The stepping stones of analysis and a cry for help (· · · – – – · · ·)

I’ve slowly read every major book on distillation and probably 150 journal articles in the last few years. The punch line is that just like fine wine was made possible by the laboratory (just like the kings of Napa, Mike Grgich and Warren Winierski, would tell you), craft spirits will also be a product of the lab, and not many new distilleries are running labs. This unfortunately means that only the big guys are craft but that doesn’t have to be the case.

My idea has been to slowly explore spirits analysis in little steps and build a valuable skill set as well as share everything to elevate the new distillery movement. One thing I’m seeing is that for many small distilleries to stay open in saturated markets, they will have to rely on their tasting rooms for revenue. In a tasting room, it will soon be apparent that a portfolio of three products probably won’t cut it. Tasting rooms will need elaborate cocktail programs and legally will have to fabricate small batches of products like orange liqueurs to show off the core products. This orange liqueur among many others will never be sold out the back door (saturated market) but rather just be used in house and possibly be sold out the front door because many tasting rooms can operate like liquor stores.

So, for an orange liqueur to be made in small batches, some competitor analysis has to be performed on the likes of cointreau and grand marnier such as sugar content, alcohol content (before sugaring), and the weight of the aroma. The liqueur will then be assembled in a robust, paint by numbers process where a great product is made without tons of man hours or tying up people for tasting panels. Years ago I figured out elegant ways to measure alcohol and sugar content (via hydrometry without sacrificing a sample) but what about the weight of the aroma? and how the hell do you standardize your charge of peels when the oil content varies so much? That is the skill set we need to be returned to common knowledge!

So far, the answer to finding the weight of orange aroma in an orange liqueur is liquid-liquid extraction using intense, hazardous, organic solvents like iso-octane, hexane, and dichloromethane. The exotic solvents require a fisher scientific account and clearance to ship them so not everyone can play with this stuff. They also require lots of reading and safety training to handle properly (though it is nothing too extreme). The same solvents can be used again for measuring oil yield of botanicals using a piece of glassware called a soxhlet extractor which is a priceless skill for a distillery lab.

I’ve been exploring this and spending considerable money in the hopes that it will launch a lot of ships. What I don’t know and need help with is the full potential of liquid-liquid extraction. You see it in a lot of spirits research papers because it is used for sample preparation for GC-MS and it is described in a lot of the modern advanced texts but not in any specific detail or with vouched for Modernist Cuisine style best bets which is what we all need.

First a tiny overview of liquid-liquid extraction. Powerful orangic solvents with very low boiling points that are immiscible in ethanol* and water* are mixed with a spirit. The organic solvents will mix just like oil and water but their solvent power will pull congeners out of the ethanol and water. Eventually the organic solvents can be separated with a separatory funnel. Their boiling points are so drastically different from the congeners dissolved in them that vacuum distillation (solvent recovery) or sometimes just putting a fan on them (expensive sacrifice!) is enough to separate and isolate the congeners. The asterisk is for organic solvents that form an azeotrope and suck up tiny amounts of water or ethanol, but simple methods can be used to “dry” them.

What I just described is the batch process and its pretty easy but has some limitations. So far little globules of emulsion (which I need to identify but are probably aromatic oils) cling to the sides of the glass and need to be rinsed out with more solvent (expensive!). Smaller size glassware tailored for the batch might minimize this cling via reducing the surface area available to cling. Some descriptions of the batch process (not in a spirits context) use multiple iterations to extract as much as possible which is not a big deal if you can recover your solvents in a vacuum still.

Most spirits chemists isolate congeners to prepare samples for GC/MS analysis. Once the solvent is evaporated they don’t need to perfectly remove every bit from the glass and can work with batch sizes as small as 30 mL. My idea is that if the batch size is scaled up dramatically to a liter, what is extracted from say an orange liqueur can be weighed with a jewelers scale that does 1/100 of a gram. Just knowing the weight of the dissolved orange essence will get you squarely in the ball park. The problem is that no researchers use my scaled up 3rd world method because they have PhD’s, big budgets, and are in the GC/MS era. What I have going for my hunch is that I am the guy that figured out you can even measure carbonation with a kitchen scale!

Long ago I read a paper from the 1970′s where scientists were pioneering liquid-liquid extraction sample preparation for the study of gin. They were using Freon-11 (which is now banned for its effects on the ozone). These guys were concerned that their sample was representative of the gin so once they extracted all the gin congeners, they re-dissolved them in vodka and drank it! and then compared it to the original gin! If you have a reliable vacuum still, what you extract from the point of view of a chemist is drinkable! (but I’d use extreme caution, though most of the solvents smell like rubber cement which makes incomplete separations easier to spot).

A problem I’ve been having is I don’t think my samples are representative. I’m leaving way too much aroma behind in my gin test material. I took my organic solvent blend from a recent study on a gin (which might be a red herring to support a patent that should be bogus) and I think the process might call into question their results. Or I’m just new at this and am missing something. I’m using a 1:1 blend of Hexane and Dichloromethane and using the batch process with just one iteration like in the study, yet a significant amount of juniper aroma lingers in the ethanol-water of the gin.

Another options is to use a continuous liquid-liquid extractor and some are described in modern spirits texts but not with any real guidelines, best bets, or testimonials. I’d love to try one but the glassware starts to hit $500 to $1000 dollars very quickly (with no testimonial they work in this context!). Continuous extractors run small amounts of solvent through the spirit in a loop where at one point in the loop the extracted congeners are separated from the solvent by evaporation and the clean solvent is run back through the loop. These rigs take up not insignificant counter space and run sometimes for sixteen hours. I’m not afraid to pay for one but finding counter space and sixteen hours is a big challenge. But keep in mind this analysis only has to be performed once and then can be shared by the distilling community!

Once we know there is X mg of dissolved orange oil in each liter of quality, intuitive-to-use orange liqueur, we can elaborate the process we learned slightly. We can use the next extraction tool which is the soxhlet extractor. We place 100 grams or so of orange peel into our extractor and start to draw the essential oil out of it. This type of extractor also runs in a continuous loop for numerous hours unattended and there are lots of Youtube videos that show them in action. Once the solvent is separated by vacuum distillation we will know how much oil is in every 100 grams of peels which will change often dramatically with each batch of peels. If we just weigh the peels and throw them in the still, the oil yield will be wacky and the product will be inconsistent, but if we scale the botanical charge for oil yield, we will have a much better standard and it will open a lot of doors to taking on new botanical sources while hitting a higher standard of product consistency.

Two more important things. A steam distillation rig, designed to produce essential oils, can also ball park the oil yield but it is an inferior method (but we are concerned with affordable stepping stones! so do explore, especially if you have no access to exotic solvents!). The most important thing is that this procedure of measuring oil yield can scale up to all the botanicals that come through the distillery. The full botanical charge of everything from gin to absinthe to amaro to bitters can be standardized for increased product consistency and this is the skill set. What we need are best bets, testimonials, and what-ifs answers, and Youtube videos. Many distillers working with botanicals are not standardizing their charges because of a false sense of consistency. Yes, supply chain management for botanicals is staggeringly more advanced than it was decades ago, but if you want to get off the beaten path, and forage, or grow your own, or seek terroir, you need at least this very basic laboratory analysis.

The plywood whiskey barrels that inspired the Eames recliner

Not many people know this, but this chair (which I own a reproduction of) was directly inspired by plywood whiskey barrels. (I qualify this assertion because it looks like its made from cut cross sections of plywood whiskey barrels)

I finally tracked down the IRS internal communication on aging whiskey for four years in plywood barrels [PDF] from 1950. There is still an eight year update that I haven’t been able to locate but I’m working on that. The four year paper was very tricky to find. It had a WorldCat entry unlike many of the other IRS internal communications, but it generated an error that could not locate the library that held the record. The trick was to contact WorldCat via their tool for correcting database errors. (I might have pretended to be my local library) and I asked them: if no library is listed as the record holder then who created the record in the first place?

I assumed the creator of the record would be the record holder. This information is not publicly displayed and WorldCat revealed the library to be the Forest Products Research Laboratory library which is a U.S. government organization. The library claimed they could not help non-employees but they were able to be sweet talked (saying #whiskey gets you really far these days!). Besides digitizing the paper, these wonderful people even went through the card catalog and gave me some great related citations to pursue down the road. It turns out a nice amount of work has been done on barrels made from veneers.

I have mentioned the plywood whiskey paper before and included drawings from a 1944 patent application to help people visualize the process of making the barrels (I have been assembling a team to produce some of the barrels!)

The paper is interesting and its scope is far more extensive than I would have guessed. The barrels of three different manufacturers were distributed among 13 participating distilleries for a total of 40 different plywood aged whiskeys. Two manufacturers used only oak while one manufacturer used a combination of oak and maple.

The results of the study are fairly easy to follow, but are not necessarily encouraging for the use of plywood barrels to create products resembling Bourbon which traditionally relies on the highest quality first use barrels. The manufacturer using maple produced significantly inferior results to the other two which used only oak and the 100% oak plywood barrels still produced much lighter and thus inferior results compared to staves. The problem might be the sourcing within the tree for the oak. If the veneers have to be the same quality as a stave, then why not just stick to staves?

