What are spirits? What is alcohol? And where does it come from? The history of spirit production has a little bit of everything. Greeks, alchemists, Arabs, perfume makers, scientists, monks, doctors, pharmacists, pirates, Dutch, Spanish and many many more. But if you are the kind of person who likes to remember just one name, then it is Jabir ibn Hayyan, since he was an Arabic scientist to whom we should be grateful for the “invention” of the distilling technic.
But let’s take things from the beginning: If you and me would like to make a new spirit from scratch, then we should use …guess what! Exactly! Wine or beer. In other words we need a low in alcohol “juice” which is the result from the fermentation process. This would be our base “liquid” from which we would …hmm…let’s say “extract” alcohol or – to say it in a more scientific way – ethanol alcohol. And how could we separate ethanol alcohol from all the rest liquid, when the most of it is water.? huh! You guessed it right! With distillation! So, what are you going to need for the distillation process? Exactly! A distillery apparatus. A very big,simply put, copper boiler. What we now know as: the pot still. And what Robert Stein developed in 1826 as the column still (or continuous still) and the smarter Aeneas Coffey, enhanced and patented in 1831 as the Coffey still.
From this point, whatever you are going to read about the history of spirits, you are going to meet words like: phylloxera, Gin craze, American Prohibition, barrel aging and appellation controllee. And finally, you are able today to enjoy: absinthe, arak, Armagnac, bourbon, brandy, cachaca, calvados, cognac, gin, grappa, jenever, mescal, ouzo, pastis, pisco, raki, rum, sake, sotol, tequila, tsipouro, vodka, whisky.
All these which are lovingly made spirits, sometimes made by heart…