Birectifier Analysis Of A Single Botanical (Caraway)

This is definitely not the first botanical studied with the birectifier, but it may have proved the most fascinating. Previously I’ve done a diverse array such as coriander and quinine among others. For aromatized spirits I’ve examined role model gins, green chartreause, and angostura bitters, and many more. Very recently I’ve even examined a fancy perfume.

Caraway is fascinating because we know it is a headliner botanical, defining both aquavit and kummel. Its aroma has extreme knobility and is incredibly prized by many cultures. Caraway has strong affinities and other aromas just seem to naturally meld with it. As noted by Mark Bittman, Caraway is from a parsley related plant and is described as having an anise-cumin flavor. Cumin is also in the parsley family. Many chefs put caraway in a space between coriander and cumin and believe it can be a replacement for both. The inbetween-ness become quite apparent when examining the fractions. There are extremely fresh top notes such as a parsley or cilantro but then also fractions that exhibit warmth and have a weight. When smelling the product as it exited the birectifier, at various points, I thought I smelt anise and mint, but maybe they were just olfactory hallucinations as caraway reached into my memory. At many points, what I smelt I would definitely categorize as olfactory-sour and aromas like that, when pleasant, I prize.

A decision I made was to use the same 25 gram/100 mL of absolute alcohol scaling I used with coriander. This may bare on interpreting the results because caraway at its best has a very high essential oil yield relative to other botanicals. This yield however does degrade and decline quickly which means for product consistency a distiller cannot simply rely on grams of botanicals for a recipe but must scale a botanical charge for essential oil yield, else aroma could be off by markedly. There are more advanced ways to scale a botanical charge, but birectifier distillation plus simple quantitative tasting techniques are pragmatic and cheap.

This botanical louched at many points. Fractions 1,2, and 3 louched upon dilution, similar to the first fraction of citrus peels and coriander. A reason this louche persisted beyond only the first fraction may be because my sample quality was so excellent and my scaling so large relative to the essential oil yield. The only other fraction to louche was the fifth which I expected. It developed an incredible milky emulsion and there were big globs of oil floating at the top. Something to note about louching is that the first fractions tend to settle downward while the louche in the fifth fraction tends to settle upwards. They are likely very different chemically.

Something else to note is that the 6th and 7th fractions were covered with oil droplets. This implies that the oil in fraction 5 may be a separate phenomena than the louche. These observations may become important as sourcing changing and the ratios of these observations change. This was a quick and easy test that powerful conclusions can be drawn from.

Fraction 1:The first fraction has a generic zestiness and you would think it came from a citrus peel. The intensity is not overwhelming and there is nothing to define caraway

Fraction 2: The louche already appears to be separating after an hour of being diluted. This fraction almost feels pithier. Faintly I feel like I smell the ghost of a citrus peel.

Fraction 3: Similar qualities from fraction 2 but less concentrated.

Fraction 4: Perfectly clear and beginning to have aromas that define caraway. All the zestiness is gone. It would not be unrealistic to compare this to cumin.

Fraction 5: The aroma intensity here feels many multiples beyond the previous fractions. A menthe like aroma appears. Very acrid on the palate. This almost feels less defining of caraway than the previous fraction. It feels like the juxtaposition of two aromas.

Fraction 6: The camphorous menthe character continues but this far less concentrated than the previous fraction.

Fraction 7: This feels like a less concentrated version of the previous fraction but possibly like there is also extra character, a generic heavier. I do not typically collect a 7th fraction for botanicals, but caraway had so much aroma to give that it seemed worth it. However, next time I would stop at six because I do not feel there was any critical information here.

This experience has me itching to do more with caraway, either from designing a product or drinking it in cocktails.

This is a fascinating paper for anyone working with caraway.

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