Capers turned out to be non-viable as a distilled botanical, but I thought I would document my approach because I was able to learn what I needed with an incredibly small scale investment using the birectifier. I did not find much negative aroma, but overall caper buds were less aromatic than I imagined relative to eating them whole. Their pungency may benefit from the salt that usually accompanies them which likely maximizes flavor enhancement by reducing the threshold of perception of the aroma. When you remove the salt by distillation, you remove the flavor enhancement they rely upon.
What I was looking for was a botanical I could monogram an already completed gin with to create a unique cocktail experience. This would give simple variation in a tasting room to create a richer experience. This builds upon some ideas in my Distiller’s Workbook series.
To start this project, I bought salt packed (unbrined) capers and weighted out 50 grams and put them in 250 ml of 40% ABV ethanol. This provided the 100 ml of absolute ethanol that the birectifier relies upon for fractioning. Instead of collecting 8 fractions which is the traditional birectifier method, I only collected 6 because in past experience with botanicals that is all that was necessary to understand the full spectrum of assets and liabilities.
Something unique was finding significant loucheing in the fifth fraction which is typically the high value aroma fraction.
A louche is often a sign of significant aroma, but in this odd case it didn’t really pan out.
Fraction 1: Not exactly neutral but hard to pin point. Many botanicals have zesti but ordinary terpenes in this fraction. During co-distillation much of this fraction would get cut away anyhow.
Fraction 2: Extremely similar to fraction 1. Not exactly neutral but very hard to pinpoint anything. No assets or liabilities.
Fraction 3: Fairly neutral. Almost with the faintest feeling of salinity.
Fraction 4: Not too aromatic, but it almost feels like a slice of caper bud aroma.
Fraction 5: Definite caper aroma, but nothing too focused or no remarkable persistence. Possibly tainted by cooked caper aroma. Visually the fraction has a very significant louche, leading you to believe the aroma might be very significant, but that doesn’t seem to pan out.
Fraction 6: Cooked vegetable character which is a definite liability. This fraction represents a point that is usually cut away. The tails cut of a caper distillate would definitely require consideration. Makes you think a little it of boiled green beans…
I mixed 30 ml of gin with 5 ml of fraction 5 and found the caper aroma salient but nothing special. I would be far more special to have a caper garnish than a caper aromatized distillate. I should probably stuff some olives with my remaining capers or practice my chicken piccata!
I may also take the remaining fraction 5 volume and add salt and do another tasting to see if I get any unique flavor enhancement.
[I mixed fraction 4 and 5 together then added a pinch of salt. I think this did enhance the flavor to a degree, but then I think the perception of alcohol was also enhanced making the experience confusing. I did spend much time with this so I’m not super confident in my experience. It was no certain improvement.]