Grignon — L’Eau-de-Vie de Cidre — 1890

Follow along: IG @birectifier

[I’ve put a lot of work into this translation because I have not found enough literature specifically about fruit brandy/eau-de-vie production. This book is quite rare and no copies appeared easily accessible. The ideas inside were not too remarkable and its probably not worth reading straight through. I think I’m going to add tags to the parts that interested me so that someone can ctfl+f for *** and get the best of it quickly. The author is mostly interested in salvaging the reputation of true cider eau-de-vie and differentiating it from lees brandy and marc/grappa products.

Back in this era, there was a ton of concern about both fraud in spirits production as well as the health effects of various congeners. These ideas really weigh down the book and make it not too relevant for pushing the boundaries of sensory quality. Many ideas in here were aimed at “farmer distillers” which is translated from “cru” distiller.

The author believes marc/grappa and lees brandy must be made, but drag down the reputation of true cider eau-de-vie. He seeks integrity of production and transparency of labeling. The rise of industrial alcohol did not help the situation because there was rampant stretching of spirits and this made consumption statistics far different than production statistics for true eau-de-vie.

Something curiously never mentioned is methanol and supposedly that is why cider marc/grappas are rarely ever made currently. Apple pomace has far more pectin than grape pomace so a marc would have an elevated level of methanol which likely exceeds current conservative regulations. Cider lees brandy may be far less common these days because of more advanced equipment and guidelines for separating lees. They may also be more commonly used for animal feed.

A lot of spirits nostalgia had for the late 19th century should really be placed back in the early 20th century where pure product laws created a gradual return to product integrity.]








To complete the summary study that we have published on cider *, we have undertaken, in the same vein, that of its eau-de-vie.

* Le cidre, Paris, 1887, Doin.

In writing these few pages, our intention is not to publish an overall work; we only propose to recall general principles whose application finds its use in the manufacture and preservation of cider eau-de-vie, principles based on theoretical and practical remarks likely to be exploited by the farmer distiller, even with fairly primitive tools at his disposal.

To this end, we briefly present the results of our research in the works already published, observations communicated to us by certain cider distillers, and those finally which we have been personally able to make.

But before tackling the issue of cider spirits, we thought it useful to draw attention to the complexity of fermentation liquids, to the toxic role of certain products from which the distillation does not completely remove, and then impurities which impart more or less dangerous properties from the point of view of hygiene.

In this regard, cider eau-de-vie is an alcoholic liquor which is rather readily meditated. It is claimed to be loaded with those harmful principles which constitute impurities from the alcoholic heads and tails.

From there, it is assigned a much lower rank in the series of eaux-de-vie and it is classified after those of marc which enjoy a deplorable reputation among hygienists. [marc being grappa.]

Demonstrating that real cider eau-de-vie is not of bad quality when it is prepared with care and exempt of any addition, is the goal that we have also striven to achieve by publishing this booklet.



In general, it can be said that sugary liquids, placed under conditions of suitable dilution and temperature, all furnish alcohol under influence of the vital development of a particular organism called a ferment.

Results of this special fermentation, which entices the glucose molecule, can be translated by the following equation:

C12H12O12= 2 (C4H6O2) + 2 (C2O4)

This equation, in which incidental products of the reaction are omitted, therefore represents, in its most succinct form, the general principle of alcoholization.

Distillation of liquids that have undergone alcoholic fermentation makes it possible to collect the alcohol mixed with a fairly variable amount of water, a product long known as eau-de-vie and which Marcus Graecus and Rhazes, who lived in the VIII century, referred to as ardent water.

In the past, distillation of fermented drinks obtained from sweet fruits was the main source of alcohol. Today, apart from the sweet fruits, stems and roots, industry uses starchy substances as raw materials which the seeds and tubers of many plants provide, using their transformation into sweet principles under the influence certain agents such as diastase and mineral acids.

Anyway, fundamentally, the results of fermentation of these sweet principles, is the alcohol itself, ethyl alcohol or wine alcohol, a designation recalling one of its origins.

This body, which everyone knows, has a density of 0.794 at a temperature of 15° and boils at 78°, under the normal pressure of 760.

Accompanied by a certain quantity of water, it constitutes the eaux-de-vie. These, by rectification, supply spirits, much richer in alcohol.


In commerce, alcohol always contains a variable amount of water. It then takes the name of eau-de-vie or spirit depending on the proportion of pure alcohol contained in the mixture.

Eau-de-vie contain less than 61% pure alcohol, while alcohols or spirits contain more.

To assess this quantity, we use glass floats, fitted with a thin rod, which sink all the more into the liquid as it is less dense, hence more alcoholic. On this principle the hydrometers of Baumé, Cartier and the alcoholometer of Gay-Lussac are based.

The Baumé hydrometer or spirit scale, intended to measure the density of liquids lighter than water, carries 0 at the point where it sinks into a solution containing 10% sea salt. Degree 10 corresponds to its outcrop in pure water. The interval between these two benchmarks is divided into ten equal parts and the graduation extends to the top of the rod; the 48° is the point where it stops in pure alcohol.

Cartier’s hydrometer, constructed in an almost analogous fashion, differs little from the spirit scale. Its stem is divided into 44 parts or degrees. Like that of Baumé, it marks 10° in pure water but in absolute alcohol the stem is 44° instead of 48°.

The Gay-Lussac alcoholmeter marks 0° in distilled water and 100° in absolute alcohol. The intermediate points are determined by immersing the float in mixtures of known composition so that, in this apparatus, the degree really expresses the exact richness of an alcoholic liquid in absolute alcohol.

Gay-Lussac’s alcoholmeter is the only one allowed in commercial transactions. Nevertheless, the Cartier hydrometer is still used by farmer distillers. It marks 19° in eau-de-vie meeting the “Holland proof”. This test, which had fallen into disrepair, consisted of stirring the eau-de-vie under examination in a gap which it filled in half, and to see if it made the pearl or the rosary, that is, whether it gave birth to small bubbles that came to press along the walls of the gap, against each other, in an unbroken circle. [This is a crude look at surface tension.]

This eau-de-vie was used as a type in the designation of spirits. Thus spirits called 3/5, 3/6, 3/7, 3/8, received this name because it was necessary to add 3 parts of the spirit in question to 2, 3, 4, 5 parts of water to obtain 5, 6, 7, 8 measures of typical eau-de-vie, that is to say marking 19° Cartier.

These designations should no longer be used today, since the law of July 8, 1881 only recognizes as legal the centesimal alcoholometer of Gay-Lussac. However, they are still sufficiently used for us to believe it useful to indicate in the table opposite the correlation existing between certain degrees of the various alcohol scales of which we have just spoken and the name of related commercial products.

As can be seen, commercial eaux-de-vie usually have a measure of less than 60°. However, as regards more especially those of cider, it very often happens that in order to ensure to their products a long lasting alcoholic strength, much sought after by the less delicate palates, distillers raise the degree and prepare fresh eaux-de-vie that can reach 65° and 66°.

However, the measure of good cider eaux-de-vie is generally between 50° and 60° centesimal and most often comes close to the first of these figures.


In theory, any sweet liquid is converted under the influence of alcoholic fermentation into alcohol and carbonic acid, apart from the small amounts of glycerin and succinic acid which arise. But, in reality, the phenomenon is much more complex with the sweet musts used in preparation of alcoholic beverages. What is true for a glucose solution placed under well-defined conditions is strangely complicated when it comes to musts of highly variable composition where many extractive substances play a role in fermentation and give rise to new products such as amyl alcohol, essential oils, ethers, etc.

