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.

The Tribuno Papers

This document, which was about 14 typewriter pages, was written to the IRS by the executor of Mario P. Tribuno’s estate. The document was given to me by the executor of the son, John L. Tribuno’s estate. The story of the company and its founder are told as well as all liabilities explained in the hopes that this artisan company will be valuated lower for tax purposes while it is transferred from father to son in 1962. This paper was financially very important so it is very well organized and persuasive especially when it comes to the liabilities. I do not think much is exaggerated because eventually in the 1970′s domestic vermouths were being out advertised 20 to 1 by Italian companies.

Tribuno was at one point in time the biggest American vermouth company and had about a quarter of the domestic vermouth market. Their vermouth was considered by some to be the greatest ever made. The company ended up being sold to Coca-Cola in 1970′s where it is now just a shadow of its former self. The paper ultimately describes the company as a “one man organization” and after two generations there was a particularly rocky market and no one to pass the torch to. Coca-cola just couldn’t man up.

The Tribuno family started a fellowship at UC Davis in Mario P. Tribuno’s name to study vermouth and commissioned Maynard Amerine to create the Annotated Bibliography of Vermouth, which after being re-popularized on this very blog!, has launched quite a few ships. Sadly, with the declining popularity of vermouth, someone shortsightedly redirected the fellowship to the study of wine aroma.

This document is followup to a project I tackled more than five years ago. I had not searched for anything related to Tribuno in a while. At the bottom, below the document, are some links and one lists many of the botanicals in the Tribuno formula.


Mario P. Tribuno was born in 1882 in Torino, Italy. His father was a vineyardist and other members of the family were in the wine business.  Thus Mr. Tribuno had an early introduction to the business that as to become his life’s work.

In 1903, by arrangement with an uncle in California who was president of Italian Swiss Colony, a large wine producing organization, Mr. Tribuno came to the United States for the purpose of learning American methods of grape growing and wine making. He spent four years in California at the Italian Swiss Colony vineyards and plants. In 1907 he came East to serve the company as their eastern sales representative.

In 1909 Mr. Tribuno severed his connection with Italian Swiss Colony and went into business for himself as an importer of wines. Thereafter, he bought a California vineyard and continued in business until the event of prohibition as both an importer and domestic wine producer.

Shortly after the event of prohibition, in 1921, Mr. Tribuno organized California Grape Products, a California corporation. This company produced grape concentrate from its own vineyards as well as from purchased grapes. Mr. Tribuno continued in this business until the early 1930s, at which time he liquidated his interest. During 1926 Mr. Tribuno played a prominent part in the formation of Fruit Industries, now known as the California Wine Association, one of the largest wine cooperatives now in existence.

In 1935, shortly after repeal, Mr. Tribuno organized Vermouth Industries of America, Inc., a predecessor of the present Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. This venture, because of a 50% reduction of import duties, became economically untenable and the company was liquidated in 1939. The present Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. was incorporated in October 7, 1940.

Mr. Tribuno spent his entire business lifetime in various phases of the wine business. He was an expert on all phases of grape growing and wine and vermouth manufacture. His expertness was well known and widely recognized in the trade.

Today approximately 37% of all vermouth consumed in this country is imported from Europe and the balance, approximately 63%, is of domestic manufacture. Prior to prohibition practically all vermouth was imported. Only 5% of the total consumption was then manufactured domestically and that principally in California for local consumption within the state. In the early post-prohibition period, domestic wineries attempted to produce and sell vermouth. However, they met with little success in competing with the imported product. For the first six years after prohibition the consumption of domestic produced vermouth was not in excess of 15% of the total consumption.

With the event of World War II, foreign imports gradually dried up, and in the course of time there were no importations of vermouth from Europe whatsoever. Several Italian companies during the war years did establish vermouth making plants in Argentina and succeeded in importing Argentine manufactured vermouth into the U.S. However, this vermouth was of poor quality and did not meet with public acceptance.

During the World War II years the manufacture of domestic vermouth was greatly expanded to meet the demand created by the lack of importations. After the conclusion of the war, foreign shippers again brought their merchandise into the United States markets. With respect to more recent trends, the available statistics indicate that the total vermouth market during the period from 1949 through 1955, increased 88.9% whereas the United States vermouth increased 53%  and foreign vermouth increased 106.4% During this period the United States vermouth declined from 70% to 63% of the total market. The statistics reveal that a definite shift in favor of foreign vermouths is taking place.

At the present time hearings are pending before the United States Tariff Commission with regard to the reduction of duties on imported vermouths. The domestic vermouth industry is opposing such reduction. The outcome at this point is uncertain. However, any reduction that may be made in the present duties will result in immediate unfavorable financial consequences to the domestic vermouth industry and could possibly recreate the economic situation that led to the dissolution of the predecessor Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. in 1939.

Competition among vermouth producers is very keen. There are over 300 brands of imported vermouth and over 200 brands of domestic vermouth distributed in New York State. Martini & Rossi and Cinzano imported from Italy, and Noilly Prat imported from France account for approximately 70% of all foreign vermouth sold in the United States. Some other imported brands are: From Italy – Gancia and Cora, and from France – Broissoire. Many better hotels and restaurants and private clubs feature and serve imported vermouths exclusively. Some of these establishments, to name a few, are as follows: St. Regis Hotel, Longchamps Restaurant chain, Schrafft’s Restaurant chain, Yale Club, Racquet & Tennis Club, and such New York famous restaurants as Pavillon, Chateau Briand and Voison. Some popular brands of domestic vermouth made in the United State are: Gallo, G & D, Lejon, Hublein, and Roma.

Purchasers of vermouth fall into two categories: First, those individual consumers who purchase from retail outlets individual bottles for home consumption, and second, sales to restaurants, hotels, bars and to others who are in the business of vending food and drink. Both the individual buyer and the business buyer, because of the many brands available, are extremely price conscious, and the meeting of price competition is an important factor in the operation of the vermouth manufacturer.

Prior to World War II, domestically produced vermouths were made and distributed by relatively small organizations engaged solely in the wine business. Almost invariably these companies were inadequately financed and had no funds available for the exploitation of their product through nationwide advertising channels. With the event of World War II, the large liquor companies, in an effort to replace lost whisky volume, acquired wineries and thus established themselves in the wine and vermouth business. In 1942 Schenley acquired the Roma Wine Company, and the Roma brand of vermouth; in 1941 Hublein Brothers came on the market with a Hublein brand vermouth; in 1945 Hiram Walker acquired Valliant Vineyards, Inc. and marketed a Valliant brand vermouth. Only some six months ago Seagram-Distillers Corporation acquired Fromm & Sichel, and have brought onto the market a vermouth under the very popular label of Christian Brothers. Two of the large wine companies, Gallo Wine Company, with Gallo vermouth, and Italian Swiss Colony with the Lejon and G & D brands, have, in the last two years, begun to extensively feature and advertise their vermouth line.

