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[The blog has gotten vast and I’ve still not done much to make it better indexed because I’ve spent all my time at the restaurant, at the machine shop, writing, or chasing skirts. Make sure you flip to the end to find the latest pursuits.]
This is a growing index of projects I’ve done as well as distillation papers I’ve come across. Its chronological so skip to the end to see what I’ve been up to lately.
Hypothetically Speaking (08/08): This was my first investigation into distillation and only a series of questions and then a few follow up experiments where I distilled a rye whiskey infusion and then a quinine tincture. The questions mainly pertain to simple distillation or what is volatile and what is not. Understanding what is volatile and what is not seems simple but for some reason it isn’t outlined in any text and many commercial distillers do not even know the rules. People get confused by the rules of simple distillation because of the phenomenon of sensory convergence where smells can get confused with gustatory divisions. For example, people often think sugar ends up in new make rums because they smell sweet. First of all the sugar is converted to alcohol by fermentation then whatever sugar might be left is not volatile so what is being experience is aromas strongly associated with sweetness. Basically its a type of olfactory illusion.
‘Tis The Season (09/2008): This is a short account of making a half assed micro batch of pear brandy back before I knew what the hell I was doing. We shared it up in one short toast and had a blast. The joy of making brandy from a tree you knew personally and was connected to was really motivating. The techniques here are awful and back then it was really hard to find any information. Now that I know a lot more about methanol in fruit spirits I won’t distill on the pulp ever again. This brandy was also distilled as a single batch but commercial brandies/whiskeys are the product of interconnected batches, which due to the recycling of aroma precursors, is really important to aroma development.
Hacking Gin (09/2008): My very early experiment with faux Genever. None were available to me (the Anchor product had just be released to select bars) so I took matters into my own hands. I predicted that American producers might just re-tool their London Dry process to add a malt source but all these years later I’m not sure if any one has. There is an updated version of this recipe in my yet to be published distiller’s work book.
Deconstructing Campari (10/2008): This was a early project where I basically cut Campari in half (volatile / non-volatile) to learn about it. I diluted each half back to the normal volume and then evaluated each. There experiences here were building up to my pursuits of flavor perceptions, language, and what some people now call neurogastronomy. You cannot really tackle distillation and spirits construction without sensory science. When I noticed the non-volatile fraction had some residual aroma I likened to juniper, that was the fixative phenomenon I’ve finally learned about.
Absinthe (10/2008): This was my very first stab at absinthe and only two had hit the market back then. I kept the concept and kept refining it. There is a better version in my distiller’s work book. I was developing great ideas but didn’t really have much clue what I was doing. I’ve made the sloe / anise / mate absinthe many and have gotten rave reviews from serious critiques. Over the years since, I’ve really grown an appreciation of all things anise.
Antiseptic Botanicals and the Human Condition (10/2008): An early look at working with hops as an alternative to juniper. This was some really sloppy work. I eventually learned that hops are tricky because they louche in a distillate differently than other botanicals. I haven’t conclusively figured out how to get them to not louche but I think you need to distill, drop the proof to separate louching terpenes, then re-distill. If this is correct you would lose terpenes were contribute to the aroma but this is necessary to create a product that is crystal clear at 40% alocohol. I learned about terpene separation from research papers on limoncello but have yet to try to apply it to hopped distillates. Hitachino was said to distill, put the distillate in a barrel at something like 30%, add more hops, coriander, and orange peel and re-distill. I think the instructions were filtered through interns in their marketing department but the cryptic low proof time in barrel might imply terpene separation. There is a hopped gin recipe in my distiller’s workbook that can probably be improved.
Hopped Distillate Construction (11/2008): I had forgotten about this one and its just me floundering with the hopped gin barely knowing what I’m doing. I did discover that whatever makes it louche is in the heads instead of the usual tails. I had yet to discover any great books or research papers back then.
