I have always been a big fan of pimento dram though I have never made my own that was as enjoyable as Wray & Nephews Berry Hill or the Haus Alpenze version. They no doubt have some secrets to their elegance. Pimento berry actually holds other secrets, but we’re not going to get into that, you can hear it from someone else.
I don’t know the provenance of this pimento berry. The best, no doubt, come from Jamaica, but I don’t think that is where what you commonly find in the U.S. is from. I have found some over the years that were dominated by an acrid character and had less of the beautiful warmth found in the 6th fraction.
This is all going to go in a pimento dram that features Fenaroli’s special effects. This implies I am going to take this distillate and reinfuse it with the same botanical to create an olfaction/gustation differential. For example, 2x olfaction / 1x gustation. This can be most valuable for bitter botanicals but also useful for those that are piquant or astringent.
Something to consider from the results is that the 6th fraction was far more powerful and important than in some other botanicals. Instead of a blanket co-treatment with other botanicals (co-distillation/co-infusion), there may be value in treating it individually to optimize the most valuable character. For example, you may want to distill at a lower proof and/or make cuts different or infuse at a different proof such as with more ethanol.
For my protocol, I added 25 ml of whole pimento berries to 100 ml of absolute alcohol. By circumstance, it happened to infuse for 24 hours before being fractioned.
Fraction 1: Like many other botanicals, we see the louche of insoluble terpenes which starts to separate after just a few hours. Typical generic zestiness. Not overwhelming for this scaling.
Fraction 2: Subtle zestiness but otherwise fairly neutral. This is like a diminutive version of fraction 1. Nothing distinct that can define pimento berry.
Fraction 3: Fairly neutral but with an odd pleasant warming character. Still nothing that defines pimento berry.
Fraction 4: A louche is visible but no oil droplets. Rarely is there a louche in this fraction. There is a weird fresh character in here I wouldn’t exactly call zesty like the previous fractions. Nothing defining of pimento berry, but no doubt somehow participating.
Fraction 5: There is both a terpene louche and oil droplets. This has far less weight than the next fraction. There is however a lot of persistence and intensity. It almost feels less defining of pimento berry than the 6th fraction which is odd because the 5th fraction has always been the most defining in my experience. Acrid on the palate, but not overwhelmingly so.
Fraction 6: Beautiful warming character with a weight. Small amount of oil droplets on the surface. The aroma wonderfully envelops you, but when you take a sip, there is nothing to latch onto. You really want it to be a part of something else, but its just dangling out there.
These last two photos may be hard to understand, but as you become familiar with the birectifier you can observe unique phenomena. As ethanol runs out at the very end of the 4th fraction you can watch water vapor with a different surface tension slowly creep up the outer rectifier. Often this water is a mix of high boiling point aroma compounds. What was unique in the case of pimento berry was a band of water vapor that which appeared fairly clear being chased by another band that appeared to be full of essential oils. It is hard to extract meaning from this, but it is beautiful to watch. Observations like this may be valuable for evaluating the quality of new batches of botanicals as well as potential degredation after storage. There are other methods, but they are more involved and more expensive.