As Balard, Cahours, J. Pierre, Pasteur have established, sweet musts undergoing action of air, under influence of secondary fermentations, of temperature, of a generally acidic environment, provide in addition to alcohol, many bodies which constitute just as many impurities.

Besides accessory products such as glycerin, succinic acid, which any alcoholic fermentation generates; products resulting from a more or less profound action that alcohol can undergo; bodies such as acetic, lactic, butyric acids, secondary fermentations of which cause their formation, citric, tartaric, malic acids are still found , and constituent principles of the juice of sweet fruits, whose role cannot be indifferent in an environment already as complex as the one they are in.

Under such conditions, it is easy to imagine that distillation is powerless to rid the alcohol of the more or less volatile elements resulting from numerous reactions which take place in its mass. Moreover, distillation itself brings its contingent of impurities by promoting the reduction of alcohols already formed, in contact with organic matter.

Fermentation of sweet musts therefore not only generates standard alcohol, the abundance of which makes it the main product, it also gives rise to secondary reactions taking place under multiple influences, impurity of the ferments, constitution of the liquid, temperature, etc., to very different principles, some of which are even more or less well characterized.

Whatever the way in which these different bodies arise, it nevertheless follows that, in spite of their highly variable boiling points, they are found in condensation liquids, as a result of the inevitable entrainment of their molecule. [Volatility is a function of both boiling point and relative solubility.]

In the end, there are more volatile products besides ethyl alcohol: ethyl, propyl, butyl aldehydes, propionic acetic ethers, butyric; less volatile products: propyl, butyl, amyl, acetic, propionic, butyric acids, bases and furfurol.

Aldehydes and ethers pass at the start of the distillation as heads products: the others, which are mechanically entrained, so to speak, during and towards the end of the distillation, constitute the tails products, alcohols with formulas and high boiling points, for this reason referred to as higher alcohols.

A word only on the principal of these bodies.

Ethyl aldehyde is a colorless, mobile liquid and is formed by mild oxidation of alcohol. Pure, it is suffocating, unbreathable; in the dilution state, on the contrary, it gives off a sweet smell of white fruit. It is excessively volatile (21°) [Acetaldehyde]

Acetic acid, the result of a deeper oxidation of alcohol, provides, by reacting with it, to ether. This acetic ether, whose boiling point is between 72° and 74°, is endowed with a sweet and penetrating fragrance.

Normal propyl alcohol boils at 97°. It is particularly intoxicating and its very pronounced smell, its pungent, pleasant taste, its hot flavor, combine to give the amount of neutral alcohol.

Butyl alcohol characterizes fruit spirits. It is replaced in the alcohols obtained using brewer’s yeast, by isobutyl alcohol.

Amyl alcohol, or potato alcohol, from eaux-de-vie prepared using this tuber, the part which passes to distillation at around 130°, is very fragrant. Its vapors cause chest tightness, cause coughing fits and even vomiting. Added in small quantities to ordinary alcohol, it does not impart bad taste to it and makes it acquire strength. [I have often referred to this vapor in birectifier fraction 4 as the wraith.]

Beside acetic acid, propionic acid is found, the odor of which is more or less similar, but much less clear. Its strong-scented ethers provide mainly marc eaux-de-vie with part of their bouquet.

Butyric acid smells of rancid butter and boils at 157°. Its presence often gives eaux-de-vie a taste of the land [terroir] that is little sought after. It is this which, together with caproic and caprylic acids, makes certain cider lees and their residues so foul. On the contrary, it is likely to provide very smooth etheres. [Butyric acid has the biggest differential between pleasantness of acid and ester. It becomes a danger when producing spirit distilled at very low proofs.]

Furfurol or pyromucic aldehyde, which boils at 161°, is said to result from decomposition of sugars in the distillation of liquids where it is still present. It spreads a very pleasant odor which proceeds from both that of bitter almond essence and that of cinnamon essence.

These are the various products likely to be encountered, in part, in the very impure phlegms provided by the first distillation of ciders and their lees.

The toxic properties of cider eau-de-vie is attributed in particular to aldehyde which boils at 21° and is among the bad tastes of the heads and the ethers of propyl alcohol which communicate the sui generis odor inherent in the origin. We’ll see what happens. However, it remains well established that these impurities increase the toxic power of alcohols in proportion to their quantity.


Any alcohol, whatever it is, always carries within itself a certain principle of toxicity. But the toxic dose of alcohols varies greatly with their nature. For example, the toxic dose of wine alcohol being 7.75 per kilogram of the weight of the animal subjected to the experiment, it is 3.75 for propyl alcohol, 1.85 for butyl alcohol and 1.50 for amyl alcohol.

Without providing a summary of the learned studies undertaken by MM. Audige, Dujardin-Beaumetz, Laborde, Lépine, Magnan…, on the toxicity of alcohols and impurities which accompany them, we believe it useful to extract from the remarkable work of MM. Dujardin-Beaumetz and Audige on the toxic power of alcohols, the following two tables. They furnish valuable information on this subject and from the point of view of the comparative value of the various alcohols and spirits.

Toxicity of alcohols, inherent in their nature, depends for the spirits of which ethyl alcohol forms the base, on the greater or lesser quantity of impurities they contain. Among these impurities, apart from propyl, butyl and amyl alcohols, of which we have just spoken, there are still others among which are aldehyde and furfurol.

Aldehyde is one of the most violent intoxicants which causes overwhelming drunkenness when it is contained, even in small quantities, in eaux-de-vie such as, for example, those which are removed by first rectification of beet alcohols. On this subject MJ Pierre reports “that he was told, that in Rouen, in the Martainville district, certain retailers of eau-de-vie containing aldehyde push their customers at the door as soon as they swallowed this infernal drink, to avoid the manifestations of the consequences that may result from it.”

Furfurol enjoys an equally obvious toxicity. Usually accompanying tail alcohols, it is one of the main factors, the presence of which contributes especially to making grain alcohols in which it dominates so dangerous.

These are, in summary, the most important elements which make eau-de-vie harmful when it is used excessively. Their presence, in high doses, in certain industrial alcohols, sufficiently justifies the formidable role played by the eaux-de-vie that these alcohols serve to adulterate and, in general, by the liqueurs of which they form the basis. In addition, as Mr. Larbalétrier again points out:

“Everything we know about industrial alcohols undoubtedly explains the toxic action of most eaux-de-vie, cognacs and rums delivered for consumption; but fraud still holds many surprises, such as proves the recent analysis that Mr. Gabriel Pouchet made of a rum from Jamaica in which he detected methyl, isopropyl, allyl, amyl, aldehydes (acetal, methylal, acetones) and aromatic products from the group of camphor, all products showing insufficient rectification.”

[I want to drink that rum!]

“The experiments of Messrs. Laborde and Magnan show with what persistent efforts a greedy industrialism strives against the health of all; for the alcoholism of parents stigmatizes the children with indelible defects and the drunkard becomes for the future, like for the present, the sad provider of our asylums.”



Production of cider eau-de-vie, closely linked to that of its generator, naturally followed an upward trend.

Although production of cider eau-de-vie does not appear to be related to its consumption, a fact whose cause lies in part in the clandestine sale to which the distillers indulge without scruple, the very increase of this consumption is enough to demonstrate the growing importance of the trade in this alcoholic liquor.