The results do not nullify the use of plywood barrels. They just can’t be intended for first use scenarios like Bourbon but rather might be suitable for rum or gins perhaps with interesting aromatic veneers such as cedar. One issue the paper mentions is the adhesives used to affix the veneers. Leaching into the spirit was not a problem, but rather the issue was creating too much of an impermeable layer for the barrel to breath through sort of like how some barrels are lined with paraffin wax first (often grappa). Adhesion could probably be reconsidered with modern inert options and the possibility of creating channels of permeability so barrel breathing can be maximized.

If you want to get in on our test run of plywood barrels, please shoot me an email with your intended use, your concerns, your ideas, or anything relevant that is on your mind.

“Muck Hole” Not “Dunder Pit”

The previous post contains an account of making Jamaican rum from a 1911 text on Cane Sugar from a renowned sugar technologist at the experiment station of the Hawaiian sugar planters association. The account very briefly explains the various cisterns used for preparing all parts of the sugar wash and uses the (new to me) term “muck hole” as opposed to the term “dunder pit” which many rum talkers like to throw around. True Jamaican rums had dunder added, which just implied stillage, but they also had a quotient added called flavour, which is the legendary refermented portion. Not all of Jamaica made heavy, flavoured or German rums, they also made clean rums. Many people today are confused on what style of rum is represented by Wray & Nephews OP or Trelawny OP. They are unique relative to other clear rums but probably do not see any of the flavouring technique.

“If common clean rum is being made, stick to common clean and never allow things to drift in the directions of making flavoured rum in the pious hopes that you may wake up some day to find that you have become famous by making flavoured rum where it was never made before. You are much more likely to find an enfuriated Busha awaiting to tell you that your services are no longer required on that estate.”

Searching google books for “muck hole” many great explanations of Jamaican rum production come up as well as one particular old text that is basically the holy grail tell-all of Jamaican rum making at the beginning of the 20th century. I do not not believe this text is known to popular culinary or even the new distilling scene.

Report on the experimental work of the sugar experiment station (1905)

The text is pretty amazing and has staggering amounts of data on experiments conducted. The PDF was scanned poorly and is not searchable, but the content is so historically significant I might be tempted to re-type parts of it over so they are easier to use. Previously, I did not believe there were any works this scholarly being done at this time period concerning rum. It almost seems more advanced than works concerning whiskey or brandy and isn’t listed in any bibliographies that I know of. There is even an appendix of “Lectures on fermentation in relation to Jamaica rum as delivered at the Course for Distillers at the government laboratory in 1906 by Charles Allan, B.Sc.” (PDF p. 284). A likely reason for the advanced nature of the content relative to works of the same time by Scottish researcher S.H. Hastie is that Allan had carte blanche access to whatever he wanted with no legal restrictions unlike Hastie who was severely constrained by the rules of the excise officers.

The text is a compendium of three sections written over three years and at the end of each section rum production is discussed and the author’s handle on the subject gets better and better until finally he pretty much unlocks the secrets of muck hole bacterial fermentations.

Solids from the dunder go into the muck hole. These solids which are pretty much completely composed of high acid spent lees undergo a particular bacterial fermentation which produces increased amounts of fatty acids, notably butyric. The muck hole is essentially a pH sensitive bio reactor that is started and stopped constantly by the addition of alkaline lime marl. Besides stalling out with too low a pH, if the muck hole was neglected, the prized fatty acids would continue to break down into simpler molecules like ammonia, but when lime is added and the pH rises, fatty acids are also locked up as salts. Muck can be drawn off or more dunder solids added and the process restarted. Many rum talkers claim the content of the pits could be decades old but I suspect the break down of chemical compounds into undesirable forms like ammonia would not permit this and the contents rather were/are at most only from the previous seasons production.

A wash for a Jamaican rum is composed of sugar cane skimmings, dunder, acid, molasses, and flavour. Deconstructing all these terms is tricky and here is my best shot. Sugar cane skimmings could imply fresh sugar can juice, which was known to be added to Jamaican rums. Dunder here is nothing re-fermented but rather just stillage from a previous distillation similar to backset used in the sour mash process. Acid, believe it or not, implies sugar cane vinegar and its role is a clever chemistry trick I’ll discuss next. Molasses is the molasses you’d expect, and flavour, finally, is the muck.

The muck is full of lime marl / fatty acid salts which are essentially locked up in a non-volatile form and need the acid, again also said as sugar cane vinegar, to unlock. I learned about this concept intimately when creating the Tabasco aromatized gin recipe for my Distiller’s Workbook. The acetic acid in the Tabasco needs to be locked up as a non-volatile salt using baking soda so it does not carry over into the distillate. The chemistry concepts are also masterfully explained in Peter Atkins book Reactions. In the Jamaican rum context, the addition of acetic acid to the muck changes the bonds between the lime marl and a portion of the other fatty acids releasing them to participate in future reactions such as acid catalyzed esterification. So the most common shortest chain fatty acid, acetic, trades places with the longer more noble fatty acids created in muck hole and become linked up as salts with the lime marl.

The author gives the proportions of sample mashes but doesn’t explain how they are assembled. The muck and sugar cane vinegar could be thrown in with all the other components or left to react independently and then the newly formed lime marl / acetic acids salts separated and the more noble mixture added to the skimmings, molasses, and dunder. The latter option makes the most sense from a chemical perspective.

“Distillery work”, PDF page 471 is also worth a look.

Using google books, five more references were easily findable describing the muck hole and the use of lime. For some reason none of the PDFs are searchable nor can text be copied and pasted from them. The two 1913 sources and the 1920 seem mostly plagiarized from each other.

The Chemical Age Volume XVIII July-December 1913

The School of mines quarterly A journal of applied science vol. XXXIV 1913

Food Products by Henry Clapp Sherman 1920

British and Foreign Spirits by Charles Tovey 1864

West Indian Bulletin Great Britain Imperial Dept. of Agriculture for the West Indies Vol. VI 1906 (this book looks especially cool!) The manufacture of Jamaican rum is discussed on PDF page 584 and is a summary of Charles Allan’s work in Jamaica which is quite good and fills in some pieces missing in the text from the experiment station. It gets interesting when he starts to paint a broader portrait and gives his opinions of the industry.

Once these imperialist chemists unlocked the secrets of the process, they also uncovered serious inefficiencies. Large amounts of sugar go wasted in each step and some processes were left to run away creating wastes. Spirits production was still very competitive back then and the authors discuss whether it was worth it to cut yields to make a higher ester product at the hopes of making a higher profit. It seems like changing distillery practices incurred more risk and often was just a break even proposition. Advances slowly move forward over the years probably until we get to Raphael Arroyo’s work on heavy rums patented in 1945 where the techniques used today pretty much get settled.

To quote Arroyo:

It has now been found that heavy rums of excellent type and with high yields and fermentation efficiencies can be obtained by a procedure comprising:
1. The subjection of the raw material to a pre-treating operation which fits it for its intended use.
2. The selection of yeast and bacterial cultures adapted for symbiotic fermentation of heavy rum mashes.
3. The employment of optimum conditions for the production of alcohol and symbiotic fermentation for the production of aroma and flavor, wherewith to obtain high yields and fermentation efficiencies with a rapid fermentation, and a high quality of final product.
4. The employment of a proper distillation method for the resulting beers.

In the Arroyo technique, no dunder or muck hole is used but rather controlled inoculation of selected bacteria in the main ferment coupled with other tightly controlled fermentation variables. Looking at the balance between tradition and innovation it wouldn’t be surprising if for the sake of tradition Jamaica used a modified version of the arroyo method where the bacterial fermentation was relegated to some sort tightly controlled cistern / muck hole / dunder pit. One interesting thing to note in Arroyo’s technique is the way he uses alkaline lime during production.

“The addition of the milk of lime during the initial stage of the pre-treatment process has three main purposes:

1. It prepares the medium for the development during fermentation of the most important ingredient in the aroma of heavy rums, being the essential oil or mixture of essential oils known as “rum oil.”

2. It neutralizes the free fatty acids which are always present in molasses, thus eliminating the danger of their volatization during the heating operation which immediately follows, but permitting the reliberation of these fatty acids from their calcium salts upon the sulphuric acid addition to the already cooled thick mash in the second stage of the pretreatment, so that they are then available for the formation of valueable esters later during the fermentation period and under the catalytic action of the esterase produced by the yeast.

3. The disturbance produced in the medium through the alteration of pH value occasioned by the milk of lime causes a copious precipitation of organic bases, molasses gums, and mineral ash constituents of the molasses, and this precipitation is enhanced by the action of the heat applied.

The works of the sugar cane experiment station have been of immense value and it wouldn’t be surprising if other similar works exist for the other islands, particularly those colonized by the English. Maybe there is a text out there that explains the significance and ins & outs of wooden boilers as opposed to copper.

A completing scanning of Raphael Arroyo’s rare text Studies of Rum (spanish) can be found here.

More from the Journal of the Society of the Chemical Industry, volume 26, 1907 which features a very interesting comment section.