Dry Rum & Dry Gin? I Like Mine Wet… (12/2008): This post has gotten (and continues to get) an astounding amount of reads. The search returns are diverse. I think people are curious about the word dry and curious whether gin is acidic, but probably due to the nature of the aroma (sensory convergence strikes again!) I had done some pH experiments to look at spirits acidity though I had no Idea what I would find. There were a huge, hard to explain, differences across spirits. Fairly recently, I updated the post to include a research paper from Maynard Amerine’s team that explains spirit’s pH really well. For some reason the newly digitized paper is in no bibliographies that I have come across.
Deconstructing Sweet Vermouth (1/2009): This sloppy project was about finding the sugar content on sweet vermouth. Since then I’ve learn numerous new techniques that do not require distillation such as the usage of hydrometry, a known alcohol content, and two charts. In this project I also tried to find the dissolved volume of a measure of sugar in a really sloppy way. Currently I use the idea that if you know the density of a substance like sucrose we can divide the weight in grams by the density to find the volume once dissolved. Understanding these sugar management skills can help you work really fast and really precise. For some reason none of these ideas are ever presented straight forward in any texts. I had to slowly arrive at them by connecting the dots.
Deconstructing Cointreau (1/2009): This was another early look at reverse engineering liqueurs. I slowly learned a lot and ultimately made vast amounts of orange liqueur for the bar by the infusion method.
Reconstructing Cointreau (2/2009): This is an interesting one and I start to wonder about measuring aroma which I yet to really get anywhere with besides using a tasting panel. I think spectroscopy is the answer and have a meeting with a spectroscopy guru coming up to try and bring it to restaurant level culinary projects. This post also show the beginning rebellion I have to the over simplified balance idea where I try and come up with an alt model that can explain acquired tastes. This is even where I start to ponder the sweet-tart effect where aroma intensity is integrated to harmonic notions of acid/brix.
Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients (5/2009): This book that I came across details the idea of using distillation to create special effects for making amaros. Epicly cool. I suspect that all major amaros were modernized in the mid 20th century by super consultant flavor chemists so their production could be consistent and scale to the world market.
I took a big break from distillation projects for a while and re-published some vermouth papers from Amerine’s annotated bibliography when got to work on the craft keg cocktail technique which would blow up big time and I spent a lot of time exploring soda making.
The “Maraschino” Blackberry Illusion (12/2009): This project was really significant but I didn’t know how significant as first. It just started a simple thing I could do with distillation but grew into a giant sensory inquiry that I pursued really far. Back then I didn’t know about multi sensory perception and I didn’t know about contrast detection or contrast enhancement. I just stumbled into these things by experiencing one Nth degree example where some really weird stuff was going on. We learn lessons by encountering Nth degree scenarios, and in culinary, distillation is a major tool for creating the Nth degree. At the end of 2009, I’m pretty sure there was still no one else exploring distillation in these contexts and currently there are very few people making sensory inquiries with the culinary arts. As I’m remembering, this post was the first time I used the term illusion.
This Day in History: 1879 (8/2010): This post presented some really cool historical stuff that would be expanded upon later on. I had been collecting books aggressively for a while but most were targeting aromatized wines. Eventually I started coming across more stuff on distillation and some gems turned up that described the structure of liqueurs from the 19th century. I eventually made a replica of the Curacao. I don’t think any history buffs caught on to this.
I took another break after here for a while and explored more sensory science things. The most significant thing I covered is applying the super stimuli concept to culinary. I also tried to learn the distiller’s chemistry of copper after producing some blue distillates but failed. Since then I’ve learned quite a bit about copper but haven’t put out anything. Some other cool projects filled this time like making exotic nut milks.
DIY Barrel Proof Overholt (3/2012): I had been taking a break from posting because all the stuff I had been making was for my distiller’s workbook but slowly I was coming up with really cool concepts so I decided to share them. This idea was really cool but presents some flawed notions on barrel aging I’ve later learned to clarify.
Instant Aging: Vacuum Reduction Yields Barrel “Bouillon” Cubes (3/2012): This was a super fun idea and was picked up by the team at DrinkFactory in the UK. Tristan Stephenson eventually started using something similar but I don’t think anyone in the U.S. picked it up even though its legal and affordable. Again, it presents flawed notions about barrel aging but is still very usable. Amateur distillers can use this technique to predict what their spirits will taste like when aged.