Today, production of cider and its eau-de-vie exceeds 100 million francs per year and, in this figure, Normandy figures for more than 60 million.

In the department of Calvados alone, quantity of cider alcohol declared in 1889 fluctuates between 12 and 1,300 hectoliters of 100° alcohol, i.e. 2,400 to 2,600 hectoliters of eau-de-vie. But, in the opinion of knowledgeable people, these numbers are far from representing the total amount of alcohol produced. It is necessary to take into account active fraud which is exerted and, under these conditions, one cannot estimate at less than 2,000 hectoliters as the real quantity obtained of cider alcohol at 100°, which corresponds to a total production of 4,000 hectoliters of eau-de-vie.

If we now consult the statistical registers of the department of Seine-Inferieure where manufacture of cider eau-de-vie is less important, we find the following information on results obtained during these last three years:

Regarding distillers, the above figures are given for evaluation. They do not allow us to conclude that there is a very significant increase in production.

Moreover, the ease of communications, high price of wine and cognac, and change in opinion which took place in favor of apple products, explain the development of the cider industry and its annexes.

To tell the truth, cider eau-de-vie manufacture has not so far constituted a truly industrial exploitation. But it is soon to arrive there following the creation of many cider breweries raised everywhere, in the countries of production, in neighboring regions, in surroundings of the big cities, where use of cider is spreading more and more.

It is inevitably becoming industrial, production being always linked to demand, and the day is quite close, we hope, for cider eau-de-vie enjoying the reputation it is worthy of acquiring, and will be sought after becoming the object of more trade and more transactions.

Until then, manufacture of cider eau-de-vie mainly meets the needs of the producing countries. The farmer distiller who distills his harvests, the traveling distiller who rents his still and distills for the benefit of others, the actual distiller who operates for himself, distilling old ciders, the grower, the lees he buys, in reality only proceed on a fairly small scale. It is up to the cider brewers, whose current trade opens up easy outlets, to exploit this new source of profit industrially by adding distilleries to their cider houses that allow them to use, in years of plenty, surplus production, and in years of shortage, manufacturing residues. [Residues being lees and pomice to become marc.]

However that may be, consumption of cider eau-de-vie is increasing day by day and its price, according to the increase in demand, increases more and more.

In the past, cider eau-de-vie cost a penny to a degree in the pot. An eau-de-vie weighing 25° Cartier was worth 25 sous the pol, that is to say, the double liter.

This year, in Normandy, fresh eau-de-vie, ranging from 60° to 65° centesimal, costs on site and all costs to the buyer, 250 to 300 francs per hectolitre; Old eau-de-vie, grading 50°, sells for 500 to 600 francs in superior quality and even reaches the price of 1,000 to 1,200 francs when its exceptional finesse makes it a gourmet product.

In Brittany, the price of eaux-de-vie fluctuates between 200 and 300 francs.

In Mayenne, fresh eaux-de-vie, ranging from 58° to 60°, finds buyers at 175 francs ; aged ones at 200 or 300 francs.

In Vendée, new eaux-de-vie are commonly worth 200 francs and the old ones, from 250 to 300 francs.

Without looking for the advantages which the distillation of ciders can offer, it is not without interest, we believe, to establish, in an approximate way, the cost price of the alcohols they supply.

Let us first see how much the owner can spend when he owns a still and distills his cider himself.

One hectolitre of this product, carrying 5° to 6° of alcohol and worth on average 12 francs, can give about ten liters of eau-de-vie at 50°, or per liter. . ……. .. 1 fr. 20.

Fuel expenditure required for the distillation of a liter of eau-de-vie is widely estimated at. . . . . . . . . 0 fr. 10.

Price of labor, including that of the food and the day of the stills, can reach … . 0 fr. 30.

Under these conditions the cost price of the liter amounts to approximately …… 1 fr. 60.

For eaux-de-vie that can be kept for a few years to sell 4 to 5 francs per liter, this expense is quite modest.

Moreover, this cost price is significantly higher than that which can be achieved in a cider distillery where continuous stills make it possible to shorten the time devoted to distillation. By operating on a large scale, with sophisticated devices, the expense is certainly lower and this is how Dr. Baume was able to prepare at Château de Kerleau, excellent quality cider eaux-de-vie which, all expenses made, returned to him at 1 fr. 30 and easily found a buyer at the average price of 2 francs per liter.

But when we use cider bottoms, cider lees, this cost price is still considerably reduced since we are addressing raw materials, so to speak, of their value. [They have no value if they are not used this way.]

In the country of Othe, cider production center in the Aube and Yonne departments, cider is not distilled. It is in great demand and its sale is always assured. But we use apple marcs which provide an average yield of 6 to 7 liters per riceton of marc, that is to say per 210 liters. [Not sure about riceton of the implications of marc. Is that pomace volume that could be distilled or the distillate?]

Considering the apple marcs worthless which he would abandon if he did not find benefit from them in this way, here is how the owner establishes his expenditure.

The itinerant distiller who settles in his home and distills small waters with repassing, is fed at his table and supplied with his wood.

It also touches for way, per liter 0 fr. 20. [Not sure how this should translate.]

Wood consumption amounts to 0 fr. 10.

Food, related to the unit considered, costs. …………. 0 fr. 10.

Which makes approximately ………. 0 fr. 40.

For the cost of eau-de-vie which fresh sells for 1 fr. 70 to 1 fr. 75 per liter and old 1 fr. 80 to 2 francs.

These few figures clearly show the profits that the owner and the farmer, can realize by proceeding to the distillation of ciders, cider lees, and apple marcs.


When a homogeneous mixture is subjected to distillation in which the less volatile liquid constitutes the greater part of the mass, it invariably happens that the more volatile liquid dominates in the first portions collected. As a result, the proportion of alcohol contained in the vapors emitted by an alcoholic beverage such as cider greatly exceeds, in the early stages of distillation, that which is contained in this drink itself.

Nevertheless, cier distillation provides in the first operation products which are insufficiently rich in alcohol to constitute eaux-de-vie, since they only mark 15 to 30° centesimals at most.

To increase their concentration, that is to say, to bring them to a higher degree, one can have recourse to repeated distillations. It is this mode of operation distillers call repassing, liquids are collected after a first distillation.

One can also have recourse to enrich the vapors by dephlegmators and by rectifiers. But, while these last two modes of concentration require expensive installation, special devices more generally used in industrial operations (Savalle, Egrot, Duroy devices, etc.), the combined action of analyzers, rectifiers and dephlegmators, makes it possible to obtain a sufficiently rich and pure alcohol first-pass. The re-pass process is within the reach of all cider distillers which use the classic still, the only device adopted until now for the current production of cider eau-de-vie.

The distillation apparatus most commonly used today, those which are in constant use in the countryside, are therefore simple copper stills with capital and coil. Their capacity varies between 200 and 250 liters and most often goes to this last figure.

The rather rudimentary device that we generally meet in our Norman villages, consists of a boiler, cucurbite, fitted with a drain valve, placed in a wood-fired furnace and whose draft is activated by a sheet metal chimney provided with a register. [cucurbite is an old word for distillation flask]

This cucurbit, whose upper part emerges only from the hearth, receives the capital, or still head, which engages it gently. Fill the joint with a dough obtained with flour and water, as a lute. The neck of the capital is connected by the same means to an extension pipe which connects to the coil. This is contained in a simple barrel of proportionate capacity, erected on one of its bottoms. This barrel carries in its upper third a tap allowing, when the water it contains has become too heated, to partly drain which is replaced by fresh water drawn from the nearest source.