The entry of the large corporation in to the wine and vermouth business has forced out of the industry many of the small independents, in many instances by the bankruptcy route. The large companies operating on substantial advertising budgets are exploiting wines and vermouths on a national basis via the radio, television, newspaper and magazine media. Their willingness and capacity to spend advertising dollars dwarfs the advertising budget of an independent such as Vermouth Industries of America, Inc., which company has never spent more than $50,000 a year on all forms of advertising. Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. is faced with the bleak prospect that in the course of time the greater advertising expenditures by larger and wealthier competitors will result in a serious loss of business.

Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. occupies approximately 20,000 square feet of space on the street floor and basement floors at 420 West 45 Street, New York City. The space is rented at an annual rental of $17,000. The office as well as the manufacturing facilities are located on these premises. The company has no other facilities elsewhere.

The company’s cooperage capacity is 195,000 gallons, consisting of approximately 80 tanks of varying capacity. Approximately 40% of the cooperage was erected fifteen years ago with the balance being added through the intervening years. The cost of new cooperage is today some 18¢ a gallon. However, the resale value is only 1¢ a gallon because the principal cost of cooperage is the labor coast of erecting the tanks. The principal mechanical equipment in use in the winery is the bottling line. The company owns one bottling line, the value of which in new condition is approximately $12,000. The companies does not own any plant assets which any substantial appreciation over book values and in general, the balance sheet of the company reflects a fair approximation of the in-place value of the plant and equipment.

The company does not own its own vineyards and therefore all of its base wines must be purchased. It has been the custom of the company to contract each year with two California wineries for its needs. From time to time additional spot purchases of wine are made as conditions dictate. Wine supplies are purchased for one to two years’ needs. There have been marked fluctuations in the cost of wine, which is one of the principal cost ingredients of vermouth. The manufacturer of vermouth must invariably shoulder the brunt of increased costs, although he may also profit in a reverse situation. The inability of the finished product to readily reflect changes in basic costs makes the vermouth manufacturing business highly speculative.

The quality of vermouth is a factor ranking equally in importance with that of price. Vermouth is a wine flavored with herbs and roots. It originated in Italy some two hundred years ago. It was first used as an aperitif and drunk straight and is still so consumed today in European and Latin speaking countries. However, is today used in the United States principally as an cocktail ingredient. The sweet type or Italian type is used in the marking of Manhattan cocktails, and the dry or French type is used for the Martini and dry Manhattan cocktails.

Some thirty odd herbs and roots gathered from every continent of the world are used to make the extract which is used to flavor the wine. The extract is made by macerating several hundred pounds of herbs and roots and soaking them in wine for several months. At the end of the soaking period the wine, which is now called extract, is drained off and is aged for a period of six months or more. Approximately 1% of the extract is added to the base wine along with sugar, citric acid, caramel and other ingredients, varied as required, to make either the sweet or dry vermouth. After a period of aging, the vermouth is then filtered and bottled.

The flavor and character of the vermouth is imparted to the product by the extract. The United States Government requires that the vermouth producer file with the Government a list of all the herbs and roots which go to make the extract. However, the Government does not require that the formula show the relative quantities of the various botanicals used. This is the vermouth makers secret. Only minute quantities of some herbs are used and there are but two herbs that are common to both the sweet and dry type of vermouth.

The formulas used by the company for dry and sweet vermouth were developed by Mr. Mario P. Tribuno, the decedent, and label on each bottle of vermouth bears the legend that “This vermouth is made solely from selected California wines and imported herbs according to the original formulas of Mr. M. P. Tribuno.” At the present time the formulas are known only to Mr. John Tribuno, son of Mario. To provide for emergencies and to permit continued production of the vermouth, the formulas have been placed by Mr. John Tribuno in a vault, access to which is available on his death to his heirs.

The making of vermouth is therefore an art rather than a science. There is no stability or consistency in the botanicals used. Because of changing climatic and soil conditions each harvest produces roots and herbs somewhat different in character from previous crops. It is the vemrouth-makers art to blend with each batch of extract manufactured the 30-odd herbs and roots in such quantities so that the end result will yield a vermouth of a standard and uniform quality. Mr. Mario P. Tribuno, the decedent, during all of his years as president of Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. personally made and supervised the making of the vermouth extract and the finished vermouth according to his own secret formulas. The only person to whom the decedent had imparted his formulas and methods is his son, John Tribuno, who today is head of the company and is carrying on the work of his father. The real test of whether or not the art of vermouth making has successfully been imparted from father to son will soon come with the exhaustion of the supplies of extract manufactured under the aegis of the decedent. The drinking public is sensitive to subtle changes in taste and quality and great harm will result unless the company is able to continue to turn out a vermouth containing those characteristics of taste and quality which have created a place for Tribuno vermouth in a highly competitive market.

Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. remains a “one man” organization. John Tribuno is present, production head, general manager, “21″ Brands liaison man and general factotum. The company has in its employ no other persons capable of continuing the work of John Tribuno and should he resign, become incapacitated, die or for any reason whatsoever be unavailable, the company would be unable to maintain the continuity of product quality, and generally financial loss would result on his removal from the Vermouth Industries picture.

The company distributes its product nationally through a sole distributor, “21″ Brands, Inc. a prominent firm in the industry, whose operation consists of handling a line of liquor and wine products on an exclusive basis. Some of the lines it handles exclusively in addition to Tribuno vermouth are Ballantine Scotch, Hine Cognac, Boca Chica Rum and Martini wines. ”21″ Brands distributes directly to retail liquor stores, restaurants, bars and grills, etc. in the borough of Manhattan. Elsewhere ”21″ Brands acts as a jobber or primary distributor and sells the Tribuno vermouth to other distributors who in turn sell to their local customers, that is, the liquor stores, restaurants, etc.

Vermouth Industries invoices all of its shipments to ”21″ Brands, Inc. and Vermouth Industries has no contact whatsoever with the customers of ”21″ Brands, Inc.

The relationship with ”21″ Brands, Inc. originated in 1941. The initial agreement was set forth in a give year written contract which was not renewed at the expiration of its original terms. Since 1946, all arrangements have been made orally and there is no written contract in existence between the parties at the present time.