Joseph Konig’s Curacao (1879) (4/2012): There is an updated version of this recipe somewhere but I need to find it. Executing this recipe reveals a big surprise and it turns out the sugar content of grand cru liqueurs of the 19th century was the maximum of solubility. The aroma content was also the maximum of solubility because too much louches. But you never seen this advice in any texts because most all accounts of the era about making liqueurs is about making fake liqueurs. If you made the real deal, you never wrote a book.
Non-potable Pure Pot Still Purell; Wormwood Aromatized Hand Sanitizer (7/2012): This was an awesome project that is far more profound than you’d think. The distillation aspect of it is pretty simple but it also illustrates some wild concepts in aroma perception such as how we learn about aromas and how training can change out thresholds of perception. Reality is highly constructed and this post lead to ideas of just how varied across people it actually is. It also shows that world of an expert is very unique and that we most use chemical analysis instead of only organoleptic analysis because of massive subjectivity.
Fruit Brandy Distillate and Brandy Flavor Essence (1/2013): This is an excerpt of a rare book by Joseph Merory and some criticism. There is some valuable advice on working with cherry bark and cherry stones as well as some unique advice on making fruit brandies. Because some of these books are so unique and so rare I started retyping them so the ideas would be more accessible to more people. This post lead to a big revelation about the Applejack process where distillates are freeze concentrated before distillation to concentrate acidity rather than alcohol to maximize acid catalyzed esterification of fatty acids. It gets touched upon more in another post.
Spirits Library (1/2013): I started creating a spirits library post to host papers but eventually started giving papers their own post because I spent a lot of time extracting quotes to better index ideas and to annotate the papers and connect them. This is mostly where it began and wow did I cover a lot in 2013.
G. Ordinneau, On the Nature of the Ethers of Brandy and the Causes that Influence its Quantity (1/2013): When you go back far enough in time a lot of papers are in foreign languages. This one was so highly regarded in the early 20th century that I acquired it and crudely translated it with google translate. This kicked of a big exploration of esters and their importance to distillates which I pursued really far.
This Day In Rum History (1937) (2/2013) This post covers an incredibly important paper about the history rum but no body in mainstream culinary has seemed to notice. The paper by IRS chemist Peter Valaer even presents data with brands about Cuban rums pre-Castro that clarify what has been wrongfully speculated upon by popular culinary for years. If you like rum, this paper might blow your mind. I still find it baffling that other people were not finding these papers.
From Free Fatty Acids to Aromatic Esters: Esterification in the Still Made Simple(r) (3/2013): This post is pretty darn significant because none of this is really presented to new distillers anywhere under one roof. Some of the ideas are incorrect and I’d adding editing notes to point that out. This topic is wildly complicated but can be made simpler and I keep learning more and more about it every day. Eventually this will all be corrected and put in my distiller’s workbook/manual.
1989 James F. Guymon Lecture: Distillation in Alembic by Robert Léauté (4/2013): Discovering this paper was a giant leap forward because it is the most articulate thing on distillation ever written. It did leave a few questions behind that I later worked really hard to reveal.
Adventures in Aftermarket Maraschino (4/2013) I had discovered this paper after I had already been making a Maraschino cheater but this helped refine some of the ideas. Recently I showed it to a famous American producer who might be inspired to convert his American Kirschwasser into a Maraschino based on this historical data. Puff Daddy’s Ciroc brand was also inspired by the clear Amaretto I had been making for quite a while as a blending component for my Maraschino and came out with Ciroc clear Amaretto.
Juniper Report: A Blog-Quality Survey of Academic Gin Literature (4/2013) This was some great stuff that really shed a lot of light on gin production and supposedly has been read by quite a few new commercial distillers.
The Influence of Distillation Method on Brandy Composition (1939) (6/2013): Maynard Amerine had referenced an exciting Australian paper in his 1941 Bulletin on brandy making. It was in a journal that was impossible to find but after a month of looking the Brookline public library tracked it down in Australia and got it via inter library loan. This article is just the summary of a student thesis from Roseworthy Agricultural College and I was able to track down the original and well as numerous others which hadn’t been seen in decades.
