Spirits Library

This will hopefully become the beginning of a library of rare hosted resources and an annotated bibliography for my ongoing book project.  Reading the works of Maynard Amerine got me really interested in bringing knowledge, techniques, and various ideas from the world of wine making and distilling to the bar. I eventually collected most of Amerine’s works like the Technology of Wine Making and slowly almost everything in the English language in his bibliographies.

Other prolific others dominated Amerine’s citations like Peter Valaer who ran the I.R.S. lab.  Valaer led to others like Herman Willkie and Jesoph Merory and Giovanni Fenaroli and quite a few people in between.  They covered wine making and distillation and vermouth making and even sensory science.  Since I began collecting probably seven years ago, many of the printed works have been sky rocketing in value on amazon.com.  Anyhow, I will slowly present rare digitized works in hopes they help people to better understand, create, and enjoy spirits.

Willkie, Herman, Controlling Gin Flavor (1937).

(unfortunately at the moment you will have to click through a link on another page)

Willkie and his crew at Hiram Walker were the quite the characters.  This is a must read for anybody new to making gin.  I disagree with them often when it comes to an ideal juniper aroma.  My favorite juniper expressions probably have the “high acid number” they tried to avoid.

‎”..in the tradition-infested Carpathian Mountains, the Roumanian, Polish, and Czeckoslavakian berries are found.”

The article outlines analytical techniques and considerations for standardizing gin production.  You cannot simply specify X grams of juniper per liter because the oil content of the botanical can vary so much.  Willkie explains the methods of the day used to create a “standardized botanical charge”.  What the article does not do is explain the relationship between aromas like juniper and angelica.  they are both olfactory-acid and the two are combined to with the aspiration of creating an overtone that moves beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary.

C. A. Crampton and L. M. Tolman. A study of the changes taking place in whiskey stored in wood. From the laboratory of the I.R.S.  (1907).

This paper is particularly interesting and very accessible to the layman.  The whiskeys studies read like porno and would be a dream to taste.  Their diversity at the very turn of the century is startling.  These guys sold this study to whoever financed it by claiming it would be used to help identify adulteration.  I keep finding it interesting that our best historical record of what spirits were like came from researchers associated with the I.R.S.

Valaer, Peter. Brandy. United States Bureau of Internal Revenue (1938).

An excellent look at brandy from an ambitious genius with a rare vantage point.  an astounding amount of samples came through Valaer’s labs.  The I.R.S. conducted numerous similar studies which helped refine with analytical techniques for detecting misrepresentation and adulteration.  This particular study shows peach brandy still being relevant in the late 1930′s.  Seven different states with of apple brandy are even compared.  The study even goes on to the show the comparative effects of different styles of aging on brandy.  This is interesting for all types of readers whether you are literate in the analytical parts or not.

Guymon, James F. Chemical Aspects of Distilling Wines into Brandy. University of California, Davis (1974).

A great article and right off the bat Guymon mentions the esters of fatty acids (olfactory-umami!) being notably abundant in brandy distillation when lees are included such as with cognac.  This paper also has some great explanations of the volatility of high boiling point compounds and how volatility varies as the % ethanol of the distilling material changes.  For example amyl alcohol (boiling point 138.5C) can move from the heads to the tales of a distillate depending on whether the distilling material is high proof or low proof.  You would think that high boiling point compounds are always in the tales but that is not always the case.

The paper makes me wonder if i should learn more organic chemistry.  As it is right now i reference wikipedia every other minute.  But the thing i am really after with all these organic chemistry compounds is their sensory attributes.  What the fuck do they smell like? and what gustatory divisions do they converge with?  Which esters are olfactory-sweet and which are olfactory-umami and which do not converge (think batavia arrack)? i have yet to see any connection between these obscure compounds and sensory science.

Garcia-Llobodanin et al. Pear Distillates from Pear Juice Concentrate: Effect on Lees in the Aromatic Composition. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2007, 55, 3462-3468.

methanol chart

this is a really fantastic study from a very recent source as opposed to the other ancient ones i’ve been posting.  i didn’t want to post any journal articles that would have any active copyright claims but i found this paper important for beginning distillers or those trying to learn more about spirits analysis.

for starters this is the first paper i’ve seen that shows how there can be more methanol in the hearts fraction than the heads fraction. this debunks the received wisdom that methanol can be limited by making a larger heads cut.

the paper also gives a great explanation of furfural (with its bitter almond aroma! who knew?) which is widely referenced in other spirits studies but never exactly explained. attempts are also made to describe many of the obscure and long named aroma compounds found in distillates.  desirability of various compounds is outlined.  references are then made to the concentrations of desirable or not compounds in other spirits of the same type (a survey of pear spirits) with advice how to change the cut to maximize desirable compounds.