In 1941, ”21″ Brands, Inc. acquired by purchase an 18% stock interest in Vermouth Industries. They own 250 shares of the total outstanding stock of 1,450 shares. As stockholders of Vermouth Industries ”21″ Brands, Inc. is represented on the Board of Directors of Vermouth Industries and of course receives all financial reports of the company.

As matters now stand, ”21″ Brands, Inc. is the sole customer of Vermouth Industries. Vermouth Industries has no access to the real distributors of the product, that is, the liquor stores, restaurants, etc. and ”21″ Brands, Inc. is under no obligation to furnish such a list to Vermouth Industries. Since there is no contract with ”21″ Brands, Inc. they may at their own pleasure terminate the existing relationship. Recent events have given the Vermouth Industries management some cause for concern. Within the last month it was announced that ”21″ Brands, Inc. had acquired a distillery in Kentucky for the purpose of manufacturing their own whiskeys for distribution under their existing brand name of Club Special. The acquisition of a distillery represents a departure on the part of ”21″ Brands, Inc. from their previous method of operation. Without question, increases costs of operation, higher salesmens’ commissions, wages, freight rates and the general price increases which have characterized our economy of recent years, has compelled ”21″ Brands, Inc.to seek increased profits through expanding their operation to include manufacturing as well as distributing with the purpose of earning for themselves the manufacturers’ as well as distributor’s profit. The extension of such thinking on the part of ”21″ Brands, Inc. could have calamitous results insofar as Vermouth Industries is concerned. Vermouth Industries, without any access to the ultimate customer, would find itself in a difficult position to continue the distribution of its product without interruption should ”21″ Brands, Inc.for one reason or another be forced to or decide to discontinue its distribution of Tribuno vermouth.

At the inception of the relationship with ”21″ Brands, Inc. the price charged by Vermouth Industries to ”21″ Brands, Inc.was a matter of arms length bargaining between the parties. However, as heretofore related, ”21″ Brands, Inc. soon became a stockholder of Vermouth Industries and thus obtained access to Vermouth Industries financial figures and its affairs generally. As a result of such information ”21″ Brands, Inc. has continually brought pressure for price adjustments and other concessions which have had the result of effectively reducing the sales price of the product by Vermouth Industries to ”21″ Brands, Inc. For example, Vermouth Industries now pays all of the advertising bills and reimburses ”21″ Brands, Inc. for all or a substantial portion of expenditures made by them in connection with the sales promotion of Tribuno vermouth. The business and future of Vermouth Industries is subject to all of the infirmities and risks that result from having but a single customer, complicated in this case by the fact that the customer has a minority interest in the supplier company.

The liquor business, of which the wine industry is one branch, is without question the most highly regulated industry of its size in our economy. There is strict regulation of the industry at all government levels, federal, state and local. The Alcohol and Tax Division of the United States as they apply to alcoholic beverages including wines and vermouths. No one may engage in the liquor business unless a basic permit is obtained from the Division. The issuance of such a permit is a permissive act and is not mandatory on the part of the authorities. The Division controls ever facet of its permittees’ business operation. It determines production standards and methods of manufacture. Its rulings, which it may make arbitrarily, may and do have financial consequences to the manufacturers. For example, about a year ago the Division issued a ruling change a traditional vermouth production practice that had been in use in the industry, with government sanction, since 1933, with the result that this change in method increased the cost to make the vermouth about 8¢ a gallon. The Division also controls selling and distribution practices. For example, no alcoholic goods may be sold on consignment. Labels must be submitted for approval. Advertising programs are subject to review by the Division, and in like manner the whole conduct of the business operation is under the scrutiny and control of the Division.

The State of New York, through the State Liquor Authority by means of permissive licensing, again duplicates all of the controls of the federal government. The State Liquor Authority of New York State also controls credit practices and wholesale and retail pricing. No person can be an officer, director or substantial stockholder of a licensed liquor manufacturer, distributor or retailer without the approval of federal and state authorities. All of the various states in which the sale of alcoholic beverages is legal have Boards similar to the New York State, State Liquor Authority.

Because of these government controls the business of Vermouth Industries may be placed in jeopardy not only because of the wrong doings of its own employees, officers, and directors, but may also be placed in jeopardy by reason of the wrong doings of its distributor “21″ Brands, Inc. over whose affairs of course Vermouth Industries has no exercise or control.

Instances of permittees who have sustained great financial loss because of the inability to secure license renewals are well known in the industry. These incidents involve permittees at all levels, manufacturers, distributors and retail liquor stores. A few years ago the State Liquor Authority of New York State refused to renew the license of International Distributors, Inc., a large New York company. This company was unsuccessful in its efforts in the courts to compel the state authorities to issue the license and the company closed its doors and went out of business. This company was the exclusive distributor of a well known scotch, Kings Ransom, and it is a safe surmise that all the suppliers of International Distributors were to some extent adversely affected and suffered financial loss as a result of the sudden cessation of the distribution of their products. Longchamps, Inc. was closed by the New York State Liquor Authority some years ago because of violation of the state’s credit regulations. Longchamps gave credit to its patrons for liquor consumed in the restaurant contrary to state regulations. As a result of this violation the bars of all the Longchamps restaurants were ordered closed, and this situation resulted in the sale of the restaurant to new owners at a price reputed to be 25% to 50% of the value of the business had Longchamps not been in violation of the State Liquor Authority regulations. Ilsa Wine and Liquor Company, a retail store, repudiately incurred legal fees in excess of $50,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to compel the issuance of it of a license by the New York State Liquor Authority which had refused to renew on the grounds of alleged violations.

The stock of publicly held liquor companies which are traded on stock exchanges, reflect in the relationships of book value to market price the uncertainties of the industry. In this day of inflated values and booming stock markets, the liquor stocks for the most part are priced below book values. Some current book values and market prices are as follows:

Book           Market
Value           Value
American Distilling                       $38.23        $23.00
Distillers-Seagram                         40.33          35.00
National Distillers                           24.93          25.00
Schenley Industries                       52.63          19.00
Brown-Forman Distilling Co.         21.39          19.00


Talk. Visit to the Vermouth Industries of America, Inc., one of the largest vermouth-blending cellars, underneath 420 West 45 St. (between 9 and 10 Ave.) Proprietors are Mario P. and John L. Tribuno, father and son. Alcoholic content of vermouth must match label specifications. The elder Tribuno worked out the formula, more or less as a hobby, during prohibition days. The vermouth is made of white wine plus wormwood, the basic herb. They use a fortified sherry-type wine and some of the herbs used are: angelica, tonka bean, hyssop, orrisroot, rosemary, elder flower, sage, sweet marjoram, nutmeg, orange peel, and lemon peel. It is aged for about a year, and it takes a year and a half to get a batch of extract ready for mixing. – John Brooks October, 6th 1951, The New Yorker


For those with a Time Magazine subscription, here is a great article with John L. Tribuno from 1955.