The first  named needs no special description. “Skimmings” consist of the scum which rises during the boiling of the cane juice. Before they are allowed to undergo acid fermentation, either alone or in presence of the crushed canes (or “trash”). “Dunder” is the spent wash from the stills.

Early Accounts of Arrack Et Al.



Here are two choice excerpts on rum making. Production processes for a few other regions are described but they aren’t so unique. The author continues the chapter will more excellent information on rum production and still operation of historical significance.

p. 562

Java.24—In Java and the East generally, a very different procedure is followed. In the first place a material known as Java or Chinese yeast is prepared from native formula. In Java, pieces of sugar cane are crushed along with certain aromatic herbs, amongst which galanga and garlic are always present, and the resulting extract made into a paste with rice meal; the paste is formed into strips, allowed to dry in the sun, and then macerated with water and lemon juice; the pulpy mass obtained after standing for three days is separated from the water and made into small balls, rolled in rice straw and allowed to dry; these balls are known as Raggi or Java yeast. In the next step rice is boiled and spread out in a layer on plantain leaves and sprinkled over with Raggi, then packed in earthenware pots and left to stand for two days, at the end of which period the rice is converted into a semi-liquid mass; this material is termed Tapej and is used to excite fermentation in molasses wash. The wash is set up at a density of 25° Balling and afterwards the process is as usual. In this proceeding the starch in the rice is converted by means of certain micro-organisms, Chlamydomucor oryzae, into sugar and then forms a suitable habitat for the reproduction of yeasts, which are probably present in the Raggi, but may find their way into the Tapej from other sources. About 100 lbs. of rice are used to pitch 1000 gallons of wash.

24. From Lafar’s Technical Mycology, Vol. V.

p. 563

Jamaica.—Allan25 gives the following outline of the process followed in making flavoured spirit:—”The wash is set up from skimmings, dunder, molasses, acid and flavour. Acid is made by fermenting rum cane juice which has been warmed in the coppers. To this juice is added dunder and perhaps a little skimmings. “When fermentation is about over, the fermenting liquor is pumped on to cane trash in cisterns and here it gets sour. Into these cisterns sludge settling from the fermented wash is from time to time put. This acid when fit for use smells like sour beer. Flavour is prepared by running fermented rum cane juice into cisterns outside the fermenting house along with cane trash and dunder that has been stored from a previous crop. Generally a proportion of liquid from what is called the ‘muck hole’ is also added to this cistern. The components of the ‘muck hole’ are the thicker portion of the dunder from the still, the lees from the retorts, and cane trash and other adventitious matter which from time to time finds its way into this receptacle. From this cistern the incipient flavouring material passes on to a second and third cistern filled with cane trash, and to which sludge from fermenting wash has been added. From the third cistern it is added to the wash. Skimmings are run from the boiling house into cisterns half filled with cane trash. This is allowed to remain four, five, or six days. When the skimmings are considered ripe, wash is set up with them. Fermentation lasts seven to eight days. The time which elapses between setting up the wash and distillation is from thirteen to fourteen days.”

25. W. I. B., VII., 141. (this might refer to the Wochenschrift fur Brauerei journal but I’m not positive)

For Sale: Counter Pressure Keg-to-Champagne Bottler ($225USD)

**Award winning** Bryn Tattan just used the Keg-To-Champagne bottler to take top Boston prize for the Bulleit Bourbon cocktail contest and is now going on to present her drink for 450 people (10 gallons!) in New Orleans.

Bostonapothecary is proud to introduce a next generation counter pressure bottler inspired by the infamous champagne bottle manifold. The counter pressure bottler attaches to champagne bottles with the same collar system as the original manifold but also includes a down tube and side port with a second Cornelius fitting for venting or pressurizing. The down tube can also be removed and a check valve inserted to revert the bottling head back to the same functionality as the original design for in-bottle carbonating, reflux de-aeration, or counter pressure to preserve sparkling products.

Counter pressure bottling is a fairly advanced procedure and assumes users are familiar with carbonating in Cornelius kegs. There is not much hand holding here so this product is designed to fulfill the dreams of people who pretty much already know what they want to do and how it will work. This product fills a giant hole in the market. Cheap versions, which don’t handle pressure levels beyond beer (and require two man operation) are available for $70 and then nothing worth a damn is available until $10,000. No other product is available that can give you full control at the smallest possible scales. Though slightly technical, counter pressure bottling is safe and liquid is typical only transferred at under 40 PSI which is a small fraction of the working pressure of Champagne bottles. Transfer pressure, because liquid is only being moved rather than forced into solution, is much lower than the pressures used for in bottle carbonation of the original Champagne bottle manifold and is thus a safer procedure.

setThe down tube has been designed as a standard soda keg down tube to keep all the parts familiar. The accessory check valve (included) is from a Guiness type keg coupler so it is tried and true as well as easily replaceable. The check valve slides comfortably into the specially designed food safe seal which engages the bottle. The functionality of going from down tube for liquid transfer to check valve for various non transfer tasks means the tool can be used around the clock and helps justify owning multiple units. Such versatility is not a feature of any competing product at any price range.

optionsGas can be bled from the bottles with a “key” which is best done with a Cornelius gas quick release fitting with a pressure gauge and bleeder valve (pictured above). This key is not included with purchase but can be acquired affordably from my favorite supplier, the Chicompany. Champagne bottles, such as magnums, can even be turned into mini kegs and a hose can be placed over the down tube to reach the bottom of the bottle. Gas can then be inputted into the side port to move liquid up the hose instead of down. The key can also be used to measure the internal pressure of a keg and when paired with the temperature, can imply carbonation level (a common brewers technique!).

keyinstalledEverything was designed with cleanup in mind which is another major strength over competing designs. The Cornelius fittings hold a seal when only thumb tight so disassembly can be done without tools to maximize productivity. The Cornelius fittings have also been proven to hold a seal for months on end which is the reason for using a second Cornelius post instead of integrating a bleeder valve (yes, I systematically explored and tested every option). As opposed to the bulky, large square footage, standing clamp designs of competitors, the small size and portability of the collar design allows all parts to constantly be dunked in sanitizer for cleaning (parts should never be dish washed at high temp because high heat will weaken the seal of the embedded fittings).

The bottling head features unique over-molding of stainless steel 19/32 fittings for anchoring and an uncompromising seal. This complicated production technique, typically found only in very expensive medical devices, was made possible by developing a new laser cut acrylic mold box & plastic silicon die technique (that I’m very proud of, woohoo!).


Production is currently still rather bespoke and all sales are being reinvested into the project to upgrade the designs and manufacturing techniques to take full advantage of CAD, 3D printing & CNC machining (there is finally a legit engineer on the team!). Until further notice, purchasers will be part of an early adopters / patrons of the arts program and entitled to trade in their units towards new versions at the expense of shipping and other greatly minimized expenses (manufacturing techniques allow reuse of the costly stainless fittings). Early adopters will also get the benefit of small amounts of consulting which is basically the ability to constantly pick my brain about product usage and potential applications as well as recipe development.

The design features many advantages over competitors and the number one is portability and the potential to be used 24/7 for a variety of tasks followed by affordability. Counter pressure bottling requires significant amounts of inactive time (due to physics) so it is not exactly the fastest process. The affordability of the design allows users to own multiple heads for the price of a one head system from competitors. This allows users to purchase more heads at their own pace to reduce inactive bottling time. As one bottle is coming to equilibrium and “bonding” so the manifold can be removed without detrimental foaming, another bottle can be filled and maybe yet another can be capped.

Another unique feature is the usage of only Cornelius gas fittings instead of both gas & liquid fittings. Liquid can run through the gas quick release so what this means is the same input at the top of the bottling head can be used to both pressurize the bottle bringing it up to the same pressure as the keg (as well as flush it using the key) and then be used for the liquid line. The liquid jumper cable going from the keg to the manifold will have a liquid disconnect on the keg side but a gas disconnect on the manifold side. This breaking of the rules means the bottler requires less fittings to function and the force to attach the main fitting presses straight downward over the center of the bottle so as not to stress the seal.

With enough early adopters, new tools will be introduced such as a collar to hold 25 mm beer & soda bottles. Working prototypes already exist but need to be scaled upwards to safe, consistent, mechanically precise, and economically viable production.

Distant projects are proposed for affordable but limited production runs of equipment for bottling carbonated water in old fashioned soda siphons. Also a flexible bottling plant has been conceived for eco-hotels and other programs in far flung areas who need bottling heads that can handle the assortment of miscellaneous bottles recycled in their area.



six new distillation papers from the IRS

unfortunately I only have these as paper copies and cannot scan them as yet.

Valaer, Peter
J. Association of Official Agricultural Chemists (1941), Vol. 24, No. 2, pp.224-231

this paper turned out to be about a new method of determining tannin content for analysts and isn’t too important these days

Schicktanz, S.T. and Etienne, Arthur D.
J. Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (1937), Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 157-159

this paper looks at how the pH of whisky taken by an electrode can be biased by the alcohol content and is still somewhat relevant today. this is another paper about methodologies for analysts.

Valaer, Peter
J. AOAC (1945), Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 467-470

this paper was a new methodology for detecting caramel which can either be lawfully used or as an adulterant. the method was developed as a collaborative effort and was rigorously tested and commented on by numerous analysts across the country.