Roseworthy Papers. The journal article by Walter Graham pointed to a great collection of papers at Roseworthy that were simply archived somewhere in manila folders and I convinced the school to digitize them for me. They tell a great tale of early distillation research and are amazing introductions for amateur distillers. I link to the original PDF and annotated the papers. I have a book somewhere about Roseworthy’s oenology program and even has pictures of all the students that authored these papers. All of these papers won the Karl Weiderhoffer prize.
Trehalose, Fixatives, “Rendering”, and the Limits of Re-distillation (9/2013): This post came about after a drink presentation I did for Dave Arnold and Harold McGee. Dave and I disagreed on one phenomenon we both encountered so I did some digging and came up with an effect, most familiar to perfumers, called fixation. Fixatives, to a perfumer, are compounds added to a fragrance to reduce volatility so fragrances can linger longer. In our experiences of re-distilling commercial liqueurs, we were encountering the fixative effects of sucrose.
Philosophy of Involvement (10/2013): A I developed my distiller’s manual and workbook, an idea I called involvement become clear to me as very important in guiding new distillers. Without recognizing involvement we won’t know how to judge amateur efforts and the slew of new products hitting the market from micro distilleries.
Scotch / Pond Water / Floaties / Ammonia / Misc. (11/2013): This was the first paper I covered from S. B. Hastie whose amazing work escaped being in any major bibliographies such as Maynard Amerine’s.
S. H. Hastie and D. W. Dick on Furfural and Some Other Distillation Gems (11/2013): Another great paper by Hastie’s team on the early efforts to advanced Scotch whiskey distillation.
Mackinlay Scotch: The closest to invincible any whisky ever got (11/2013): I comment on the original paper that analyzed Shackleton’s whisky found in the arctic.
Hastie, Circa 1925, and the New Era of Pot Distillation (11/2013): Another very significant paper by Hastie that I annotated. The most unique thing gleaned from this one is that esters are broken up at the same time they are created, but there will be a net creation or not that we should look for.
Barrel Aging / Rhetoric / Information Design (12/2013): A look at a paper describing an exotic tax scenario mid 20th century where it had to be argued whether new barrels are a primary ingredient in a whisky and not taxed or if they are a manufacturing aid and subject to tax. The paper is uniquely well organized because it is trying to be persuasive.
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 1 of 15 Tabasco Aromatized Gin
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 2 of 15 De-constructing and Re-constructing Chartreuse
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 3 of 15 Mass Market Maraschino Mayhem
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 4 of 15 Joseph König’s 19th Century Curaçao
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 5 of 15 Hershey’s Chocolate Bourbon
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 6 of 15 Truly Stimulating Absinthe
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 7 of 15 Non-potable Pure Pot Still Purell; Wormwood Aromatized Hand Sanitizer
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 8 of 15 Chipotle Tequila
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 9 of 15 Double grain bill white dog
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 10 of 15 Rooibos & Rye a.k.a. African Rye Whiskey
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 11 of 15 Pisco Faux Mosto Verde #Fail
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 12 of 15 Marmite Aromatized Rye
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 13 of 15 Malta Goya Aromatized Gin (faux Genever)
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 14 of 15 Fernet Aromatized Maraschino Cherries
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 15 of 15 Hopped Gin
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 16 of 15 Special Effects! [incomplete]
Demisting & The Spirits Safe (2/14):
The Future Is Not What It Used To Be: The IRS’ Plywood Barrel Aged Whiskey (3/14): Plywood barrels!
Well-placed Witnesses to Beverage History with Ruth Teiser (4/14) I have done a ton with these and the interviews on distilling are wildly interesting. They reveal a pretty spectacular history of California brandy. I’ve been in communication with the Oral History Project and they have plans to slowly do more beverage related interviews.
Six New Distillation Papers From The IRS (6/14): One of these and I won’t tell you which is the most important historical paper in all of whiskey. I haven’t scanned it yet. Hopefully I don’t lose it.