PAR. 6. As a result of its Tribuno acquisition, New York Coca-Cola is the largest producer of vermouth in the United States. Tribuno holds a 12.3 percent share of the total vermouth market, and its share of domestically produced vermouth is 24 percent. Thus Tribuno ranks first among all domestic sellers of vermouth and second among all producers of vermouth. -FTC June 1979


Until its acquisition by Coke-New York, Tribuno had been a family-owned company in New Jersey bottling and blending vermouth under its trademark in its plant in New Jersey. Some vermouth was also botted for Tribuno by A. Perelli-Minetti & Sons, Delano, California from whom Tribuno also purchased bulk wine for its bottling plant in New Jersey

Tribuno did face a boycott at one point in time (1967) due to association with Perelli-Minetti. Mario Tribuno might have been associated with Perelli-Minetti since prohibiton where the produced grape concentrate for home wine making.

Demisting & The Spirits Safe



There are many ways to establish the heads cut of a distillate but they never seem to be compared and contrasted under one roof. Some of the techniques have developed and been promoted due to excise restrictions. For example, before self policing, distillers in the UK had to use a locked spirit safe to control the distillate. They were never free to take samples and nose the distillate like the rural mezcal distillers of Oaxaca. Tight excise restrictions, as commented on by S.H. Hastie in the early 20th century, meant you could not pull samples and perform congener analysis which could ultimately lead to time & volume best bets like the sophisticated distillers of Cognac. A hydrometer reading alone is not enough to guide a heads cut, so under the reign of the spirit safe was the time honored tradition of demisting.

Demisting involves taking a sample of the spirits run as it is collected and diluting it with water to see if it louches. The spirits run would continue to be collected in the foreshots receiver until the sample failed to louche. The spirits safe has a compartment with a water supply where this visual test can be conducted while locked (left compartment of the above photo).

At the chemical level, the demisting test is slightly counter intuitive. What is louching is not even from the heads of the new distillate, it is rather residue left in the condenser from the tales of the previous distillate. These congeners from the previous distillate are not so soluble in water therefore as the proof is lowered, they start to come out of solution and louche. If the still is too clean and you essentially have no previous distillate, you cannot perform a demisting test.

The demisting test is therefore like a timer. The heads contain congeners you do not want and you use the ability to visually test for removal of the long chain fatty acid residue from the previous distillation (which you also do not want) to time the whole process. Luckily they coincide fairly well, but often these days the heads cut is pushed beyond the point of demisting clarity to make a relatively lighter spirit.

Failure to make the cut properly (and abandon all cuts) can result in what is called a blank run which is when no cuts are made. The run has to be re-executed but the results will not be the same as normal because the distillate has been effected by time under heat. In the Distiller’s workbook, new distillers are encouraged to not be afraid of making mistakes under the confidence they can toss everything back in the still and start over again. This advice of essentially accepting a blank run is mostly correct in regards to those practicing the handling of the still on the small scale, but on a chemical level, distillers must be aware reactions have happened and the distillate and its various equilibriums are no longer the same.

Obsolete to the biggest commercial distillers, the demisting test may continue to be relevant to low involvement distillers and as a starting point for new projects.

There is a spectacular website devoted to the spirit safe that catalogs all the known safes and has brilliant photographs. I think the owner of the site was the purchaser of this spirit safe when it came up for auction.

A Still Operation Phenomenon Explained

A dynamite book I just got my hands on is Whisky: Technology, Production, and Marketing from the Handbook of Alcoholic Beverages Series. I avoided the book for a while because it was so expensive but it is worth every penny and contains explanations I had been chasing after for years. Believe it or not, I somehow ended up with a few extra copies and if anyone is interested, I would be happy to gift a few to some worthy readers. Send an email.

An issue that had been perplexing me for a while was Germain-Robin’s use of unbleached toilet paper to cover his spirits receiver described in his text: Traditional Distillation Art & Passion. I did not enjoy this book and found it mystified distillation rather than opening it up to new distillers with articulate explanations. I could not find a reference to covering the spirits receiver to catch a copper salt anywhere else and I’ve read quite a bit so I was really skeptical but the guy must know what he is doing. In the text, the copper corrosion in question was attributed in unspecified fatty acids, but in Whisky: Technology, Production, and Marketing (p. 163), it is touched upon and explained differently. Variables I would have never considered are the culprit.

Sulphur compounds present in the distillate vapour are (as with wash stills) highly volatile and odorous substances that take their toll on the copper, forming sulphides; the carbon dioxide in the wash encourages the formation of copper carbonate, which manifests itself as verdigris. It has been customary to suspend a muslin gauze over the spirit bowl to collect any such offending solids that might otherwise find their way into the new spirit.


Attack by carbon dioxide and sulphur also thins the copper so that eventually areas subject to this attack (above the boiling line, the shoulder, the swan neck, lyne arm, and condenser tubes exposed to vapour or the start of the worm) wear away, needing constant patching and eventually complete replacement. A still affected by erosion emulates the breathing of a dog, with the shoulders rising and falling in a rhythmic pattern; such a condition is known as panting, and indicates the need for replacement of the pot.

The sulphides (insoluble in water?) & copper carbonate (insoluble in water?) in question here might ultimately be soluble in the alcoholic distillate but they are likely being blown out of the still dry before any vapor comes across, the mechanism being escaping CO2 dissolved in the wine or beer. The spirits receiver being setup in advance so no distillate drips on the floor. The busy distiller possibly hopes to catch the flakes of verdigris ending up on the toilet paper or muslin gauze but if opportunity is missed, distillate just pours right through. In theory, the distillate at this point is collected in the foreshots receiver and re-distilled anyhow.

The solubility of these particular copper salts is dubious so possibly you only catch them because you can. Otherwise they sink to the bottom of the collection vessel. The lack of necessity of catching these forms of exfoliating verdigris may be why it isn’t commonly practiced or better explained in the literature. The practice may just be the hallmark of a distiller, relying more on art than science, who put in his time and soaked up all his habits via good old oral tradition and diligent & studious observation.