Mathers, Alex P.
J. AOAC (1956), Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 737-738

this is very brief and is just a comment on new methods for measuring methanol which is tricky due to its similar volatility to ethanol. the paper requests more trials with collaborators.

Etienne, Arthur D. and Mathers, A. P.
J. AOAC (1956)
this interesting paper develops a means of investigating small levels of carbonation that can be left in wines categorized as still as opposed to sparking. this is important because sparkling wines were taxed at a higher rate at the time. the authors build an apparatus similar to my champagne bottle manifold and use a laboratory shaker to agitate the bottles which is similar to my hand shaking method in effect. to measure carbonation they don’t rely on a gauge but rather build a mercury manometer as a more reliable means of measuring small amounts of pressure. this is apparently why pressure can be measured in cmhg or centimeter of mercury as well as PSI or BAR.

Schoeneman, Robert L. and Dyer, Randolph H.
J. AOAC (1967), Vol. 51, No. 5, pp. 937-987

this extensive paper is pretty much a blockbuster and I definitely need to create a scanning. amazing data I’ve never seen is collected from 85 whiskeys taken from 42 distilleries. no first names are given, even still, the most exciting parts are the tables that report the grain bill, fermentation process (sweet or sour mash), lactic culture added, spent beer used %, gallon / bushel beer yield, fermentation hours, details of the beer still and the doubler, the distillation proof, and the proof of entry into the barrel.

a particularly cool part are the comments from the author on previous studies of the same type and whether whiskeys then (1968) where like those of 1898 studied by Crampton & Tolman. the paper also features a spectacular bibliography with entries I’ve never seen.

A round up of the most current Vermouth literature

A lot has happened in vermouth since Maynard Amerine’s great annotated Bibliography but not much of it has a web presence or even awareness in popular culinary. Most of the great research has been done in India, believe it or not, and is associated with the brilliant Dr. VK Joshi.

The Indian work with vermouth supports my theory that vermouth flourished in the late 19th and early 20th century because people’s tastes were more sophisticated than their ability to create wines. In India, simple plebian & ordinary wines, probably at risk of oxidation, are ameliorated and preserved to become enticing, exciting, and memorable aromatized wines.

I’ll link to and summarize a few of the great works I’ve recently come across from India. I had first come across a paper from India about seven years ago but somehow I’ve lost it and it doesn’t appear in this list so I know this is much more great Indian work out there. I made my first mango vermouth many years ago, but I made the wine myself and I think it had problems I’ve since learned how to correct.

Vermouth Production Technology – An overview This is one of the great concise modern looks at vermouth making. The bibliography is wonderful and there is a great botanical formula for a mango vermouth.

Flavour profiling of apple vermouth using descriptive analysis technique Worth checking out for the spider web graphic of apple vermouth alone. This paper can teach popular culinary a lot.

Influence of ethanol concentration, addition of spices extract, and level of sweetness on physio-chemical characteristics and sensory quality of apple vermouth This is a great paper about refining and optimizing vermouth formulas. In the paper is a dynamite looking botanical formula for apple vermouth.

Panorama of research and development of wines in India Interesting with a lot of amazing ideas. There is a great entry in the bibliography from 1985 “Mango Vermouth – A new alcoholic beverage” that I would love to track down.

Effect of different sugar sources and wood chips on the Quality of peach brandy Not exactly vermouth but interesting for the peach brandy obsessed crowd and beautiful ideas for those making mixed mash distillates.

Production technology and quality characteristics of mead and fruit-honey wines – a review Again not vermouth but included because the ideas are brilliant. There is also a wonderful paper describing the major uni-floral honeys of India. Who would not want to try mustard honey or cardamom or tamarind flower honey?

Analysis of volatile aroma constituents of wine produced from Indian mango This paper gives some great advice about producing fruit wines. This bibliography is interesting and there is a paper from the 1980′s cited about making dessert and madeira style mango wine.

A very interesting book, Specialty Wines Volume 63, has a chapter on vermouth written by an Indian author, among some other cool topics like Vin Santo making and the Appassimento technique. Rumor has it a PDF of this book exists out there on the web.

One new idea explained in this Hungarian paper from 2004 is that vermouth has serious antioxidant capabilities. In vogue extremist adages about the need for absolute freshness of vermouth might be bogus due to vermouth’s being pumped full of antioxidants from various botanicals. I have witnessed this first hand with some of my vermouth making explorations that are now 7+ years old. My Hercules renderings, where I even made my own base wine without reductive techniques, were preserved miraculously well by yerba mate and yarrow flowers. The fruit wine base could never have been expected to live that long without developing an oxidative character but there are a few bottles left if anyone is in doubt. Other papers do exist on the antioxidant activity of wormwood. This paper covers both antioxidant and antibacterial activity.

Besides the papers from India, probably the most interesting modern paper written about vermouth comes to us from the Bacardi Group’s Ivan Tonutti also of Martini & Ross Grand Lusso and Bombay Sapphire fame. Tonutti has become well known as a brand/botanical ambassador, but the paper isn’t well known because it was written for a Brazilian science journal. Wild ideas are touched upon like the vacuum microwave hydro distillation of botanicals. Tonutti has certainly seen some wild stuff and this paper is not to be missed. This article from the Wine Spectator is worth taking a look at and funny enough, Tonutti appears at the end in a field of angelica.

A near term Bostonapothecary project in the pipeline is developing a low cost method of standardizing a botanical change as well as doing reasonable amounts of competitor analysis on a budget. I have done a lot of reading to make it happen and all that is left is to raise some funds for the glassware necessary. I’m slowly developing a consulting package for small scale distillers where we will spend an intensive weekend covering a few analysis and fabrication techniques plus learning how to use the vast collection of literature I’ve assembled.

Another project I’d like to tackle is developing beverage fabrication manuals to help new producers in the developing world capitalize on their assets in the booming craft economy. It would be nice to see areas that produce orange peels also producing orange liqueur instead of merely selling the peels for short dollars while the cointreaus of the world add only a little more value and reap some massive out-sized profits. Organizations like FAO with this handbook are funding such initiatives:

This handbook is part of a series of agribusiness manuals prepared by the FAO Investment Centre Division, in collaboration with FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division. It was prepared for the EBRD Agribusiness team, under the FAO/EBRD programme of cooperation. The production of the manuals was financed by FAO and by the EBRD multidonor Early Transition Countries Fund and the Western Balkans Fund. The purpose of this handbook is to help agribusiness bankers and potential investors in the Early Transition countries (ETCs) and Western Balkan countries (WBCs) to acquire basic knowledge about the wine sector and to become acquainted with recent economic trends in the sector around the world, with a special focus on the ETCs and the WBCs. This volume was prepared by Frederic Julia, Wine Expert, and reviewed by Emmanuel Hidier, Senior Economist, FAO, as well as by members of the EBRD Agribusiness team. Electronic copies can be downloaded from, where a database of agribusiness companies, including wineries that operate in the ETCs and the WBCs, is also available. Please send comments and suggestions for a future edition of the manual to

Well-placed Witnesses to Beverage History with Ruth Teiser

Long ago I had read one of these interviews as a plain text file not really understanding what it was. It turns out to be a giant treasure trove of interviews collected by the astoundingly brilliant Ruth Teiser. Lately this blog focuses on distillation and quite a few of the interviews tell the story of distilling in California, particularly brandy. Wine making is also covered but it is important to note that mainly they discuss ordinary wines as opposed to fine wines which there were very few of until relatively recently. Most of the distillates this country made until recently were also intended to be ordinary rather than the super premium we are seeing today. Beverage alcohol, for a long period of our history, was just food and budgeted from the food category as opposed to the larger food + hobby budget category we see today. There is a definite rise of fetish drinking these days and it might actually be a return to fetish drinking that was seen pre-prohibition when imbibers willingly paid particularly high amounts for alcohol.

These interviews should definitely interest the anthropologist. One of the most important ideas to note running through some of the interviews is how the wine industry went from producing dry wines before prohibition to producing mostly sweet wines after. Prohibition had a big role in warping the American palate and orientating taste towards sweetness. It is often thought we are hardwired to pursue sweetness like we do, but it may just be the product of highly malleable culture.

I’ve read quite a few of these interviews but not all of them. In some I learned technical things, in others history, and others still the business. One, Antonio Perelli-Minetti’s, was just a plain thriller and covered everything plus adventure.

“The California Wine Industry Oral History Series, a project of the Regional Oral History Office, was initiated in 1969 the year noted as the bicentenary of continuous wine making in this state. It was undertaken through the action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, and under the direction of University of California faculty and staff advisers at Berkeley and Davis.


The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on California grape growing and wine making that has existed only in the memories of wine men. In some cases their recollections go back to the early years of this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of particular value because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of not only the Industry Itself but also the orderly recording and preservation of records of Its activities. Little has been written about the Industry from late In the last century until Repeal. There Is a real paucity of Information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933), although some wine making did continue iinder supervision of the Prohibition Department. The material In this series on that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable development of the wine Industry In subsequent years (as yet treated analytically In few writings) will be of aid to historians. Of particular value is the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from his own point of view.”