Early Accounts of Arrack Et Al. (7/14): A great account of making arrack starters from rice. Since then I’ve done a ton with arrack.
“Muck Hole” Not “Dunder Pit” (7/14): The title here is a little misleading and subsequent post shed a ton of light on true classic Jamaican rum production. No one seemed to know about the full details of the muck concept before this post.
The plywood whiskey barrels that inspired the Eames recliner (8/14): There was very little interest in this, but I found it wildly cool and inspiring.
The stepping stones of analysis and a cry for help (· · · – – – · · ·) (8/14): I pursued this doggedly and have gotten pretty far.
Standardizing Botanicals: Me and My Soxhlet Extractor (9/14): I have finally figured out how to go the last mile with this, but this is where I started.
The Flavour Components of Whiskey in Three Acts (10/14): Really interesting and I need to revisit this. Arroyo arrived at some of the same conclusions and the techniques are more profound than I thought.
Important Snippets from Joseph Merory’s Food Flavorings (10/14): I have talked about this rare book for quite a while and here I type up some passages readers had asked me about. Recently a reader has sent me a PDF of the book that I haven’t hosted, but if anyone needs it bad enough I’ll send it to them.
Colonial Pissing Contests with the great Agricola, W.F. Whitehouse (11/14) Very unique. Whitehouse is easily the coolest figure in the entire history of rum. Daniel Day Lewis will play him in the screenplay.
Supplementary 19th century Rum History (11/14): Interesting papers swept up in my look at Jamaican rums.
And The World Watched Jamaica… (11/14): A look at other countries watching Jamaica as they started to intensely study rum production.
Advanced Hogo Basics with Victorian Rum Genius No. 2 (11/14): A look at the works of Percival Greg who was one of the most significant figures in the history of rum.
Investigating Lost Spirits Investigations Part I (4/15): My look at Lost Spirit’s “White Papers”
Investigating Lost Spirits Investigations Part II (4/15): My look at Lost Spirits “White Papers”
Investigating Wired’s Investigation of Lost Spirits Accelerated Aging (4/15): My in depth look at fake ageing and the claims that ageing in spirits is not well studied.
Pectin: The Enemy You Never Knew You Had (6/15): A very useful trick for distilleries.
Maraschino (1915) BY J. G. RILEY AND A. L. SULLIVAN (6/2015): A lot has been written on Maraschino, but every one had missed this exceptional paper on the subject.
Organic Acid Trickery / High Ether Rum / Ether Theory (7/15): Requisite writings on Jamaica rum. Until recently few realized these documents existed.
Lectures on Fermentation: A Course for Distillers of Jamaica Rum (1906) (7/15) Requisite writings on Jamaica rum. Until recently few realized these documents existed.
Jamaica Rum with the Honorable H.H. Cousins (7/15): Requisite writings on Jamaica rum. Until recently few realized these documents existed.
Dr. Harris Eastman Sawyer, Architect of the Modern New England Rum style? (7/15): What I know of Harris Eastman Sawyer who was the architect of modern New England rum. I have a lead on the location of more documents but I haven’t been able to pursue it yet.
Selected Writings of Fermentation Chemist S.F. Ashby (7/15): Requisite writings on Jamaica rum. Until recently few realized these documents existed.
H.W. Wiley’s Prohibition Era Telling of the Chartreuse Tale (7/15): A great telling of the Chartreuse story by a Bureau chemist. There is nothing really new here when I checked with other scholars but I myself didn’t know the history that well.
H. W. Wiley Tells of Rum (7/15): A telling of rum from a Washington Bureau Chemist. This was swept up in my search for Harris Eastman Sawyer.
Rum Miscellany (7/15): Great Miscellany swept up in my searches for documents about New England and Jamaican rum. Great stuff.
The Micro-Organism of Faulty Rum (7/15): A really crazy post about a crazy concept with a hell of a punch line. I thought there would be more historical interest in this but that hasn’t turned up.
Rum—Distinction of Genuine and Artificial (1909) (7/15): My introduction to Micko’s test which really resonated because of my own distiller’s workbook projects. Micko’s work gets fully elaborated by Arroyo and I intent to do a lot more with it. Currently I’m looking for the ideal glass fractioning still.