Matt Rowley wrote an excellent blog post about replacing worn out sections of stills, which was my introduction to the worn out copper topic, but missed the amazing panting phenomenon described above in the text which must be quite the unnerving spectacle.

Nature vs. Nurture vs. Cocktail: Holistic vs. Salient Creative Linkage

Westerners also prefer uniqueness in the environment and in their possessions. Social psychologists Heejung Kim and Hazel Markus asked Koreans and Americans to choose which objects in a picture array of objects they preferred. Americans chose the rarest object, whereas Koreans chose the most common object. Asked to choose a pen as a gift, Americans chose the least common color offered and East Asians the most common. – Richard Nisbett, Geography of Thought

I got into an argument with a brilliant woman I adore and she recommended I read Richard E. Nisbett’s Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners think differently… and Why? so naturally I took her advice. The book is interesting on so many levels and does the best job I’ve ever come across of contrasting the two cultures. Nisbett provides excellent background on concepts I only vaguely knew about such as the behavioral significance of coming from an individualist versus a collectivist society. Behavior in this regard, has been linked in countless studies to nitty-gritty perceptual differences such as the ability to detect contrast and remember salient items in photographs. As usual, I wondered if differences of the type Nisbett describes affect any of our flavor preferences and the answer I think is yes which may reveal a lot about a very prestigious flavor mystery.

My position has always been that we have innate drives to seek out the extraordinary as exemplified by Nobel laureate Niko Timbergen‘s super normal stimulus concept, but that may not be the case when you factor in culture as illustrated in the above quote. For decades we have been seduced by the explain-all ideas of genetics & DNA, also that we may be inescapably hardwired for certain behaviors, but this might have denied & downplayed the staggeringly significant power of cultural override.

Nisbett claims that Eastern and Western cultures at times are so different that it has shaped the programming of their attentional spot lights on even the relatively micro level and thus the rest of their thinking. I had previously been influenced by ideas in Slights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions by Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde which led to my teasing out the order of operations of the multi sensory perception of flavor, as confirmed by Spence & Auvray, and ultimately developing the simplified gustation model which explains a lot of the patterns that exist in cocktails. Simplified gustation posits how the path to perceiving olfaction can be flattened when the motive is to compete for attention with the other senses in a flavor experience and win. The idea makes assumptions that things about attention are hardwired. Macknik & Martinez-Conde explain how attention can work so consistently that a magician can manipulate an entire room full of people (with the sometimes exception of the autistic).

But if Nisbett claims Eastern attention can differ markedly from Western attention, can magicians just as easily manipulate rooms of Eastern observers with tricks designed for the West? Westerners often get hung up on foreground salient features while Easterners are more capable of noticing background, relationships, and context which is at the heart of collective thought. Believe it or not, food experiences have all the same attentional features used by the psychologists in studies that Nisbett examines so can any of it apply to flavor?

Westerners focus on objects while slighting the field and they literally see fewer objects and relationships in the environment than do Asians. – Geography of Thought
(p. 109)

Previously the journal, Nature, had published a study, Flavor network and the principles of food pairing, which was exciting and well discussed but came up sort of dry in its conclusions. Inspired by the work of poets, I had been naming the two creative linkage strategies the study described alliteration & collage and I had even singled out a few drinks that typify them which I was recently able to present to some illustrious food scientists after their lecture at Harvard (these chemistry focused guys loved the drinks but seemed to have zero curiosity about categorizing creative linkage). I consider these creative linkage strategies as a means of creating a super normal stimuli and I’ve tried to explain what these experiences do to us and why we return & gravitate towards them (the argument which lead to the book concerned those ideas).

Remember, where there is a response tendency, we are creating a delicious exaggerated response tendency through flavor pairing. In Western food, the study found aroma compounds repeated which creates extraordinary, individualistic, salient, foreground objects to pay attention to (hang a set of breast implants on it) while in Eastern food, aroma compounds are typically not repeated but rather linked as a collective collage of relationships. To apply the ideas of Nisbett, the collective collage of aromas appeals to the Eastern mind. Besides the super normal stimulus idea, this new idea of why each creative linkage strategy developed within each culture explains a gigantic piece of the puzzle, which was not seized upon by the study in Nature. We end up with different creative linkage strategies for minds of different attentional proclivities.

But where do we go from here and what is nature and what is nurture? Our nature might only be to pay attention and nurture, or rather culture, might be what to pay attention to. It must be pointed out that we are capable of enjoying and finding powerful repose in each creative linkage strategy. The forces of culture make it hard to create but not to enjoy and this raises some interesting other ideas.

In food, the often utilitarian realm of merely decorated sustenance, some short sighted famous person(s) claim there is no art, and within this criteria being discussed, they might be somewhat correct because according to the paper in Nature, East & West really stick to their patterns. Yet somehow the cocktail came about and things truly got creative, as evidenced by analyzing drinks in the Savoy cocktail book. Something happened to flavor which might reveal a property of artists and that is a unique structure of their attention, and thus ability to construct the world in a way which they can break away from their culture and its sweeping inertia. (Wassily Kandinsky explained this in a very grasping mystical way but it might be useful to psychologists to examine the concept in terms of attention and perceptual differences relative to the surrounding culture.)

Cocktails in the West, even early on, had both alliteration, which I hypothesize is a product of individualism, and collage, which I hypothesize is a product of collectivism. The layman has only the patterns of attention of their broader culture but the artist has their own patterns of attention, and thus own one-person culture (but yes, schools of art do form!). These early cocktail artists were able to see possibilities and create what Western food culture could not for nearly a century.

I hypothesized long ago that the cocktail might actually have led to modernism. Cocktails, which were able to break away from the patterns within food described by the study in Nature, may have dissolved crystallized culture thus incubating artists of other mediums and inspiring them to break away. Of course this is wildly speculative and I have no credentials, but if you look at the time line of art history, the abstract expressionism of the cocktail, a very popular medium, does precede so much other modernism. Hopefully by now I’ve painted enough of a picture that the creative linkage of the cocktail is especially anomalous relative to the rest of food culture.

Long ago I waged war on the word balanced in the culinary arts and tried my damnest to trade it in for the more expansive concept of harmony which I thought better respected acquired tastes. To apply Nisbett, I may have been shifting to an Eastern relatively more holistic mentality, accepting context and the multitude of factors that could effect an experience. As part of my theory of acquired tastes, things are harmonic only in the context that someone possessed the relevant acquired tastes. Balance considered no such context which is typical of Western mentality.