It is a long way from this fairly primitive tool to those perfected by the manufacturers already mentioned.

Without making use of column apparatus, the use of which makes it possible to obtain very alcoholic liquids in a single operation but which do not possess, according to connoisseurs, the softness of those prepared in the ordinary still, our distillers should imitate the distillers of Charentes and add a “wine heater” to their distillation apparatus. This wine heater, which would become a cider heater, is a reservoir in which the liquid intended for the next operation is placed.

Located sometimes above the cucurbite, sometimes above the condenser, it is crossed by a coil. This coil gradually communicates heat borrowed from the vapors which traverse it. The liquid in the wine heater, under the influence of the heat supplied by the condensed vapors, reaches, at the end of the operation, a temperature high enough for it to be introduced in its turn into the cucurbite which was just empied, and after a short time boils again.

This arrangement provides, as we can see, real savings in time and fuel.

Nevertheless, it is with the least complicated distillation apparatus, in more or less good condition, that our distillers proceed to cier distillation, their lees and even, but more rarely, apple marcs. We should not believe, as we have already said, that the distillation is done all at once. The operation comprises two stages: first separation of the greater part of the alcohol (preparation of small water), then rectification (obtaining eau-de-vie).

Here is, first of all, how we proceed to prepare the small water, alcoholic liquid obtained by direct distillation of ciders.

In the distilling season, ciders intended to be distilled, as they say, are passed by batches in the still. With a 250 liter boiler, we act on about 200 liters. We must, moreover, fill the cucurbite up to 15 or 20 centimeters from the base of the capital. To distill a barrel of 1,200 to 1,600 liters, it will therefore be necessary to operate six or eight batches.

It is distilled over a naked flame, causing the shots which can occur when the draft of the hearth is not regulated and whose unfortunate effects would be avoided by distilling in a water bath.

For the stills of which we speak, the start of the distillation requires a good hour or so, and the heating continues for four or five hours depending on the alcoholicity of the liquids.

The first portions which distill are quite rich in alcohol; the following ones contain less and less.

As soon as alcohol no longer passes significantly, which can be recognized using the hydrometer, distillation is stopped, the boiler is emptied, it is cleaned and the device is recharged with a new quantity of cider to restart the operation.

The products of these various boils, brought together in the same barrel, do not yet constitute the eau-de-vie. They provide a liquid measuring approximately 25° to 26° centesimals, to which we give the names of phlegms, small water, white water, second water, boiled water, etc. Petite eau is the name adopted in Normandy.

Experience teaches that, to volatilize all the alcohol, it is necessary, on 100 kilos of must to:

It would therefore suffice to assess in advance the alcoholic richness of a cider in order to deduce the amount which it is important to distill in order to remove all the alcohol from it. This operation would also allow the yield to be fixed in advance.

With ciders measuring on average 5°, it will suffice to stop the distillation as soon as about a quarter of the product on which it is operated has been collected. But farmer distillers generally use a much simpler process to know when the distillation should be stopped. When they judge that the operation is nearing its end, they take a small amount of the liquid that comes out of the coil, spread it on the capital, and approach a lit match. [***]

If it still contains a sufficient quantity of alcohol, it catches fire; the distillation must then be continued until a new test gives a negative result.

In the second phase of the manufacture of eaux-de-vie, the aim of which is to obtain the final alcoholic liquor, the various fractions of the liquid resulting from the first distillation are combined to be subjected to a second and final distillation. We re-pass, as they say; the little water that is rectified providing cider eau-de-vie.

The first portions of eau-de-vie that pass bear about 80° centesimals. This measure will weaken as the distillation advances. If you want to obtain an eau-de-vie very rich in degrees, you can stop the operation as soon as the liquid which condenses only marks 56° centesimals. Otherwise, we can push the distillation a little further, as many distillers do, and stop only at 50° centesimals. Everything that has been obtained so far will provide the cider eau-de-vie.

The distillation is then continued, putting aside the products collected at the end of the operation, to add them to the small water intended for a subsequent rectification.

The mixture of distilled products, which constitutes the fresh eau-de-vie, ordinarily increases from 56° to 66° according to the duration of the distillation.

The residue of the rectification which has been subjected to small water is called rubiot. As it still contains a little alcohol, it is set aside to be added to the little water which will be obtained in the following operation, should it not take place until the following year or even later. [*** I have never heard of this term for second distillation stillage.]

The distillation of cider lees and apple marcs involves the same series of operations.

For apple marcs, it is quite natural to subject them to fermentation beforehand. For this purpose, they are packed in barrels from which one of the bottoms has been removed and they are moistened with a suitable quantity of slightly warm water. Then, with the barrels covered, fermentation is allowed to take place and when it is finished, we proceed to the distillation as we have just said.


Among the care to be taken in the distillation, there are some which fall within the meaning; they are those which consist in employing only perfectly maintained apparatus and in directing as regularly as possible the progress of the operation.

Badly cleaned stills almost always contain foul products, which impart a very unpleasant smell and taste to eau-de-vie. This repulsive smell that some ciders possess, caused by the presence of butyric acid, is found in their eaux-de-vie. [A degree of this is not practicing de-misting where the very first runnings of the still, which clean out the condensor containing residual tails, are discarded as a heads cut.]

It is the rule to avoid such ciders. But if, through negligenceor or for profit, they are subjected to distillation, it is absolutely necessary to clean the still which has just been used with the greatest care before proceeding with any subsequent distillation. The smell is, in fact, tenacious enough to communicate over to a good quality cider in the absence of this precaution and to the eau-de-vie that it would provide. In any case, it is important, after each heating, to drain the boiler and wash it thoroughly. A general cleaning of the apparatus, with coarse sand, then with water and finally with steam. Distilling pure water to wash the coil, is also necessary after each series of operations.

Farmer distillers generally use wood as fuel. The reasoning is because rather rudimentary installation of the hearth, would not include any other means of heating. It is easier for them to obtain an equal temperature, sufficient to cause regular distillation, than with charcoal, for example. And, as the quality of the eau-de-vie depends, to a certain extent, on the smooth running of the operation, they prefer heating with wood to that with coal, based on this practical remark, whose explanation is in the cause indicated above, that the spirits thus obtained are superior to those distilled with coal. [My understanding is that coal is pressed into standardized lumps and can be even easier to maintain consistent heat. Cognac producers has tables of how many coal units per hour to obtain he desired heat.]

We must, of course, prefer dry wood to green wood which heats irregularly. By first making a good start with dry wood, cut into small pieces, the cider is brought to the boil after an hour and the alcohol begins to distill.

At this time, it is advisable to decrease the draft a little by operating the register of the chimney and to maintain a very regular fire by supplying it with heavy wood.

This precaution must especially be observed when re-passing the little water, at the moment when the mèregoutte, that is to say the eau-de-vie which flows first, appears at the end of the coil.

Finally, when cider lees are distilled, it is more important than ever to moderate the temperature of the hearth to prevent any projection of the semi-fluid mass which lines the boiler and its passage through the coil. To obviate these unfortunate effects, the boiler should only be half full. If the lees are thick, it is necessary to make them acquire a suitable fluidity by adding the desired amount of water or better still, cider. [Prevent “puking” where non-volatile material flies through the still into the condenser.]