Quinine Wisdom from Morris Boris Jacobs (8/15): Interesting figures on quinine in tonic water. I’m due to test some of the numbers first hand but I think some numbers are for freebase quinine while others are for quinine salts and that is why there are big discrepancies in the literature.
The aesthetics of lime: contrast enhancement through terpene removal (9/15): Some of my coolest work! Just read the article!
Arthur Chapman Barnes: Comments on Rum (1964) (10/15): I tracked down Barnes books to see the full context of his comments on rum quoted by Hugh Barty-King. I bought the book so you don’t have to!
New (to me) Rum Papers (10/15): Some great papers on rum, primarily from Jamaica. I think most of these came from Professor Lancashire at the University of the West Indies whom I corresponded with for a while. He was amazingly helpful.
Originating a Gin (10/15): My look at originating a gin which is not really seen in the literature. Tom Nichol said I made it too complicated. I don’t think he enjoyed my ideas on contrast enhancement through terpene removal or category theory.
Rare Vantage: Beverage History From The Spirits Chemist (11/15): A cool look at spirits history told through beverage technologists and including some rare scannings of stuff I’ve collected. I have another book on spirits from a spirits chemist that is wildly interesting but I haven’t had the time to write anything on it.
A.C. Simpson, Gin Manufacture, 1966 (11/15): I’ve collected many papers on gin for a product I’m designing. Really exciting to make these available because there is so little technical literature on the subject.
Rafael Arroyo’s Lost Papers on Rum (12/15): My collection of Arroyo’s papers. Everyone new of the these papers but no one knew the exact citations to get them. I eventually found the citations and slowly ILLed the papers and scanned his book. Slowly I’ve accumulated even more citations beyond Murtaugh’s.
The Prior Patents of Rafael Arroyo (12/15): A brief look at the patents Rafael Arroyo held before he got into rum work which shows how uniquely qualified he was for the job. I tracked these down because Arroyo turned out to be no average thinker. Quite the genius.
Coconut Research Institute (12/15): A wonderful collection of papers on Arrack from Sri Lanka. Not many were aware of how significant Sri Lankan Arracks were because of the recent fame of Batavia. Some of the papers have the best explanations of distillation I’ve ever come across. Fantastic writing.
Rum Comparatively: Understanding Anything Goes (1/16): A comprehensive look at the templates that go into making rum and they contribute to stories a distillery can tell. A great primer on understanding rum.
Excise Anecdotes from Arrack Country (1/16): A unique look at Arrack with some wild anecdotes from a seldom seen vantage point. The end is amazing where seeing the Cognac country makes him realize all the same ideas of appellation and terroir apply to Arrack.
Rum, Mitogenic Radiation & The Bio-photon (1/16): Arroyo brings up the idea of mitogenic radiation and I provide some background which reveals its deep controversy and speculative nature. I still haven’t made up my mind on it and can’t wait to play with it first hand.
Cape Verde and Sugar Cane Juice Rum Categories (2/16): Great excerpts from Arrroyo and an introduction to the categories of clarified and non clarified juice rums. Cape Verde being a unique example of the unclarified type and matching Arroyo’s descriptions.
Team Pombe and the Yeast Olympiad (2/16): An introduction to Schizosaccharomyces Pombe yeast and the idea that they must be vetted in feats of yeast strength as explained by Arroyo. I’ve been hatching a plan to do yeast discovery for a rum I’m designing.
Rum, Osmotolerance and the Lash (2/16): My explanation of two big categories in rum fermentation design. One being that of Arroyo and the other being that of old school Jamaica.
Aroma Breakage and Rum Design (2/16): A look at the problems with diluting rum and how that impacts the design of full flavored rum according to Arroyo.
Ageing, Accelerated Ageing, & Élevage ==> Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics (2/16): My look at ageing in rum with a big focus on Arroyo’s teachings.
Narrative of the 1975 Rum Symposium ( 2/16): A collection of six papers that I briefly summarize into a narrative. There is an interesting look at Japanese rums and some wild developments in Puerto Rico.