But if Eastern thought has a tendency to emphasize context, should they not have the foremost thinkers on the topic of acquired tastes and flavor theory? I would say no, because both cultures have not developed the categories for which to apply their unique points of view and according to Nisbett, Eastern thought is less concerned with categories. So flavor, a gigantic hole is our knowledge is caught between a culture that neglects context and another culture that neglects categories. My work is very big on categories and until you have them, you cannot detect contrast and cannot find patterns to develop theories. Embracing the advantageous qualities of East and West is what it is going to take to unravel flavor, but no need to reinvent the wheel, the harmony concept can borrow ideas from subjects like musicology (cough, cough, Arnold Schoenberg!) which have already seen plenty of intellectual investment. (Kandisnky actually borrowed heavily from Schoenberg to expand ideas about painting and the visual arts.)

Countless people in the food world tell grim tales of how we are hard wired for junk food and unhealthy eating but this meditation on the differences of the East & West show that it may just be culture. Culture comes with serious momentum but it is also quite malleable so our problems can be overcome. But is all this just academic nonsense? Sort of, but it does support and add critical mass to the underdog culture idea. Many of Nisbett’s ideas were supported by ingenious experiments and throwing food ways into the fold adds avenues of potential perceptual experimentation. Many people are also itching to throw cocktails into solid discussions of art history right alongside cubism or abstract expressionism.

What is going to hold a lot of these ideas back is the strange interdisciplinary nature and the lack of a nitty-gritty perceptual understanding of flavor to see these patterns. The culinary world barely recognizes the concept of the multi sensory perception of flavor, most scientists aren’t even aware of the super normal stimuli idea (even though it won a Nobel prize!), recognizing culturally influenced perceptual differences leading to patterns in food ways will make heads spin. These ideas are doomed to be ahead of their time for years to come.

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 16 of 15 Special effects!

There is one more exercise to go but I have yet to complete it.  The topic is special effects in distillation as first explained by Giovanni Fenaroli.  Special effects are differentials between olfaction and gustation created by distillation.  For example St. Germain is not simply an infusion of elder flowers because they are so acidic you would get too much acid before you got the aroma intensity you want therefore they distill a percentage of the flowers, separating aroma from the non-volatile acid and then infuse the remainder in that distillate.  In terms of special effects, St. Germain may be seen as an elder flower ratio such as 3x olfaction, 2x gustation.

Special effects are most common in the amaros where an exaggerated ratio of olfactory-bitterness is attached to gustatory-bitterness.

So I have to decide which to show off for the recipe, acid special effects or bitter special effects?

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 15 of 15

Hopped Gin

Hops have one of the most seductive aromas known to mankind with a spectrum that is staggeringly broad so it is amazing that hops have never been widely explored in distillates.  Unfortunately, a notorious louching problem are presented by hops which this exercise will explore.  The recipe is less explicit than some of the previous exercises because hops vary so significantly.  It is recommended to try the many proposed options and enjoy both your successes and cloudy failures in cocktails.

The inspiration for the hopped gin exercise came from the brilliant but seldom imported Japanese product Kiuchi No Shizuku which is produced by the Hitachino brewery.  The famous Hitachino white ale is reportedly distilled once to a low proof, briefly mellowed in barrels, and then re-distilled with more hops, coriander, and orange peel.  Other similar distillates might be the seldom imported beer schnapps of Bavaria.

Hopped spirits may not be common to the market because of how hops behave when distilled.  A clear distillate is very challenging to achieve when working with hops and clarity is something consumers expect out of un-aged distillates.  Unlike hopped distillates, most typical distillates become cloudy when certain compounds are included that are volatile only at high temperatures.  These compounds can be avoided by making cuts below a certain temperature (which corresponds to a certain alcohol level).  Whatever clouds hopped distillates, curiously, comes through at low temperatures and is therefore very difficult to avoid because these compounds overlap with much of the hop defining aroma.  The poorly soluble compound is likely a terpene and could possible be separated through terpene separation instead of a heads cut where removal could take other aroma compounds with it.

Hitachino mellows their distillate in barrels at a low proof before re-distilling which presents a clue.  Wonderful research on limoncello, to which terpenes are important in defining flavor, state that if the alcohol content goes below 30%, terpenes are at risk of separating as either a louche or possibly an insoluble oil floating on the top.  In the Hitachino production process, terpenes could be separated through mellowing at low proof before re-distillation.  Stability tests could then be conducted to determine what percentage of terpenes could be reintroduced to the distillate while maintaining clarity at a range of proofs.  A practical test for consumers would be making a chilled shot while maintaining crystal clarity.

Terpenes, which have a piney character, are often separated during the production of citrus essences and the process is described well by Joseph Merory in his text, Food Flavorings.  The essential oils spend time in a conical separator where the terpenes accumulate on the surface as an insoluble oil that is easy to separate.  Terpenes are also reportedly separated from commercial orange liqueurs due to concerns with either their solubility or possible concerns with their stability as an aroma.  Conversely, as previously mentioned, terpenes are critically important to limoncellos where they contribute unique timbre and terroir, but also from the limoncello literature, terpenes reportedly can change detrimentally due to hydrolysis.

A concern about hopped distillates that can be explored (with self control not to drink it all!) is whether they change markedly over time which might be a reason they have never been common to the market.  Hops are so magical an aroma that you would think every major gin distiller has explored them but perhaps taken a pass due to consumer notions of the stability of distillates.  Certain hop distillates explored during develop of this exercise have sat around longer than a year and some varietals seem to have lost aroma though age-ability trials were never set up systematically so no conclusions can be drawn for sure.  There is also unexplored concerns whether the compound responsible for skunking beer is volatile and could effect a hop distillate stored in clear bottles.  Supply chain management is much different than it used to be and with a more educated consumer base, there might now be room for a hopped distillate with a best by date.

The recipe tries to present an elegant starting point for hop aroma that works for nearly every varietal, but if the goal is to learn more about terpene management it may make sense to distill a concentrate, lower the proof, patiently separate the terpenes, re-distill, blend down with plain gin, then re-introduce the terpenes while doing stability tests.


500 mL dry gin (Seagram’s)

8 g hops (Cascade is a good place to start, but experimented with numerous types)

Mix and re-distill together on high reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 93.33°C. Going past 93.33°C may result in a cloudy distillate for other reasons.

Using your hydrometer re-cut the distillate to your desired proof (recommended 80-90).

Hops vary in the potency of their aroma.  If the hop distillate is too aromatic it can always be diluted with more plain gin.

