The greatest value proposition for the birectifier is likely gin development, though that probably never crossed Arroyo’s mind. I realized it as soon as I analyzed a role model gin. Slow, methodical, birectifier distillation can tell what aroma is where and give ideas of how much. Role models gins can even teach us how a masterful product is cut, which is probably much more important than many people believe.
A slightly pessimistic Imbibe article on the state of gin by Chris Losh makes it seem like new gin distillers need to do much more homework.
“There’s no shortage now of products that don’t taste – or even look – like what purists would consider gin should look or taste like.
We ran a stack of them under the microscope over the summer – and, with a few exceptions, a thoroughly dispiriting bunch they were, too.”
Either new distillers have weird ideas or their current development format doesn’t allow them to precisely sculpt the gin of their dreams. Either way, the birectifier is the path forward. Analyze role models to learn the lay of the land or complete studies and then sketch out your ideas piece by piece.
One of the first studies to perform is distilling each botanical individually in a very controlled and repeatable way. The structure provided by the birectifier is key so inferences can be made as production is scaled up and distillation proof is dropped to normal (birectifier hugs the azeotrope for extreme sorting).
For this test, 25 grams of a botanical are distilled in 250 ml of 40% abv neutral spirit (100 ml of absolute alcohol) and only six 25 ml fractions are collected at the usual 15 minute intervals. These are also only evaluated with 1:1 (2x) dilution (instead of the classic German protocol favored for rums and whiskies).
What we learn:
- Where does loucheing occur and how can it be minimized by careful cutting?
- What are the most volatile notes like and how do they define a botanical?
- What are the least volatile notes like and how do they define a botanical?
- Where is aroma concentrated across the spirits run?
- Is there any off aroma or inharmonious character?
- What is the relative intensity of the botanical compared to others?
- What botanical has a limiter that needs cut away and may effect others?
Fraction 1: Cloudy, but the louche settles as a lower layer that is quite surprising. Beautiful grapefruit-like aroma. Quite zesty. All ordinary and not defining of the source botanical, but pleasant. Very surprising. The ordinary terpenes that create this louche will be a limiter and will need cut away, but keep in mind that this scaling is much more intense than would be in a typical gin.
Fraction 2: Clear. Quite neutral, subtle aroma. Flavour more apparent on the palate.
Fraction 3: Clear. Neutral, near no aroma. Some slight character with little definition appears on the palate.
Fraction 4: Clear. Neutral, near no aroma. Some slight character with little definition appears on the palate.
Fraction 5: Clear. Significant aroma, but not as intense as fraction 1. Pleasant, all positive. Most typical coriander aroma.
Fraction 6: Clear. Subtle aroma. Coriander, but heavier more weighty character. Not as appealing, but nothing negative.
This exercise can be performed for each botanical so that patterns can emerge which reinforce decisions during co-distillation of botanicals and scaling up. Some botanicals may be limiters which influence heads and tails cutting decisions when co-distilled with others.
The exercise can also switch from development to quality assurance and consistency monitoring. New batches of botanicals can be assessed to see if they meet established quality standards. Crude efforts can be made to scale botanicals for variation in essential oil yield by dilution testing before adopting more advanced lab procedures like Clevenger steam distillation and Soxhlet extraction.
Preliminary characterization may happen at one scaling, such as 25 grams per 100 ml of absolute alcohol, which is essentially magnified, but characterization could change to a reduced scaling that more closely resembles the scaling of the end product.
Individual fractions (likely fraction 5) or aggregates of multiple fractions can be vatted by micro pipette into sketches to begin refining blends of auxiliary botanicals. Isolated botanicals can be combined to learn more about the impact of combinations and their perceptual consequences.
Combinations may reveal which botanicals produce overtones and which may produce intervals of flavor. The purpose of each botanical in the blend may be articulated.
The repeatable structure of the process means the tasks an be delegated (eventually to automation).
Gin product development requires a lot of homework, but as we all know, the payoff is worth it. Fully realize your dreams with the birectifier.