To avoid rimage, or burning, which results from adhesion of the lees to the boiler walls, it is useful to agitate the liquid mass which is done by using a piece of wood cut into a spatula. The boiler is covered with its capital at the moment when boiling is only beginning to appear and by the movement of the liquid, any deposit of the lees is prevented. But, by doing this, you always lose a certain amount of alcohol.

To overcome this drawback, Mr. Deroy builds boilers fitted with agitators which allow operation in a closed vessel from the start of heating and prevent lees adhesion throughout the course of distillation.

The same precautions should be observed when distilling marc in the ordinary still. We must make the mass more fluid by adding water and line the bottom of the boiler with very healthy straw to prevent the deposit from sticking to it, or better still with a grid, a sort of double bottom, which produces much more fortunately the same effect. [*** I’ve never heard of the straw idea. That is extra old school.]

In all cases, distillation must be regulated so that the liquid which flows from the coil falls in a thin stream, in a very regular manner, never in a sheet or in jolts. The liquid stream must not be bigger than a set of straw, than the tine of a fork, as the distillers say. [***More beautiful old fashioned advice I’ve never heard before.]

In summary, when operating over an open flame, which is the general case, distillation must be carried out with the greatest care, the temperature must always be kept at a regular and prolonged heat for boiling that the eau-de-vie owes part of its finesse. It is necessary to endeavor to avoid the shots which infallibly communicate to the liquid a burnt taste which is slow to disappear, by passing through it more or less dangerous foreign bodies. [This I suspect refers to super heating or bumping which may be prevented by boiling chips like pumice stones.]

And since it is from the head products that cider spirits owe their bad reputation, it would be wise, admitting the correctness of this opinion, to sacrifice the first few liters which pass from the rectification. Inspired by the same ideas, we should also reject the rabiot. The rabiot is, the inevitable residue of the distillation of phlegm, and naturally contains a notable quantity of tail products, products of which the small water is increasingly enriched since the residue of the previous operation are usually added after each rectification. [Here, we are seeing different advice on the rabiot.]

Without employing such a radical means, which would not fail to be costly, one can and must in order to obtain excellent eaux-de-vie, fraction the product of the distillation. Put aside the first parts which pass, to separate the ether’s and bad head tastes, then collect the eau-de-vie which flows and constitutes the hearts product. Up to 40° centesimals, alcoholic vapors are quite pure, but from this degree bad tail tastes appear and it becomes useful to separately collect the alcohol which distills. In order not to lose anything, the alcoholic liquids obtained at the beginning and the end of the operation are combined and mixed with the cider intended for the next batch. By taking care to operate this sort of selection on the various parts of the liquid which is subjected to distillation, we ultimately obtain a good quality product.


Apple quality influences cider quality, and cider quality also influences its eau-de-vie. A delicate cider always provides a fine eau-de-vie; a mediocre cider, a spoiled cider, do nothing good.

Ciders that ripen early, harden quickly, turn sour quickly, cannot provide good quality eau-de-vie. In this respect, the eau-de-vie of heavy ciders, obtained with a choice of third season apples, is unquestionably superior to that extracted from ciders made with first and even second season fruits. It is true that by subordinating the period of distillation to that when the cider attains all its qualities as an alcoholic drink, one could remedy the unfortunate effects resulting from the modifications which it undergoes with aging. But this is not the case, it is usually distilled at a fixed time. If this period is suitable for heavy ciders that reached their maximum alcoholicity without having experienced the alterations that affect less alcoholic drinks, it is not the same for ciders whose degree is not so high, whether it is due to the fruits used in their preparation or in the very preparation. Nevertheless, we distill in autumn because it is the moment to use the residue of the annual supply of cider and, for the sake of economy more or less understood, in order not to lose anything, we distill everything, spoiled ciders and even cider lees.

However, lees distillation provides, just like what happens with wine lees, very fragrant eaux-de-vie, it is true, but without finesse, much less delicate than those removed from ciders, and laden with harmful principles. In this regard our Norman producers must remember that it is absolutely false to say of distillation, as well as of fermentation, that it purifies everything. Discard the lees, distill only good ciders, this is the only way to obtain good eaux-de-vie in all respects.

In the years of abundance when transformation into alcohol of the sweet principle of the apple is of real interest, it is sometimes advisable to hasten the fermentation by seeding the musts with mycoderma cœrevisiæ or beer yeast to prepare for cider distillation. Despite good results for this process applied by skillful distillers, it is not exempt from all criticism. Indeed, alcohol generated under the influence of this ferment always contains, no matter the sweet generating principle, secondary products which can give it a detestable taste. Saccharomyces apiculatus, Pastorianus, ellipsoideus, yeasts of sweet fruits, hence of apple, have the immense advantage of providing normal butyl alcohol, while mycoderma cœrevisiæ gives rise to isobutyl alcohol which transmits to the ferment an unpleasant odor that we find in the 3/6 of commerce. Finally, production of amyl alcohol is, it seems, all the more active the more tumultuous the fermentation. Under such conditions, we can simply advise to shorten the start of fermentation by inoculating the musts, placed in vats with rapid fermentation, with yeast coming from a working must and to wait until the liquid has passed through all the phases of alcoholic fermentation to proceed to a fruitful distillation.

Eaux-de-vie quality varies with the terroirs. According to some Normans, eaux-de-vie from Dozulé and neighboring countries are strong, hard, but thin, much less melted, more sour, as they say to describe their lack of softness, than those of the surroundings of Livarot, Saint-Julien-le-Faucon, etc., and in general from the Vallée d’Auge. These latter eaux-de-vie enjoy a great reputation in Normandy. Eaux-de-vie of Mézidon, Livarot, Saint Julien-le-Faucon, are to those to the others, what are the eaux-de-vie of Cognac are to those of Armagnac and Montpellier.

Bayeux eaux-de-vie are generally quite fine, but the distillers of the region are used to prolonging the distillation to remove as much product as possible, to the detriment of the degree of alcohol and especially the taste of the eau-de-vie which also acquires an empyreumatic odor that it retains for a long time.

Manche eaux-de-vie have less finesse and often have an unpleasant taste of the terroir.

Orne eaux-de-vie contribute to the quality of the ciders in this department. They are generally very good.

The reasoned mixture of these various eaux-de-vie, that of Dozulé eaux-de-vie with Bayeux eaux-de-vie, for example, by providing some what the others lack, often gives excellent products. It is also claimed that adding a small amount of cognac improves cider eau-de-vie. The converse may be true; at least that is the opinion of certain Normans who are very fond of good cognac.

Like Cognac, cider eau-de-vie improves as it ages. It becomes soft, its bouquet is more natural, finer, less shocked. In stoneware jugs, in bottles, it gains little. Sandstone still allows it to weaken because of its porosity, but without however adding the slightest element to its quality, and glass constitutes a hermetic envelope completely opposing any subsequent modification. On the contrary, barrels of good local Trieste oak, allow acquiring with age the finesse that the connoisseur seeks.

A Limousin oak barrel, which has long been used to house quality eaux-de-vie, is the best container for new eaux-de-vie. It still gives them a substantial amount of soluble principles to impart a very pleasant light astringency, a special bouquet and a beautiful color. We have proof of this in the following remark which we were able to make.