I think I am slowly going to quote my favorite passages from each link and that will hopefully pull together a narrative.

Interviews Completed by 1988
Leon D. Adams. Revitalizing the California Wine Industry 1974
Maynard A. Amerine. The University of California and the State’s Wine Industry 1971
Maynard A. Amerine. Wine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies 1988
John B. Cella, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry 1986
William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology 1967
William A. Dieppe, Almaden is My Life 1985
Alfred Fromm. Marketing California Wine and Brandy 1984
Joseph E. Heitz. Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley 1986
Maynard A. Joslyn. A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry 1974

“Well, I was told very frequently, as appears in my previous interviews, that the big difference between wine making in California pre-Prohibition and post-Prohibition is the fact that the basic principles of wine making, which were traditionally kept as an operating secret by the old winemakers, became so widely disseminated by the teaching and extension activities that largely initially came from Berkeley that knowledge which was available to a few became available to all. This has characterized the wine industry as a whole.”

Amandus N. Kasimatis, A Career in California Viticulture 1988
Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini. Wine Making in the Napa Valley 1973
Otto E. Meyer. California Premium Wines and Brandy 1973
Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mirassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara Valley Winery 1986
Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Industry 1985
Myron S. Nightingale, Making Wine in California. 1944-1987 1988
Harold P. Olmo, Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties 1976
Antonio Perelli-Minetti. A Life in Wine Making 1975
Jefferson E. Peyser. The Law and the California Wine Industry 1974
Lucius Powers. The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry 1974
Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block. Perspectives on California Wines 1976
Edmund A. Rossi. Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry 1971
Arpaxat Setrakian. A Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape Industry 1977
Elie C. Skofis, California Wine and Brandy Maker 1988
Andre Teh el ist chef f . Grapes. Wine, and Ecology 1983
Brother Timothy. The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers 1974
Ernest A. Wente. Wine Making in the Livermore Valley 1971
Albert J. Winkler. Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971) 1973 Louis Roos Gomberg. Analytical perspectives on the California wine industry, 1935-1990 Miljenko Grgich. A Croatian-American winemaker in the Napa Valley.
Warren Winiarski.  Creating classic wines in the Napa Valley 1994

“That was also there. All of those things. We didn’t talk about the major ingredient, the accumulation of scientific information and things that people did at Davis. Maynard Amerine’s work with grapes and where they grow best –that bulletin of the Agriculture Experiment Station at the University of California1 that I used as a Bible, reading it in a devotional way. Every day you read a little bit of this, at night you read a little bit of that, getting intimately immersed in the contents. You read another chapter and tried to figure out what these must analyses could mean and what their significance was. The existence of such a rich body of knowledge was certainly another major ingredient. And I think the other thing was the people, among whom I count myself, whose taste and aspirations were formed elsewhere and who brought in the ability to actually accomplish the coming together of these several elements.”

Paul Draper. History and philosophy of winemaking at Ridge Vineyards 1970s-1990s 1994 Louis Trinchero. California Zinfandels, A success story Margaret and Dan Duckhorn. Mostly Merlot, The history of Duckhorn vineyards Albert Brounstein. Diamond Creek Vineyards: The significance of terroir in the vineyard 2000 Richard Forman. Launching Bordeaux-style wines in the Napa Valley: Sterling Vineyards, Newton Vineyard, and Forman Vineyard 2000
Augustine Huneeus. A world view of the wine industry 1996
Joseph Phelps. Joseph Phelps Vineyards: classic wines and Rhône varietals 1996
Justin Meyer. Silver Oak Cellars: focus on Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

The Future Is Not What It Used To Be: The IRS’ Plywood Barrel Aged Whiskey

Recently I discovered a TTB bibliography of their past scientific publications. The bibliography contained quite a few references from old un-digitized journals I’m dying to get a hold of plus a few notable IRS documents that I have no idea how to obtain. I’ve written an email to the TTB requesting information on accessing the publications and of course I’ve received no reply. These are citations I’m looking for if anyone wants to help:

Alcohol and Tobacco tax laboratory Internal Communication, Report No. IRS-D.C.-58171

Schoeneman, Robert L.
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division Laboratory Internal Communication, IRS Publication #156

Simonds, Paul W.
Alcohol tax Unit Internal Communication, July 25, 1950

Valaer, Peter
Alcohol Tax Unit Internal Communication, November 1950

Valaer, Peter
Alcohol tax Unit Internal Communication, January 15, 1949

Perhaps somebody from the right vantage point could track down the documents. Or maybe we could all file a Freedom of Information Act request together which they might take seriously and cough up the goods.

The idea of aging spirits in plywood barrels is particularly interesting and its very surprising that the IRS of all people experimented with it so long ago. A patent actually exists from 1944 for making plywood barrels.

It makes you wonder if they could use an adhesive that would make the product food safe. If it was plain pine pitch it might even contribute flavor. Was the product any good?, why don’t we see any plywood in use now? were they ahead of their time and ruthless adherence to tradition got in the way? If they bothered to do an 8 year follow up after the 4 year paper, I bet the results were drinkable.

1983 James F. Guymon Lecture: California Brandy — Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow by Elie C. Skofis

Here is another lost text on distillation from the very important figure in the California agriculture, Elie Skofis. The paper was stealthily contained in the first appendix to Ruth Teiser’s 1987 interview with Skofis for the Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series. The PDF had some problems so I extracted the lecture and touched it up so it would be better indexed by google and hopefully reach some new audiences. I did not find the time to copy over the figures and charts, those interested enough can look at the PDF and find them themselves.

Skofis tells an incredible 20th century history of California brandy making and even drops a little science. One idea in particular is not well known but easily would be worth thousands of dollars to any of the new commercial distilleries. I will let people find the gem for themselves.

The Teiser interview mentions that Skofis was trying to write a brandy product text in his retirement to guide California producers. In his lecture, Skofis mentions that James Guymon was trying to do the same but died untimely. He makes mention of Guymons seven published articles on brandy making as well as numerous unpublished and even makes a plea for help edit Guymons papers and publish them. I don’t think any of this work got done though it would likely benefit the new craft spirits movement.

Robert Léauté from Remy Martin mentioned Elie Skofis’ 1983 lecture in his 1989 James Guymon lecture.

“slight changes can be made: recommendation (4), no SO2 or no more than 20ppm to avoid having high quantities of acetaldehyde in brandy and recommendation (5), fermentation temperature between 68°F to 77°F. This is mainly done to reduce acetaldehyde and ethyl acetate by evaporation.”


Given at 1983 – American Society of Enologists
Annual Meeting – June 20, 1983


Elie C. Skofis – Lecturer

Fellow enologists — or should I address all of you today as fellow brandy makers. It is, indeed, a great honor to have been selected by the A.S.E. and U.C. Davis Enology Department as the 1983 James F. Guymon Memorial Lecturer. There is no one in my 37 years in the California wine industry who influenced me more on the importance of using science and artful skills in brandy production than Dr. Jim Guymon. Those of us here today who were fortunate enough not only to have been able to work with him but also to have been taught by him are richer in each of our careers.

His impact on the California brandy industry has been brought out by many in our industry over the years, and I have seen how his dedication and untiring research has helped us in upgrading California brandy making. Later in this talk, I shall bring forth various developments which have been influenced by Dr. Guymon and their benefits to us.

First, I wish to cover a period of California brandy history which predates all of us; that is, the period from early California to Prohibition in the United States –- Prohibition — the big “experiment” from 1919 to December 1, 1933. As a youngster in Sacramento, I remember Prohibition with all its mystique when I would hear about the Wright Act and about neighbors who had been arrested because they were selling so-called “bootleg” wine or spirits.

Many articles have been written about the earliest date on brandy making in California but, unfortunately, we don’t have very good historical records as to when it began and who started it. References are made to General Portola’s first expedition in 1769 into what is now California, and that brandy was included in the supplies. In the same year (1769) the Mission San Diego was founded, and the Mission fathers planted vineyards for wine. They planted an unidentified grape variety which became known as “Mission.” Distillation techniques and equipment used were crude, but a product called “aguardiente” (brandy) was produced. As other missions were formed and more and more vines planted, greater amounts of brandy were made; and one mission, the Mission San Fernando, was said to have produced 2,000 barrels in the 1830′s. Father Duran, the brandy maker at this mission, was said to have made brandy that was “doubly distilled and as strong as the reverend father’s faith. (1) ” This was, undoubtedly, a strong brandy. In general, the missions made, used, and sold wine and brandy without any government controls; but the brandy was primarily used to fortify the altar wines. (2)

By the late 1830′s, the missions, as a result of the secularization acts by the Mexican government, were in disrepair and brandy stills and activity abandoned.(2)