It may also be rewarding to collect the product one ounce at a time in small canning jars then dilute them one at a time from the beginning into the first half of the hearts to reduce the proof by 50%.  This will illustrate how the first fractions louche.  The distillate can slowly be married from the back to the front exploring the sensory contribution of each re-introduced fraction.


I.P.A. → I.P.C. (Imperial Pegu Club)

1.5 oz. Cascade hopped gin

.75 oz. triple-sec

.75 oz. lime juice

dash Angostura bitters


hopped Negroni

1 oz. Pacific Jade hopped gin

1 oz. sweet vermouth

1 oz. Campari

expressed oil of grapefruit peel


hopped Gin Fizz

1.5 oz. Chinook hopped gin

.75 oz. lemon juice

.75 oz. simple syrup (1:1)

top with soda water

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 14 of 15

[This recipe is the accumulation of many years of playing around and connecting the dots. It will likely make your head spin at first but give it a try. Please, if you have any criticism, leave a comment.]

Fernet Aromatized Maraschino Cherries

Distillers can do more than just make distillates and this exercise explores some of the possibilities.  Here we are going to make a modern and very much in vogue version of the alcohol preserved maraschino cherry as well as propose some ways to deepen involvement and eventually refine the process.  The exercise will have no explicit recipe because the inputs are so dynamic but rather just guidelines and formulas that never extend beyond simple algebra that can be followed to give a rewarding product.

Lots of research has been done on manipulating cherries, and believe it or not, there is even a one credit course at Oregon State University on the production of non-alcoholic maraschino cherries.  The OSU course explores the tricky and certainly novel, but slightly gross process of brining the cherries which will be contrasted with the alternate process used in the exercise.

The often lamented cherries described in the OSU course are brined with preservative sulfites and have their texture enhanced by calcium chloride but that is not the only way to skin the cat.  Another exemplary cherry is the Cerise au Soleil of Provence which is relatively minimal in intervention and uses alcohol as the primary preservative.  Translated as cherry of the sun, they are aged in jars for the duration of the summer on a clay roof top in the countryside. Alcohol preserved cherries require a fair degree of treatment but nowhere near as much as non-alcoholic versions.

Non-alcoholic maraschino cherries get a bleaching brine primarily to prevent microbial growth but also to remove unsightly browning due to mechanical harvesting.  The first bleaching brine features sodium metabisulfite, citric acid and calcium chloride and lasts three weeks while the second bleaching brine features sodium chlorite and glacial acetic acid (crystalized form) and lasts five to ten days.  The cherries used in the Cerise au Soleil are thus likely hand picked to avoid bruising which would be readily apparent and preserved in alcohol as a mechanism of respecting their natural color & flavor as best possible which would otherwise be lost.  For non-alcoholic cherries, despite aggressive brining, ultimately the sulphite level declines to a point where potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate have to be included in the sugar syrup to maintain stability.

Bleaching non-alcoholic maraschino cherries strips them of most all aroma which eventually has to be replaced and is typically done with benzaldehyde derived from the cherry pits which has the aroma of almonds.  Dilution of aroma happens to alcohol preserved cherries when they come to equilibrium with the preserving solution they rest in but is overcome by using a spirit of the same aroma so it essentially diffuses in two directions.  This means alcohol preserved cherries are best preserved in Kirschwasser which is a cherry eau-de-vie but other aromas can also be added which will be explored in the exercise.

The calcium chloride of the first brine, in a certain pH range (which explains the citric acid), reacts with the pectin in the cherries, greatly firming the texture and facilitating mechanical pitting.  Alcohol preserved cherries are not firmed with calcium chloride and typically have their pits intact to reduce opportunities for browning.  No literature states that alcohol preserved cherries cannot be firmed with calcium chloride and it may be a worth while avenue for exploration.  Sulfites reduce enzymatic browning and the mechanism is explained well by the OSU course.  It may not be possible to pit cherries that have not been brined with sulfites without inducing browning.  The browning that does form as a result of mechanical harvesting is not actually bleached by the sulfite brine but is rather bleached by the sodium chlorite brine.  To avoid using the brining method, the cherries needs to be as carefully handled as possible.

Sugaring the cherries requires a lot of care and consideration.  The cherries need to be sorted by density so they can be uniformly sugared.  Not all fruit achieves the same ripeness which means that the fruit from a bushel of cherries will have a wide range of sugar contents.  If the cherries were mixed randomly, some would sink in the alcoholic preserving solution while others would float.  The cherries that floated above the surface would be subject to more oxidation which is what we are trying to avoid.  Cherries can be sorted by first estimating the range of their sugar contents then creating a series of testing bins (sugar-water solutions) to see which cherries float and which sink.  The bins can vary by 20 g/L increments.  The cherries with higher sugar contents will sink while the cherries with lower sugar contents will float.  To see where they find equilibrium, the cherries will have to be shuffled between the bins.  When there is extreme variance between the sugar content of the cherries and the preserving solution, the cherries with less sugar will lose water and shrivel while the cherries with more sugar will take on water and swell in both cases causing tissue damage.

To get a rough estimate of a cherry’s sugar content, it is helpful to use a wine maker’s brix refractometer which is a small prism that a single drop of cherry juice can be placed upon. The refractometer has a sight glass with a scale that can measure the sugar content via the refractive index of the juice.  A refractometer can measure (estimate) sugar content only in non-alcoholic solutions.  The beauty of the refractometer (as opposed to the hydrometer) is that it only takes a single drop to get a reading, but the readings will need to be converted from brix to g/L to make them more intuitive to use.  Wine makers use refractometers out in the vineyard to estimate the ripeness of single clusters of grapes as the season progresses while bartenders use them to calibrate their various syrups.

The OSU course teaches a valuable lesson about the sugar content which is if it starts at the same level of the cherry it can be walked upwards in slow increments to a desired point without tissue damage.  Non-alcoholic cherries typically have a sugar content of 470 g/L which of often more than 3 times the starting sugar content.  The sugar content can be increased by 30 g/L every 12 hours until the desired level is achieved which for the exercise may just be high enough that 90% of all the cherries can be brought up to a uniform level.

For alcohol preserved cherries, the sugar content is integral to determining the alcohol content because sugar displaces alcohol lowing the proof.  Alcohol fortified products are often brought up to the minimum of microbiological stability by alcohol alone which is typically 18%, but that is not the only approach.  An idea in dessert wine production exists which lowers the minimum necessary for alcohol as a preservative by measuring and harnessing the preservative power of the sugar content and sometimes other variables like pressure in the case of sparkling sweet wines.  Great research from Maynard Amerine at UC Davis explores this stabilization concept and the lessons learned can be applied to far more than just this exercise.  Preservative power is counted in Delle units, named after the Russian inventor, Professor Delle, in the early 20th century and stability is often thought to happen at 80 units.  To calculate Delle units the formula A + 4.5C = DU is used where A equals the sugar content in brix and C equals the alcohol content.  If a sugar content of 18 brix is achieved, an alcohol content as low as 14% can be used to achieve 80 Delle units. Eighty units is not a hard and fast rule but rather just a point to begin trials and exploration.