One of our parents having bought at an auction one of these old casks of fairly large capacity, containing only a few liters of extra eau-de-vie, reduced by age to 38° centesimals, had the idea of accommodating all his provisions there, hoping to improve them quickly. What he had foreseen was perfectly realized and his eau-de-vie, still very young but of good origin, acquired in a few months a smoothness and a finesse that it would certainly have been achieved only after many years. This bottled liquor has given way to other who, it seems, did not take long to improve in a very appreciable way.

In the absence of such a barrel, preference can be given to barrels which have contained good cider. The eau-de-vie decreases in degree quite quickly and acquires a pleasant color after a short time.

Cider eau-de-vie, like that of wine, should not be placed in barrels which have never been used, otherwise it borrows from them a very threatening and very unpleasant woody taste. When new barrels are used for sale or for transport, a good precaution is to wash them several times in boiling water, to scald them, as they say. Despite this, the eau-de-vie should not be allowed to stay in such containers for a long time. It will be necessary, for storage, to place it in old barrels offering the required conditions.

Let us not forget that, to some extent, the right barrel makes the right eau-de-vie.

For their maturation, it is usually advisable to place the eaux-de-vie in a cool place, in barrels to be filled. Recent eaux-de-vie, which are therefore very alcoholic, are well suited to a stay in a humid place, old eaux-de-vie in a very dry place. By acting in this way, we ensure, as long as possible, the reduction of new eaux-de-vie and the preservation of the strength of eaux-de-vie which have arrived at the point.

This reduction is taking place little by little. As it ages, the cask spirit loses a little more than half a degree per year. A fresh eau-de-vie which measures 60° centesimals, for example, does not have more than 52° to 54° after ten years. At the same time as this reduction takes place, it takes on color, a less fluid consistency, a little creamy, a much more melted taste and acquires a bouquet of great finesse. [Kervegant and Arroyo described a style of production we could call aging to completion where a spirit goes into the barrel with the idea that it will age until it is drinking stregth and no water will be added. If a spirit should be aged longer, it must start higher which also works against aging, so a sweet spot emerges that also happens to produce extraordinary results.]

At this time, to avoid too much lowering of the degree, it is advisable to proceed to bottling.

The most basic care to be observed in this operation consists in using absolutely clean, well drained, completely dry bottles, corking them with good cork, without forcing the cork too much and keeping them upright in a place away from humidity and too much heat.



Considered from the point of view of the impact its adoption can produce on the economy, cider eau-de-vie generally enjoys a rather bad reputation.

According to some scientists, this eau-de-vie, compared to that of marc, would be much more toxic and yet the latter already contains elements absolutely harmful to health. Therefore, cider eau-de-vie would be very dangerous. This toxicity would result from the high amount of head products, mainly aldehyde, and tail products it contains.

Before checking this statement, we will begin, to clarify the question, by providing some information on the value of the various alcoholic products to which the name cider eau-de-vie is indiscriminately attributed, the consequence of which a confusion is to bring serious damage to the reputation of the latter.

We understand most often under this name all alcoholic liqueurs prepared with apples. It is wrong. There is in fact no comparison to be made, from the point of view of hygiene, between eau-de-vie withdrawn from cider itself and that which is extracted from the cider lees and apple marcs. In this respect, there is an equally great difference between these various products as between similar liquids of which the grape is the generator.

Now, given that cider is not more dangerous than wine, is it not reasonable to establish, as is done for the latter, a profound distinction between eau-de-vie which comes from cider and the one prepared by treatment of lees and marc?

And, indeed, if the distillation of grape marc only allows collecting a very inferior liquid poisoned by the heavy infected oils retained in the seed, the skin and the stalk, distillation of apple marc, which is carried out under similar conditions, in the presence of factors of the same kind, can only give a product of low quality, containing the same impurities.

The fact is so well recognized that, in order to avoid this pitfall, it is recommended, from the point of view of the use of marc, to abandon their direct distillation and to have recourse to that of the pits [piquettes] resulting from their washing.

In Normandy and in the countries where the cider industry flourishes, apple marcs are exceptionally treated for the direct preparation of eau-de-vie. They are almost exclusively used in the manufacture of blending ciders and weak ciders, sorting of cores which may subsequently be subjected to distillation without inconvenience.

Unfortunately, distillation of poorly preserved bearish [baissière] ciders, more or less spoiled cider lees, is carried out on a large scale and appears to be the source of products that it is most wrong to confuse with those whose good preparation ensures quality.

Finally, there is a practice whose application causes serious damage to the reputation of cider eaux-de-vie, we mean the deplorable use, certainly too widespread, which consists of adding to a variable quantity to cider eaux-de-vie, sometimes reaching half the weight of the liquid, an alcohol whose impurity can not be the slightest doubt.

Currently, the real cider eau-de-vie, well prepared, exempt of any addition, is probably as rare in stores open to passing consumers as real cognac.

The fact that its production is not in line with its ever-increasing consumption, finds its explanation in part and, as we have already said, in the clandestine sale of which it is the object and also in the introduction of industrial alcohols. For their ever for important manufacturing reaches an extraordinary development at the present time. However, since it is recognized that the production of eaux-de-vie, both those of cider and those of wine, has not followed consumption in its rapid progression and that, on the other hand, diseases of all kinds, engendered by alcoholism, have increased in frightening proportions, should we not see in this the effects of a cause which does not lie so much in the eau-de-vie itself as in the nature of products delivered to the consumer under this name?

Indeed, today, addition of industrial alcohols to cider eau-de-vie is a custom unfortunately too followed.

This addition can be done before, during or after the distillation. When it is to the eau-de-vie itself, it changes the taste and smell and is easily recognized. Also, the mixture is likely to cloud up and settle out later. When it is practiced on the little water to be repassed, or better still on the cider to be distilled, it becomes more difficult to notice it.

By adding cider, intended to be distilled, to the alcohol which it is proposed to add, the latter is found in the conditions of the alcohol produced naturally. Like natural alcohol, it is subject to the influence of excess acids and, in a general way, it participates in the various reactions which occur before and during the course of the distillation. Under such conditions, it becomes very difficult for the common consumer to appreciate by smell and taste, the difference from the alcohols from which the eau-de-vie comes. This is what happens when Charentes distillers add industrial alcohols to the wines they intend to produce cognacs, which they are careful not to add to the eaux-de-vie themselves. [This is probably the dirty secret of far too many products from the end of the 19th century. It brough on both prohibition in the U.S. and pure product laws.]

If alcohol addition was practiced with hearts alcohols, or neutral alcohols, there would be only half harm, but it is far from being so. Distillers, more concerned with their interests than the health of consumers, usually use the most ordinary alcohol.

We must speak out vigorously against this deplorable practice because it tends to spread more and more among distillers, who distill under cover of the law of December 14, 1875, of which we quote the single article: [I believe this law was designed to support small farmer distillers. Grigon called them “cru distillers”.]

“The owners and farmers who distill wines, marc, ciders, plums, cherries, coming exclusively from their harvests, are exempt from all prior declaration and are exempt from any dispensation.” [Dispensation here, is translated from exercise and even may relate to a fiscal year. I think it means true farmer distillers can be informal and possibly not keep records.]