In the early 1830′s, a French vintner named Jean Louis Vignes(who had arrived in California from Bordeaux and settled in the Los Angeles area) bought some 104 acres of land (where the Los Angeles Union Station now stands) and planted grapes. Jean Louis Vignes, who was also known as Don Luis del Aliso by his neighbors, is credited with being the first person to bring European vine cuttings to California, and his first vintage appeared around 1837. Vignes made both wine and brandy — called by its Spanish name, aguardiente. He was an experienced distiller as well as a cooper. By 1840, his brandy was being shipped to many other settlements in California and was selling for $4.00/gallon – a very good profit. Many consider Vignes the father of California commercial brandy, He believed in aging in oak casks for up to six, eight, or ten years. A nephew, Jean Louis Sansevaine, bought out his uncle’s vineyards and facilities in 1857 and continued to carry on the wine and brandy business.(3)

According to H. C. Peterson, Curator of the Sutter’s Fort Historical Museum, in an article he wrote in the SACRAMENTO BEE on September 1, 1934 he reported that Captain Sutter probably established the first commercial distillery at Sutter’s Fort in California in 1841. Apparently, Mr. Peterson was not aware of Vignes. Captain Sutter used wild grapes from that area and Indian labor to harvest, crush, and make the wine for brandy. He had constructed a still which was heated by a fire built underneath it. Water for the condensing of vapors was brought up in buckets from the surrounding ponds outside the fort. As the story goes, in time the Indians discovered the secret entrance to the oak cask aging room and thereby managed to remove and consume the brandy stored there. Seeing the fighting, bloodshed and murders which resulted from the consumption of his brandy, Captain Sutter decided to close down his operation after three years rather than allow all the problems created from the drinking of his brandy to continue. His brandy had, apparently, been well received in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Captain Sutter’s wine cellar and distillery room have been preserved and can be seen today at Sutter ‘s Fort.

It appears to me that Jean Louis Vignes was probably the first commercial brandy producer in California.

From that period on — and particularly after 1865 with the increase in vineyards and wineries in California and especially in the San Joaquin Valley, brandy making was on its own. No production figures are available prior to 1865. In that year, 20,415 gallons of brandy were officially distilled in California — and by 1866 this quadrupled. By 1882 production had reached half a million gallons; by 1890, one million

gallons, and 1.5 million gallons by 1891. This increase was greatly due to the phylloxera vineyard damage in France which gave California brandy producers an opportunity to supply the brandy shortage. This came at a time in California when there was, as there is today, an oversupply of grapes. Even Congress recognized the need to assist the California brandy industry by passing the Bonded Warehouse Act which permitted wineries to distill surplus wines into brandy, store it, but not pay the large spirits tax until it was sold. This helped the industry and resulted in a five-fold increase in brandy exports of 500,000 gallons in 1891. Also, California brandy began receiving international recognition.

In Slide 1 (which is a Table I dug out of the Wine Institute Historical Brandy Files) we see that better statistics were being kept; and in this table, the data was secured from the source indicated the Giannini Foundation, U.C. Berkeley, on both brandy and fortifying brandy production.

Most of the brandy from the 1830′s to 1870′s was made in small pot stills until the introduction of continuous stills made by copper smiths like Sanders & Co. and Ludwig Wagner of San Francisco. Some of these Sanders stills were resurrected and used in the years following the repeal of Prohibition.

There is an interesting story about early brandymakers. Leland Stanford, the wealthy railroad builder, founder of Stanford University, and even governor of the state of California, had, by the year 1888, planted over 3,000 acres of grapes in the northern part of the Sacramento Valley – mostly in Tehama and Butte counties. The vines were of French origin, and his purpose was to make good French-style wines. A winery was built in Tehama which he called “Vina.” The story is that the first crop was not suitable for wines and was used instead to make brandy. Within four years, Stanford was producing over 20% of all California brandy. After his death in 1893, the winery and vineyards were bequeathed to Stanford University. The winery and distillery continued to be operated until 1916 when the Prohibition movement; the onset of World War I; and other problems caused the Stanford University trustees to close down the winery and destroy the vines. Today, the winery is a monastery for an order of Trappist monks.(5)

You might also be interested to know that originally in California brandy was made mostly from the Mission grape and some other V. Vinifera such as from the Stanford vineyard. Leon Adams, in his book THE WINES OF AMERICA (12) said that a man named William Thompson brought to the Sacramento Valley around 1872 a grape which no one really knew where he got it, and which Thompson called, “Lady de Coverly.” The grape, later called Thompson Seedless, gained popularity and was planted extensively in the 1890′s and 1900′s in the valleys — San Joaquin and Sacramento — because of its yield and multi-uses, but had limited use in brandy making until after Repeal. This was partly due to the valleys’ growers being conservative and sensitive to criticism, and they preferred being considered growers of raisin and table grapes. Also, around the turn of the century, the Tokay grape was planted in the Lodi area and shortly after was also being used to make brandy.

With the advent of Prohibition, there was very limited brandy production. The Federal Government did issue a few permits for limited brandy production for “medicinal” purposes. It was possible during Prohibition for a person to obtain a physician’s prescription to purchase spirits– whiskey or brandy, and many such prescriptions were issued.

In 1929 an organization was established by many wineries of that period and formed along the lines of the old California Wine Association. It was called Fruit Industries. (5) A.R. Morrow was one of the key figures in this new organization. One of my early teachers and supervisors , a man who worked with A.R. Morrow and Fruit Industries, was Elbert M. Brown. E.M. Brown, I have been told, was also the first enologist to graduate just prior to World War I, from U.C. Berkeley where he studied under Professor Bioletti and the then up and coming young instructor, W. Cruess. Elbert Brown was also the first recipient of the A.S.E. Merit Award. Throughout my association with him and during my early years at Italian Swiss Colony, he used to relate many stories about the shenanigans which occurred in the brandy distillery operations during Prohibition.

In anticipation of repeal, the Federal Government issued a special permit for Fruit Industries and others to distill, store and age over 1,000,000 P.G.’s of beverage brandy. At the time of repeal (on December 1, 1933) therefore there were stocks of brandy, even though less age of which were available for sale. This was also true of the wine made ready for sale on Repeal Day. As of June 30, 1933, there were approximately 1,200,000 P.G.’s in Federally-bonded warehouses in Califomia. (6)

With the repeal of Prohibition by the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, there was a new beginning for California brandy. In 1933 some 2,400,000 P.G.’s of beverage brandy were made – some of which was even distilled from concentrate; and in subsequent years, this production increased.

In those early years after repeal, California grape brandy was identified as three types: cognac, muscat, and grappa. I bring this out, as the term “cognac” was then being used; but a few years later, as a result of French protests. U.S. government regulations prohibited its use.

Our statistics for production of beverage brandy (or commercial brandy as it was mostly called then) during the post-repeal years and up to around 1938 are unclear since there was no real break out of the production figures for fortifying brandy, as it was then called, and commercial brandy. It has been estimated that during the five years after repeal up to 1938 around 1.5 to 2.0 million P.G.’s of brandy a year were produced.

Due to the oversupply of grapes in 1938, as we have today a program instigated by the State of California was established that year whereby a large portion of the grapes were converted to commercial brandy and high proof. Approximately 45% of the tons were thus diverted to help stabilize the grape market and wine industry. The Growers Grape Products Association (GGPA) was formed to handle the brandy pool. In the January, 1968 issue of WINES & VINES, Jim Riddell, a noted brandy maker, wrote that even though a quality board was established to pass on the quality of the Prorate brandy lots, the general quality was poor, and this haunted the post-war California brandy industry. There had been a large surge in the sale of California brandy during World War II; this was particularly due to lower inventories of whiskies and restricted use of grains for whiskey production during the war. This whiskey shortage was offset by the development, and the public’s acceptance, of the blended whiskies which had less of heavy whiskey and oak flavor. Even this extension of blended whiskey — 25% straight whiskey and 75% neutral grain spirits — did not furnish sufficient quantities of alcoholic spirits to satisfy public demand — particularly with the increase in consumption by the military and the general public with more money to spend. (See Slide 2)

Brandy was another source of beverage spirits. Many consumers, how ever, became disappointed by certain poor quality brandies being marketed and did not forget this after World War II. I heard many consumers at that time state that they would not purchase brandy because of this. Poor spirit beverages were not only confined to brandy but also to some blended whiskies which utilized poor quality neutral spirits which were then available for use. Seagram 7 Crown was a better blended whiskey, and we can say that it was a forerunner of public acceptance of lighter spirits and brandies. Even today, Seagram 7 Crown sold 6,000,000 cases in 1982 and is the third largest brand spirit item.

In any war environment there are shortages, and World War II was no exception. Therefore, with this unique opportunity to satisfy a demand for distilled spirits, much brandy (good and bad), as well as wine (also good and bad) was sold. Much of this brandy was from the pro-rate and some was made from grapes harvested, due to the vineyard labor shortage, in late December and even January. The grape quality was poor, and any brandy made was poor. Also, during World War II all raisin varieties (Thompson) had to be made into raisins for food – particularly for the 12,000,000 people in the U.S. armed services plus our Allies.

