect title, publication, and year (really, who gets all three wrong?): Rum Manufacture by a Jamaica Distiller, 1882. This was the lost account of making the Vale Royal Wedderburn and it actually wasn’t too lost because it was just coincidentally referenced by Frederick H. Smith in his section on “Jamaica Rum” in the recently published Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails, page 606. This is an extraordinary must read!

By late June, I was really focusing on making certain 19th century papers on rum production more accessible and The Distillation of Rum by R. H. Burton (1875) was a blockbuster epic. I even made a truncated edition (to trim some bloat) because it attracted so much attention. Among countless unique details of both production and culture, one thing we see is the introduction of a distiller named J.C. Thompson who may be the Jamaican equivalent of Uncle Nearest and possibly the first black distiller to be recognized with such esteem. What we learn from Burton about Thompson begs more research.

It was July by the time I rediscovered The Jamaica Planter’s Guide By Thomas Roughley (1823) Chapter VII and we get a very early look at production. Its a breezy read and I edited it so you can catch the good bits as you skim along.

I was on a roll and the same day I churned out Hints To The Young Jamaica Sugar Planter By Robert Hibbert (1825). This is another minor breezy read and I put the good parts in bold. These minor works will add consensus and time stamps to other works.

If you thought you knew Leonard Wray, be prepared for something a little different with his The Sugar Planter’s Companion. Chapter IV, 1844. It described some eccentric practices and basically promotes ideas that may be more aroma-centric. Only a few people knew about this text, but it deserved to made more accessible.

What many of the posts added up to was a round up titled All The First Person Accounts of Jamaica Rum Production Made Accessible. I bring together everything I’ve collected and organize it chronologically with bulleted notes to summarize major ideas. Among all this however, we are still missing two major lost texts and maybe someone else can try their hand recovering them:

1791, John Baillie. The Jamaica Distillers Directory: A Treatise on Fermentation, Distillation and Rectification . . . .

1855, A. Coulon. Le fabricant de rhum à la Martinique. Paris

Many of the next posts were edited into the first person accounts chronology.

Mid August, I finally prepared Directions for the Directions for the Manufacture of Rum, by the late Dr. Wilton Turner and we are introduced to a pivot in the history of rum production where an obsession with lime (since Bryan Higgins) gives way to a new obsession with acidity.

You have all been long aware that temper-lime was the life of our sugar manufacture, and an acid its destruction, and you have long believed the same to be true for the manufacture of rum. The very reverse, however, is the case in the tropical distillery; lime and alkalies are our enemies, acids our friends and assistants.

Guyana, for the most part, stuck with sulfuric acid while Jamaica adhered to organic acids. This paper was in an impossibly rare book that was only held in a few libraries internationally that did not want to cooperate. After writing a slew of letters, I encountered a private seller across the pond sympathetic to the rum cause and it was sold to me for a song so it could be shared.

In perhaps the oldest work ever shared here, I examined Advice on Rum From Clement Caines, Saint Christopher, 1801. This was published just after the contribution of Bryan Higgins (whose work I am still editing). Caines advice is more fun to read than you’d think.

In September, a rare Seagram manuscript, likely from the late 1930’s crossed my desk and I started working through it chapter by chapter. First up was the sections on gin: Distillery Practice—Gin. We are introduced to the flash chamber vacuum still which operates on a different principle than rotovaps and deserves a revival. In the end, I withhold some data on botanical formulas which I may save for personal use in the future.

Distillery Practice—Blending came next and there were no major surprises, but its still worth a look. I did not realize that many famous Canadian blends had either sherry or single malt in them to bump the aroma.

Regulations may seem mundane, but the chapter I churned out in October, Distillery Practice—Government Regulations, was particularly cool. Something we learn is that distillers may have really put those live-in gaugers to work and gotten the better end of the deal.

I loved the optimistic industrial philosophy of Distillery Practice—Operational And Laboratory Control. It is an important read for anyone starting out in the industry.

Distillery Practice—Grain Purchasing was quite the chapter and we learned why you could not exactly use local grain due to how the freight system worked. We also see Bourbon producers making a dual product, the whiskey and the processed spent grains. The value of the spent grains dictate other upstream decisions and we learn a few of them.

Mid October, I spent quite a bit of time with the Distillery Practice—Mashing chapter. I extensively cross referenced things with other texts and we learn quite a bit about rye that seemed to disappear in later texts. This was pre exogenous enzymes so they had to step mash in a way to maximize all the enzyme activity that could reduce viscosity and foaming while also achieving conversion. There is a lot going on this chapter and further discussions have made it seem like many ideas/options are not widely understood by the current American whiskey scene. Basically, the contemporary distiller loves exogenous enzymes so much they use it as coffee creamer…

In November, the summation of way too much reading and conversations with collaborators was Rational Bourbon Production —> Heavy Rum. Parallels between old sour mash ideas are compared to heritage rum practices and a proposal is made to create a more structured alternative to spontaneous fermentation that looks more like the yeast mashing of the whiskey distiller. Besides pure culture yeast and bacteria, much of the ideas rely on drawing parallels between whiskey’s small grains and non-molasses cane products. Small grains are front loaded to the yeast mash to maximize both growth and aroma development.

All year long I worked on quite a lot of projects in the background and many hopefully will be debuted next year! The blog has somewhat become a collection of papers, because many times when I would have written a post, I was holding private correspondence with collaborators.

Happy New Year!

1 thought on “2022 Bostonapothecary Retrospective

  1. Simon Paul Desjardins January 10, 2023 — 6:14 pm

    Happy New Year Stephen, I am looking forward to your 2023 projects/posts!

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