First of all, this law seems to encourage the farmer. In reality, it is only an emergency law, abused by the one for whose benefit it was enacted. Fraud has always existed. The producer, after making a profit, always feels the temptation to go beyond his rights and to remove as much as possible the fruit of his labor from the pretensions of the tax which he considers unjust and vexatious. Also, what is happening in Normandy? The owner of apple orchards, who distills uncontrollably and freely, does not just distill the produce of his crops. Buying at low prices, the ciders and lees which constitute the residues of the past year, he increases his provisions at will. If the farmer distiller removed from his supplies the completely secondary products that were offered at a low price, the operation would not be injurious to public health. But, more often than not, this is not so. And besides, that’s not all. As it is much easier to use commercial alcohol, the greedy producer does not hesitate to contribute this new source of profit. He then distills as much as he can and engages in the sale, very often clandestine, of a product for which he always finds a buyer, while avoiding paying the taxes.

As can be seen, the fixing of a maximum production is essential in all respects as regards the farmer distiller.

In wine-growing countries, fraud is even more active and there is no fear of mixing alcoholic liquors taken from natural products, such as beets, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, with the drinks that are distilled, turnips and grains in general: products not mentioned in the law of 1875.

In Normandy, it is rare, if not exceptional, that the farmer distiller is engaged in the manufacture of alcoholic liquids. Low-quality store-bought alcohol pays the price. We should even consider ourselves happy if he does not add this alcohol to the rabiots left by the phlegms from which he first extracts eau-de-vie that he preciously sets aside, to remove from this infected mixture a liquor, primarily harmful, which it pours into the circulation under the name of cider eau-de-vie.

Under this misleading title, this is in reality the series of products that one is likely to encounter. And if we wanted to provide these few explanations, it is to clearly specify the distance which separates alcohol withdrawn from good ciders by a well-conducted distillation, from liquids designated without distinction, for the convenience of unscrupulous industrialists, under the usurped name of cider eau-de-vie. [I’ve only ever had one 19th century spirit, and I think it was total junk.]

The product [cider eau-de-vie] to which this name should be absolutely reserved, is often claimed, also and even more dangerous than grape marc eau-de-vie? This is what we now propose to examine by employing chemical reagents, the effects of which allow us to appreciate from this point of view the relative value of these liquors.


The particular case of eau-de-vie quality which interests us is their respective value as more or less pure alcohols and containing a variable quantity of head and tail products.

At present, appraisal of eau-de-vie merits while found in tasting a precious auxiliary, is also based on the application of certain chemical processes which make it possible to observe the greater or lesser quantity of impurities which they contain. [The language here is really challenging, but Grignon is trying to go from purely qualitative organoleptic assessment to semi-quantitative using colorimetric (color change) reactions. He may believe these are easy enough to perform for a farmer distiller or to be used in a case of suspected fraud.]

Alongside generally complicated methods, execution of which transforms spirit examination into a sort of quantitative analysis and requires real laboratory work, there are others within everyone’s reach, much simpler and faster, implementation of which does not require any special equipment and presents no difficulty. If they do not have the advantage of providing precise results, expressed by figures, they constitute in reality only simple tests and nevertheless make it possible to form a fairly correct idea of the value of the liquids that you want to enjoy.

Successfully applied to the search for impurities in industrial alcohols, we believe them capable of rendering us the same services in the qualitative analysis of spirits practiced from this special point of view.

These tests are based on the property that alcoholic impurities have of being able to be detected by means of certain color reactions, the intensity of which is always in relation to the proportion of foreign bodies which cause them.

Here, moreover, is what they consist of.

To detect the head products, aldehydes and ethers, the following tests will be used:

1. TEST BY POTASSIUM. — Equal parts of the alcohol to be tested, 15 cc, and a 20% caustic potash solution are placed in a plugged tube. The mixture is slowly boiled.

Pure alcohol does not give rise to any appreciable coloration. An impure alcohol takes on a color that varies from pale yellow to brown depending on its richness in aldehydes.

2. GODEFROY PROCESS (Part I). – In a test tube, pour 6 to 7 cc of the product to be examined and only one drop of chemically pure cristatallisable benzine. Mix by stirring, then add 6 to 7 cc of 66° Baumé sulfuric acid. Stir again, with great care, to effect the mixing.

Pure alcohol does not provide any coloration, at most a pinkish tint is observed after ten minutes. The alcohol which contains head products immediately acquires a color which varies from light brown yellow to black depending on its richness in impurities.

3. TEST BY POTASSE DIAZOSULFANILATE. — The reagent used is prepared as follows:

5 grams of pure sodium sulfanilate are dissolved in 14 cc of distilled water; then 2 grams of sodium nitrite in 2 cc of water. These two solutions, prepared separately, are combined and the resulting liquor is poured into 35 cc of a mixture of 25 cc of hydrochloric acid and 75 cc of distilled water. The white precipitate of diazosulfanilic acid which is produced is collected and dissolved in a weak solution of caustic potash which is added until a slight alkaline reaction; then we dilute with a small quantity of water.

1 to 2 cc of this reagent, thus obtained, is added by stirring into 15 cc of the product under examination. This immediately gives an intense red color in the case of an impure alcohol. With an alcohol which contains only traces of aldehydes, the coloring does not appear until after a certain time.

4. TEST BY DISOLORED FUCHSINE. – By dissolving 1 gram of fuchsin in boiling water and making up the volume of 1 liter cold, a solution is obtained which is decolorized by adding 20 cc of sodium bisulfite in aqueous liquor measuring 30° B. At the end of a few hours, 10 cc of concentrated hydrochloric acid are added.

The reagent thus prepared is added in equal part of the alcohol to be tested; 5 cc is enough.

Absolutely pure alcohol does not color. Alcohol, more or less loaded with aldehydes, takes on a color that varies from pale pink to dark purple. This color reaches its maximum intensity after ten minutes, lasts for some time, then gradually weakens.

To detect the presence of tail products, alcohols higher than ethyl alcohol and other substances which constitute the major part of the tail fusels or impurities, the following methods are used:

1. Test BY SULFURIC ACID. — Pour 15 cc of alcohol to be examined into an experimental glass, and add 15 cc sulfuric acid at 66° Baume. Shake vigorously.

If the alcohol is pure, the mixture remains colorless, otherwise it becomes more or less brown, depending on its richness in essential oils. [This may be the only relavent test and could be peformed on fraction 4 of the birectifier where 75% of fusel oil is isolated. 66° Baume sulfuric acid may be what Kervegant called monohydrate and I believe that is 50% pure.]

2. GODEFROY PROCESS (part 2). – If, in the search for head products, carried out as previously mentioned, the alcohol remains colorless, it is because it does not contain head impurities, and, in this case, we go to evaluate tail products. For this purpose, the mixture is brought to boil, then it is left to itself for two or three minutes.

It takes on an ocher-yellow color if it is a pure alcohol. The color is on the contrary brown with green fluorescence, if this alcohol contains tail products. This green fluorescence is characteristic of the presence of fusel oil:

3. ANILINE ACETATE TEST. – Add to 1 cc of pure, colorless aniline placed in an experiment glass, 1 cc of crystallizable and pure acetic acid. The mixing being well carried out by stirring, one transfers, with great care, 10 to 15 cc of the product which is examined.

If it contains tail impurities, we see, in a short time, a redcurrant color first appear in the zone of diffusion of the two liquids, then it grows to the entire mass. This coloring is due to the furfurol which generally accompanies fusel oils.


Going from theory to practice, results are going to be provided for the previous tests applied comparing, cider eau-de-vie and grape marc eau-de-vie.