I am devoting extra time and attention to this area, as I want to stress that the California brandy makers and marketeers were aware of these quality problems and of the need to produce brandies that the American consumer would buy. California brandy experts of that day evaluated all the brandy stocks on hand and determined that Americans, as with other brown spirits, wanted a good brandy, but somewhat lighter in flavor. The heavier brandies, even some long-aged in new oak barrels, were not as acceptable. Most of the pro-rate brandy after World War II was distilled into high proof. Another problem affecting brandy quality (besides poor grapes) had been the pre-war lack of good brandy making and distillery technology. We must remember that after repeal, or 15 years of Prohibition, not many of the pre-Prohibition knowledgeable brandy makers were around. Some, like Lee Jones of Shewan-Jones and founder of the Lejon brand; L. K. Marshall of Bear Creek Winery; A.R. Morrow of Fruit; and E. M. Brown with Shewan-Jones and National

Distillers, were basically the ones who understood the brandy business and who trained others after repeal. In my view, the period just after World War II was the time when California brandy makers became more aware of this need to improve; and we were fortunate that Dr. Jim Guymon was on the scene at that time to assist us with research (at U.C.) and by his frequent visits to wineries to discuss all aspects of brandy making. I, myself, can’t recall the number of visits and long hours of discussion many of us had with Dr. Guymon on this subject of how to improve our brandy making techniques.

The timing in the production of brandies was a big problem. We must realize that post-Repeal and post-war California wine industry sales were 75%-80% dessert wines. Dessert wines require fortifying brandy, or wine spirits/ or high proof as we call them today. The demand on our distillery equipment was for processing distilling material generated from that part of the grapes not used for juice. Also, remember that we produce approximately 90 W.G.’s of dessert wine per ton of grapes vs. 180 W.G.’s of table wines. This meant that almost half the grape tonnage was distilled as high proof. The winery distilleries of that period were designed, based on the wineries’ crush, only to handle this large amount of grape tonnage for high proof. As a result, unless you were only a brandy maker — and there were only a few such operations — a winery had to do most of its brandy distilling immediately after the season, and only do limited brandy making during the crush season. For many wineries, brandy making was a by-product. Most distilleries did their brandy making post-crush season. My first brandy making experience was with the ISC, Clovis Winery, the old La Paloma Winery, which was greatly expanded in 1946. We had two new high proof stills and one still only for brandy. Most wineries were not as well equipped. During this post-war period a number of areas involving brandy production needed improving. There was the need to produce better wines for distillation rather than use, as had been done by some, the balance of the grape after drawing off some free run for wine only. Also, there was a good deal of controversy between the Federal Alcohol Regulatory Agency and the brandy makers as to the definition of “brandy” and what material was eligible for distillation into beverage brandy. In 1941 the Brandy Gauging Manual was amended so that there were three basic classifications of distillate made from fruit-grape. These were grape brandy, neutral grape brandy, and spirits-fruit grape. Also, there was the definition that brandy — whether neutral or grape — had to have the “taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to brandy.” In addition, grape brandy was to be distilled at less than 170 proof, and neutral brandy at between 170-190 proof with both these distillates to be made from the whole fruit.

Although there was considerable debate and controversy over this ruling, the Federal Government’s position remained firm. Regulations required that these products grape and neutral brandy — be distilled solely from the juice or mash of whole, sound, ripe fruit or from natural grape wine; and their interpretation of what constituted “natural grape wine” was what we call “table wine;” i.e., 11-13%., dry wine. The reason this was such a controversial point was that the brandy makers wanted to be able to produce a new type of brandy — lighter in flavor, or congeners, and basically the fusel oils, and primarily the amyl alcohol fraction of these congeners. At this post-war period with new distillery expansion taking place, some new still columns were erected, and could under approved statements of process permit the heads fraction to be redistilled with live steam and returned at lower proof via the closed pipeline system back to the main column and blended with the main brandy stream, and thus produce a lower congener product.

The regulation at that time required that the product draw not be over 170 proof at the tri-brix. Since that period, and during my term as Chairman of Wine Institute’s Laws and Regulations Committee, the regulation was changed so proof of distillation is now determined in the production tank.

With the desire to produce lighter brandies and to terminate all the controversy of that day with the Federal Alcohol Agency, the regulation was interpreted by the government in the early 1950′s that a fortified wine would be considered a standard wine and could be used in beverage brandy making. This was a big step forward for the California Brandy Industry. This change in the Federal position was most important since it enabled all brandy producers to make different level congener brandies; and with the American taste for lighter spirit products (like Seagram’s 7-Crown), this was made possible.

In the years following World War II the California brandy producers, cognizant of the damage done to the brandy industry from some low-quality brandies which had been marketed, changed their attitude toward brandy. Improved technology, both in the production of the wine to be distilled and changes in equipment and distillation control, resulted in uniform good brandy being produced.

During this post-war period, Dr. Guymon conducted considerable research in brandy production enabling brandy producers to better understand why certain practices were important in the production of a quality product.

In the period from 1939 through 1943 and prior to his military service — Dr. Guymon had either alone, or with others, authored and published seven articles on brandy. Most of this work was specifically directed to subjects such as fermentation mechanisms, analysis of sugar, pH, and tannin, etc. From the period 1948 to 1977, however, he authored or co-authored some 77 published articles on subject such as mutant yeast fermentations to reduce fusel oil; understanding of distillery operations; analysis of many beverage brandies; improved analytical procedures by gas chromatography ; brandy aging, including warehousing loss studies; and other miscellaneous subjects. Some of Dr. Guymon’s co-authors were E. Crowell, John Ingraham, J. Nakagiri , M. Amerine, and C. Ough. And there are other unpublished research projects in Dr. Guymon’s files which we hope will someday be reviewed and published. (See Slide 3)

In 1976, the California Brandy Advisory Board funded a project to compile the published papers of Dr. Guymon. This project — “Compilation of Findings on Existing and Ongoing Research Concerning California Brandy Production and Aging” was concluded in August, 1977 when two volumes of these Guymon articles were turned over to the California Brandy Advisory Board. At that time, it was hoped that this would be the prelude to a book on California brandy by Dr. Guymon, but his untimely death shortly after retirement halted this. We hope that sometime in the near future all his published and unpublished works will be compiled and presented in book form. Any volunteers?

In my opinion a very important contribution affecting our brandy industry made by Dr. Guymon was his work on factors affecting higher alcohol formation during fermentation, thus finding ways of reducing these higher alcohols in wine with a resulting lower fusel oil content in the brandy. Also, distillation work done by Dr. Guymon demonstrated the distribution of various higher alcohols — propyl, buty, and amyl — at the various proofs on still columns.

Also, another very important research project — which resulted in millions of dollars of savings to both the California brandy and grain alcohol industries — was the recycling of the heads(aldehydes fractions) back to the alcohol fermentation so that up to 95%. of the aldehydes disappeared in the fermentation.

I became involved with Dr. Guymon in this project when I was with Schenley. We utilized the high heads spirits by adding to sweet juice, which in turn was refermented with other distillery material. After distillation, we had a clean spirits. Previously, if we treated the heads with various chemicals such as caustic or potassium permanganate to destroy the aldehydes, we got a redistilled spirit, fishey or chocolaty in aroma, and poor in quality. Overall, we lost approximately 1% of the original P.G. input as high head distillate which was destroyed. Guymon’s process resulted in a recycling and recovery of this heads fraction with little effect in final quality of the spirit and reduced loss of very high heads distillate (over 10,000 ppm aldehyde) to 0.1-0.2% of the original P.G. Input.

From the results of this work on aldehyde recycling we, at Roma and Schenley, repeated this in a Schenley Canadian whiskey distillery to determine if this was feasible with grain spirits as well. It proved very successful. From industry results and requests from all distilled spirits segments – grain and brandy — the U.S. Federal Agency approved this aldehyde refermentation process to recover these heads fractions into usable spirits. Just how much money has been saved since 1956 due to this Guymon research project is unknown, but I would not be exaggerating if I stated that since 1956 I conservatively estimate that there has been a savings of at least $10,000,000 from redistilled heads previously destroyed [short segment of missing text].

Dr. Guymon’ s impact on today’s production of higher quality California brandies was in his emphasis on the following:

1. Proper grape maturity — high acid and low pH;

2. Preference for white or lightly-colored varieties (such as Tokay, Mission, Emperor) over red or black varieties;

3. Separation of juice from skins or pomace prior to fermentation and handling them as a dry white table wine;

4. Low S02 – (not over 75 ppm in the brandy wine fermentation);

5. Fermentation temperature lower than 75F;

6. Distillation of the fermented wine immediately after fermentation with a partial racking from heavy fermentation lees ;If wine fortified, 7. only high quality wine spirits used.

The above deals with distilling materials which, in my opinion, are the keystone to quality brandy. The other aspect has to do with the distillation of this DM into brandy.

To produce a uniform brandy, good control of the distillery process is required. In the past, the distiller learned to produce a good brandy after he had learned how to manually control the multiple variables in the distillation, and a neophyte distiller was awed at how a little adjustment here and there did the job. Actually, with our modern instrumentation, we can effectively control the distillation. Prior to the present instrument controls, the operator had to manually control the flow rates of the DM input and product output; the heads draw; the water control to the dephlegmator ; the reflux; steam, etc., and a change in any one of these variables would cause an upset distillery condition. Today, particularly with automatic instrumentation, we can control many of the variables such as installing in the bottom of the beer still a base pressure control for steam, a temperature control for overhead vapors which, in turn, can control the brandy product draw. There are other points in the distillation where certain variables can be fixed and automatic controls modulate the feed, product draw-off, water control, etc. to insure a smooth operation.

