4:35pm – Mike McCaw, Matthew Rowley, and Ian Smiley are heading up this panel on artisan nano-distilling, and the bloggers are here in force.
4:37pm – Exciting! We’re going to get to try some moonshine.
4:43pm – There’s an excellent slide of Mountain Spirits by Joseph Earl Dabney on the screen. Joe, pictured on the cover, has definitely consumed his share of “corn likker.” Matt is now detailing the history through time of the making of corn whiskey. Salted with lead, dribbled with antifreeze, and flavored with dead possums and even chicken shit, corn whiskey has been made by many and obviously isn’t all good.
4:49pm – “Making your own liquor is honest labor.” Homebrewing has only been legal since 1978.
4:54pm – In the last 10 years, compact column stills have been able to produce clean, neutral spirits and are the future of home distilling.
5:03pm – Mike is about to begin speaking about the history and legality of distillation. The first known distillation was 3000 years ago and was essential oils, not spirits. The Art of Distillation published in 1651 has a plate showing a “still,” which is basically a sheep skin on top of a pot. The the flavor develops under the skin during the process.
5:14pm – Distillation spread throughout the world, away from monks and alchemists to the home, as Europeans sailed around the world for discovery and conquest. This displeased the church and government, who had a monopoly on spirit distillation.
5:17pm – Private distillation in England was banned in 1781 by the government to control their revenue. During this same time the whiskey rebellion was happening in the U.S. Whiskey, made from corn, was used as currency. In 1914, a French vineyard could distill 20 liters of Eau de Vie, but was required to pay a strict tax. And recently in 1996, much innovation has come since 1996, when private distilling was legalized in New Zealand.
5:24pm – You must have a Federal and State license in the U.S. to distill beverage alcohol which may take up to 3 years to obtain. The license includes an FBI background check. You have to have your distillery built before you can get the permit. You can’t distill alcohol in any building where people live, and the penalties for breaking the laws is dire.
5:27pm – It’s legal to own a still and operate it… but not with ethyl alcohol. Every household is allowed to make 300 gallons of wine and 300 of beer, but cannot turn a drop of it into whiskey or brandy.
5:29pm – Ian takes over to talk about the final cut in the distilling process.
5:45pm – This is so intense and way over my head. Let me show you: “Toward the end of the hearts phase, there’s the onset of a subtle bitterness. A small amount of this bitterness is usually important to the bite character of the spirit. But, very shortly after the onset of this bitterness is when the end-cut to the tails is made.”
5:47pm – Saved! The spirits are here! The first is Absolut vodka to base our tastes on. The second is Midnight Moon, a modern take on classic Appalachian moonshine. And the final is Barsol Pisco, which is quite magical.