But first, let’s provide some information on the nature and origin of the eaux-de-vie that we obtained.

Eau-de-vie samples that we used were not supplied to us by the trade. They were sent to us by relatives, by friends who willingly become distillers when the occasion is favorable.

Most of the eaux-de-vie intended for analysis, collected at the outset, on our recommendation, in glass containers, were completely colorless.

The fact deserves to be pointed out, because it has enabled us to submit them directly to the action of chemical agents whose effect results in color reactions, without having to subject them to any prior treatment.

For only one or two, who, after a stay in cask for a longer or shorter period, had acquired a color whose intensity did not allow direct application of the analytical methods mentioned, we had to resort to distillation in order to rid them of their coloring matter.

Unfortunately, our tests only involved a very small number of samples. The difficulty in obtaining natural products of certain origin partly explains the little extension that we have given to this research. However, it seems preferable to us to ignore results provided by liquids whose origin offered us no guarantee and to bring back only those which have given us absolutely authentic eaux-de-vie.

As a result, the samples, of which we will communicate the comparative examination, are reduced to the following:
A. Fresh, colorless eau-de-vie, taken from an excellent Bayeux cider;
B. Fresh eau-de-vie, made from a first quality cider from the Auge valley;
C. Fresh eau-de-vie, made with pure cider from around Mézidon:
D. Fifteen-year-old eau-de-vie, from the Fontenaill terroir, near Bayeux;
E. Eau-de-vie from La Manche, with ten years of cask:
F. Marc de Bourgogne eau-de-vie, recently made:
G. New eau-de-vie from Marc du Midi;
H. Fresh eau-de-vie from Algerian marc.

In order to focus the reactions on quantities of alcohol which are always identical and thereby facilitate comparison of the types tested, we have reduced these various eaux-de-vie to the measure of 50° centesimals, by a suitable addition of distilled water.

We present, in the form of a table, results which we obtained by subjecting the samples previously designated to the action of the reagents whose effects we have just indicated.

If we take a look at this table, it is easy for us to make the following remarks:

Cider eaux-de-vie provide, from the point of view of impurities at the top, very attenuated reactions: some even do not occur.

Marc eaux-de-vie offered them all, with a very sufficiently characteristic intensity.

With regard to tail products, the same observations should be made. Furfurol in particular, of which cider eaux-de-vie are more or less examples, is found quite clearly in those of marc.

Here, now, the consequences which we deduce from these various tests, for the samples examined at least.

Cider eaux-de-vie do not contain as much aldehyde as one would like to say; they often retain only traces of it, and they always contain much less than marc eau-de-vie.

The proportion of tail products is relatively low, and in any case much lower than that found in marc.

All the impurities are there, therefore, in a much smaller amount.

As a conclusion, we will admit, until proof to the contrary, that good quality cider eau-de-vie, those which come only from well-conducted distillation of good ciders, are much superior to grape marc eau-de-vie, not being appreciably less pure than those of wine. In all likelihood, it could not be other, if we do not address cider spirits of bad origin, poorly prepared or adulterated.

List of the main works and publications consulted:

DE ROUTTEVILLE HAUCHECORNE. — Le Cidre. Rouen, 1875, Deshays.

DEROY. — Petit manuel de la distillation du cognac et des eaux-de-vie. Paris, 1889.

DUJARDIN-BEAUMETZ et AUDIGÉ. — Recherches expérimentales sur la puissance toxique des alcools. Paris, 1879, Doin.
— Recherches sur l’alcoolisme chronique. Paris, 1880, Doin.

GERARDIN. — Leçons de chimie élémentaire. Paris, 1886, Masson.

GRANDEAU. — L’alcool, la santé publique. Paris, 1888, Librairie du Temps

Journal de pharmacie et de chimie. Nos parus du 15 septembre au 15 décembre 1888.

LABORDE. — Académie de médecine. Bulletin du 8 octobre, 1888.

LABORDE e MAGNAN. — Annales d’hygiène publique et de médecine légale, 1887.

LARBALÉTRIER. — L’alcool. Paris, 1888, J.-B. Baillière.

LECŒUR. — Le cidre et le poire. Revue mensuelle, octobre 1889, Argentan.

LEPINE. — Société de biologie. Paris, 9 juillet 1887.

LESUEUR. — La pomme en Normandie. Caen, 1887, Massif.

MAGNAN. — Société de biologie. Paris 9 juillet 1887.

ORDONNEAU. — Alcool et eaux-de-vie. Paris, 1883, Doin.

PORTES et RUYSSEN. — Le vin. Paris, 1889, Doin.

VIGNERON. — Le distillateur pratique. Librairie spéciale, Paris.

VINONT. — Le cidre et le poire. Revue mensuelle. Argentan, 1er janvier 1890.

1 thought on “Grignon — L’Eau-de-Vie de Cidre — 1890

  1. Cheers, thank you for translating this! I make apple brandy and cider brandy professionally and have a few comments.

    “But we use apple marcs which provide an average yield of 6 to 7 liters per riceton of marc, that is to say per 210 liters. [Not sure about riceton of the implications of marc. Is that pomace volume that could be distilled or the distillate?]”
    -I don’t know ‘riceton’ but 6-7 L of distillate per half ton of apple pomace would be about right I think. 210 liters is close to a quarter ton, so perhaps its that.

    “they provide a liquid measuring approximately 25° to 26° centesimals, to which we give the names of phlegms, small water, white water, second water, boiled water, etc. Petite eau is the name adopted in Normandy.”
    – I think it would be more useful to give those names in the original french, as the english translations are never used.

    “[My understanding is that coal is pressed into standardized lumps and can be even easier to maintain consistent heat. Cognac producers has tables of how many coal units per hour to obtain he desired heat.]”
    -A principle reason to use wood is that apple wood would be abundant from orchard pruning. The variability in wood size and type can give more control (or less depending on who is doing it). Coal, depending on its origin and make up is also more destructive to the still bottom. And finally, spirit is relatively absorbent of aroma/smoke (voila the glass-cloched smoky Manhattan of the 2010 cocktail world) which might be part of the certain something woodfired stills have.

    “make the mass more fluid by adding water and line the bottom of the boiler with very healthy straw to prevent the deposit from sticking to it, or better still with a grid, a sort of double bottom, which produces much more fortunately the same effect. [*** I’ve never heard of the straw idea. That is extra old school.]”
    -I’ve seen this done with plum and cherry brandy in Slovenia, Romania, etc , as they are often distilled as whole fruit rather than cider/wine and more likely to burn over direct fire. I recently distilled some cider that was pressed with hay and it imparts a distinct coumarin flavor to the distillate.

    ” it is recommended, from the point of view of the use of marc, to abandon their direct distillation and to have recourse to that of the pits [piquettes] resulting from their washing.”
    -pit is probably not a good translation, piquette is a 2nd run cider/wine made from rewetting the pomace with water and pressing it again. With apples the liquid is sometimes called ciderkin or watercider in english. I have distilled some but the pH can be very high which imparts a different flavor.

    “[Dispensation here, is translated from exercise and even may relate to a fiscal year. I think it means true farmer distillers can be informal and possibly not keep records.]”
    -Dispensation in this context I believe means free of taxes, the dispensation still remains in french law (the 1000 degrees, 10L at 100degree was tax free until 1954) but is much more limited

    Thanks again for your work translating this!

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