California’s brandy producers have learned much from the whiskey distillers. During my early experience with both National and Schenley, I learned the importance of a clean fermented wine, or beer, as it’s called by the whiskey distillers, if a clean distillate is to be produced. In whiskey production, the beer is distilled as it is completing its fermentation to insure that no adverse microbiological action takes place. And an experienced distiller can tell by smelling the distillate if this bacterial action has occurred even before any chemical tests are made to confirm an “aldehyde” formation. No heads are removed in whiskey, yet the final product will be low in heads. To whiskey producers, a clean beer results in a clean whiskey, and the same can be said of brandy. Therefore, anyone who wishes to produce a quality brandy must first produce a quality wine.

We should take a look at both California and import brandies to get some view on the congener levels.

Slide 4 shows a recent analysis of twelve California brandies which represent approximately 70%, of case sales. Please note that most brandies are lower in the iso amyl fraction, indicating either use of fortified brandy wine or special distillation techniques. Also note that of the twelve brandies apparently only two (#2 and #8) are unrectified or “straight”. The other have approximately 1.0 to 2 . 07 of sugar and glycerol. Recent statistics show that approximately 9% of U.S.A. brandy is unrectified.

The French brandies were from an analysis prepared a few years ago on some French brandies which had been imported and bottled in the United States. In my view, the main points are the higher amounts of higher alcohols, aldehydes, and ethyl acetates — and subsequent longer aging. It should also be noted that the Spanish brandies — very large sellers in the United States and worldwide — have very low congener levels — particularly in the lower amyl fraction requiring possibly less aging time, some rectification, and lower brandy flavors (yet very acceptable to consumers). The two Mexican brandies also are slightly lower in amyls, but one has a very high ester content.

I have dwelt on the congener level at length, as I believe this is one of our main yardsticks in classifying brandies as to heavy, medium, and light. Congeners give us flavors, some better than others. High amyl fraction is unacceptable to taste unless aged for a very, very long time; yet a medium or light congener brandy made from a clean wine and properly distilled can give a delightful brandy which, with less aging and some rectification, is pleasing to consumers.

Today we understand what is required to produce good brandies, and most brandy producers are doing a good job of producing brandies which in tasting can be graded very close. Yes, the more experienced brandy tasters can pick out the lighter brandies from medium and heavy brandies, but generally, as shown in the slide, the big majority of our California brandies are within a fairly close range.

I believe we have overcome consumer concerns surrounding brandy due to the poor quality brandies of the World War II period and shortly thereafter. The growth of brandy is real and slightly steadier than the growth of wine. In Slide 5, giving a 25-year view of California brandy inventories, production, and bottled brandy entering distribution channels, we can see a very positive long term growth in the consumption of our California brandies.

In a recent WINES & VINES article (9) (March, 1983 issue) the observation was made that “Brandy is becoming increasingly important to wine, grape folk;” it is further noted that the long-term trend in brandy sales in the United States has been consistently going up, with very little fluctuation; and that U.S. brandy sales increased some 208% in the 20 year period from 1961 – 1981 as compared to wine which increased approximately 195%. The total for all distilled spirits during that same period only increased 87.3%, or less than half of the growth registered by brandy.

Latest reports (10) comparing the 1982 vs. 1981 sales of distilled spirits show that brandy sales maintained around a 3 . 5% increase as opposed to a 2.0% sales decrease for all distilled spirits. The only other major spirits showing growth were liquers and cordials – and Tequila. This indicates that the public is purchasing brandy and is apparently willing to pay the price, as evidenced by the steady increase of import brandies, which are primarily the cognacs. In 1982(9) these import sales were around 6,700,000 W.G. or 2,800,000 cases. Converted to grapes prior to aging losses, this is approximately 145,000 tons, or 5% of the 1982 crush.

What can we, as California brandy producers, do to increase sales and consumption of our product, considering that all brandy sales represent only 4.57 of all spirits sold in the U.S.?

In 1971, the producers of California brandy formed the California Brandy Advisory Board. This board operates under a State Marketing Order and is financed by a $.05 per proof gallon assessment at point of production. For instance during the recent five-year period of brandy production of an average annual 15,000,000 proof gallons, approximately $750,000 was collected. For your information, all California brandy producers belong to this board; and I believe that at the latest count we have twelve California brandy producers.

Quoting from Jim McManus (11) — the Board’s President, he has stated that, “The Board’s purpose was to mount a communications program that would enhance the quality image of California brandy and its uses as a versatile beverage not just confined to a snifter for after dinner consumption.” The Board also performs extensive work in other areas such as trade barriers and brandy marketing in other states. The Board’s efforts have resulted in greatly expanding sales; for example, in the Sun Belt states, which were primarily areas of lower penetration. Of course, brand support by the brandy producers has been most effective. This, coupled with the California Brandy Advisory Board’s work and with the high quality of our brandies, has resulted in our present position. Considerable advertising money is being spent in the United States by foreign producers. Hennessy Cognac has launched an $8,000,000 ad campaign. Hennessy is the leading cognac brand in the United States today.

I believe we can do more to expand consumption of California brandies.

Today, many specialty spirit products such as Southern Comfort (using whiskey), Grand Marnier (using cognac) , Drambuie (using Scotch whiskey), Irish Mist (using Irish whiskey), and other similar products are being sold. Sales of liquers/cordials are double those of brandy, and brandy specialty products — with the proper market support — would, in my opinion, be accepted by consumers. This is a challenge to all brandy producers.

The big area where I believe we should put emphasis on is in the developing of credentials for our brandies so consumers will perceive them in the same light as they now do the cognacs, which are considered a premium class category. Today’s consumer considers cognacs to be a higher class than our premium brandies. In blind tasting we have found that our premium brandies are as well accepted as the cognacs, and the brandy and cognac experts at these tastings have been confused as to which was which. We should be able to show credentials for our brandies the same as the cognacs carry credentials which imply that they are of a higher quality than California brandy. Unfortunately, our government allows the importers to stress these credentials but will not permit us to make any such statements, except for an age statement such as “This brandy is _____ years old.” For a time, the BATF permitted use of a vintage year on a brandy label; but it has now withdrawn that right. We do not have the right, for instance, to tell our consumers that we can and do produce brandies of the same quality as cognacs, using the same type grapes, techniques, and aging, and to say that this product is comparable to cognac brandy, and let the consumer decide which of many similar products he may wish to buy.

In line with this, we are today seeing activity on the part of certain California wine producers who wish to produce brandy the same as in the Cognac area, using similar grape varieties such as St. Emillion and, for French Colombard, pot stills and aging in Limousin oak casks. Also, we are noting offshore interest for this type of California-produced brandy. We should be exploring all these areas mentioned, as I know we have the brandy technology and stills to produce such products. We need to support more brandy research at U.C. Davis and Cal State-Fresno and to also encourage our fellow brandy producers to explore new ways of producing and marketing brandy rather than discouraging or opposing innovations which could convince the U.S. consumer that we can stand up, quality-wise, with our brandies as we have done with our California varietal and generic table wines.

I would again like to thank the A.S.E., U.C. Davis, and others in honoring me as the Guymon Lecturer, and hope I was able to leave some new thoughts with you.

I wish to thank the many colleagues and associates who helped and advised me in the research, data gathering, and in supplying other materials used in preparing this lecture. These are W. Allmendinger, Phil Hiaring, M. Amerine, and J. McManus . I also want to thank other fellow brandy makers — H. Archinal, Ray Mettler, Art Musso, E. Crowell, R.L. Nowlin, Mike Nury, and Nino Muzio — all who freely discussed past brandy making with me and contributed to my knowledge, as I hope I may have done to theirs. And, finally, I shall always owe much to my past teachers on brandy making and distillation – particularly the late Dr. Jim Guymon, the late Elbert M. Brown, Wendell Phinos, and the late Al Knippenberg.


1. WINES & VINES, January, 1977 – “California Brandy History – I”

2. Irving McKee , University of California, Berkeley, California Article, “Mission Wine Commerce.”

3. Vincent P. Carosso, “The California Wine Industry – 1830- 1895.” U.C. Berkeley Press, 1951.

4. WINES & VINES, January, 1971 – “U.S. Brandy 80 Years Ago.”

5. James F. Guymon, WITS Seminar 11/13/76 “California Brandy: Past, Present, and Future.”

6. Wine Institute letter dated 7/17/46 – D. Uebelucker, Research Department.

7. Lee Jones, “Development of Commercial Brandy Industry” December, 1934, California Journal of Development.

8. WINES & VINES, January, 1968 – Article by James Riddell, “Brandy Production: Past, Present, Future.”

9. WINES & VINES, March, 1983 “Brandy is Becoming Increasingly Important to Wine, Grape Folk.”

10. Beverage Industry, May 6, 1983

11. WINES & VINES, January, 1983 – Interview – J. McManus , J. Welsch.

12. Leon D. Adams, THE WINES OF AMERICA, Second Edition, 1978, McGraw Hill.