An alcohol content at the minimum of stability is critical due to a strange sensory phenomenon where the haptic heft of the solid fruit changes the threshold of perception of alcohol making it seem much more alcoholic than it actually is.  This same effect can be seen when eating the pineapple chunks from a Stoli-Doli jar. Many people wrongly believe the fruit holds more alcohol than the liquid, but the illusion is just one of the many phenomena of perception.  The same phenomenon will also enhance contrast detection of the fernet aroma we are going to add, and even though fernet will only represent 10% of the preserving solution, eating a cherry may feel as though one is taking an entire shot of fernet.

Many people have the notion that alcohol is a complete preservative, but while it does prevent bacterial growth and certain levels can even kill bacteria, it is powerless against oxidation and even enzymatic browning. If you have ever seen a pear trapped in a bottle of pear brandy, besides the alcohol, ascorbic acid (and possibly sulfites) is also keeping the pear company, otherwise it would brown detrimentally. To preserve a pear, the advice is often given of using 1 g/L of ascorbic acid in the preserving solution (as well as rinsing the fruit and bottle with a sulphuric acid solution to kill bacteria on the surface of the fruit), and with cherries we recommend following the same advice as well as vacuum sealing the canning jars to remove trapped oxygen.  Ultra violet light from spending time on clay roofs in the sun may also kill bacteria in the case of the Cerise au Soleil.

Considerations need to be made for the alcohol content of the cherries.  When the preserving solution rests with the cherries, the alcohol content will come into equilibrium and be reduced, therefore the displacement of the cherries needs to be known.  The displacement of the cherries can be found by taking multiple small samples from each bin that differ by density and placing them in a graduated cylinder of water.  The weight of the sample can divided by the observed volumetric displacement to find a ratio which can be extrapolated to find volumetric displacement with only the weight of the entire lot.

Awareness of the Delle stabilization concept can either allow a minimal alcohol content for those that deepen their involvement and experiment systematically or it can just provide a very comfortable margin of error.

Every division of the sorted cherries is going to require its own custom preserving solution and the lowest sugar content cherries need a slightly higher alcohol content if the sugar content is going to be walked upwards.  Keep in mind, every 30 g/L increase in sugar content has dissolved volume of 18.9 mL which can dilute the alcohol content by nearly half a percentage point and it may take almost two rounds of increasing the sugar to reach that of your most ripe cherries.   If you are not making your own cherry eau-de-vie, Hiram Walker’s Kirschwasser is the most practical alcohol base. As a starting point, it may also be useful to put each batch in wide mouth canning jars that assume the cherries will displace the same volume as the preserving solution (one volumetric liter of cherries is preserved in one volumetric liter of preserving solution).

Hiram Walker Kirschwasser is only bottled at 45% alcohol which means that once it is diluted by sugar then brought to equilibrium with the cherries in a 1:1 ratio, the equilibrium alcohol content may be lower than is needed. This problem can be solved by either changing the preserving solution ratio to use more Kirschwasser per volume of cherries or by re-distilling the Kirschwasser to concentrate its alcohol content.  Simple tests with water will tell if your cherries can be covered by desired volume of preserving solution or if adjustments needs to be made.

Introducing additional aromas like the saffron-menthe of fernet can push a preserved cherry into something that is over the top and very special.  Fernet cannot be re-distilled with the Kirschwasser because it contains a valuable non-volatile fraction which contributes gustatory-bitterness therefore it has to averaged in.  Fernet also has a sugar content of approximately 30 g/L.

If need be, re-distill Kirschwasser on low reflux until the thermometer on the still reads 97°C (the high temperature did not seem to produce a cloudy distillate because it had already been cut previously during the production of the inputs).

Add Fernet to the Kirschwasser so that Fernet’s alcohol content represents only 10% of the blend. At 10% of the preserving solution, Fernet’s  30 g/L sugar content will be diluted to 3 g/L before further dilution. It may be safe to consider this sugar content negligible.

The resultant mixture of Kirschwasser and Fernet will have to be cut to match each specific batch it is going to fortify. First cherries displacing one liter needs to be found.  At this experimental scale, a two liter graduated pitcher can be filled to one liter with water and cherries can slowly be added until the water level rises to two liters. This liter of cherries will require one liter of preserving solution.  The preserving solution will be constructed to match the sugar content of the sorting bin the cherries were taken from. The displacement of the sugar will need to be found to find the corresponding alcohol content.  The dissolved volume of a weight of sucrose can be revealed by dividing the weight by the density of sucrose, 1.587.

To find the corresponding alcohol content we can use the equation: (1000 mL – sugar vol. mL (X%))  = 1000 mL (desired final alc.%).

The X variable represents the alcohol content necessary before dilution by sugar to hit the target alcohol content for a single liter.  The volume of alcohol necessary per liter is simply 1000 mL – the dissolved volume of sugar.  Working this out per liter means it can easily be scaled for any custom batch size.

Now that the preserving solution has been cut and sugared, ascorbic acid will need to be added and completely dissolved.  One gram should be added for every liter of preserving solution.  The density of ascorbic acid is 1.65 g/mL thus one gram will displace 0.61 mL and probably can be considered negligible.

After the cherries are added to the preserving solution they should be de-aerated to remove all the oxygen clinging to the cherry skin if possible.  Pressure de-aeration in a Cornelius keg is a viable option for large batches and vacuum de-aeration with a canning jar lid attachment is effective for very small batches.

If need be, the sugar content of the cherries should be walked upwards to hit a target and the influence of this addition on the alcohol content should always be a accounted for with simple averaging.  If the alcohol and/or sugar content becomes lost, a sample of the preserving solution at equilibrium with the cherries can be re-distilled to reveal the misplaced alcohol and sugar figures.

If the cherries are left unpitted time will eventually cause the alcohol to pull the aroma of the pits into the meat of the cherry.  If fernet was added to the preserving solution at the recommended scaling, the same phenomenon of perception that decreases the threshold of perception of alcohol, thereby amplifying it, will also amplify the aroma of the fernet making the indulger believe far more fernet was included than the actual.