View Full Version : FYI: 1875 American distilling book to be reprinted

10-24-2002, 15:32
FYI: "The Complete Practical Distiller" by M.L. Byrn is being reprinted in a small
run of ~500 books. I haven't decided whether to get one or not... they're
$25 each.

Info at http://www.raudins.com/BrewBooks/.

From the website:


One particularly interesting chapter in the book discusses the distilling equipment that was common in the United States at the time of this publication.
Byrn also discusses that the United States "abounds in many fruits, roots, and vegetables that will yield spirit upon distillation." He includes specific discussions on making Cider-Spirts/Apple Brandy, and Peach Brandy in the United States.

Interestingly enough, Byrn makes no mention of the term "Bourbon" in the text, but does mention that Indian corn can be used in malt whisky.


The table of contents is available in pdf form on the website... it looks
like it's mostly whisk/e/y, brandy, etc., but it does have info on vinegar,
rose water, tincture of musk, etc. I suppose a distiller in those days was
called upon to distill all kinds of things!

Has anyone ever seen distilling books from ~1860? I've only seen historic
distilling books back to about ~1915-1920.


12-01-2002, 20:44
Thanks for the heads up Tim! I am sure that the Getz Museum has an original copy of that on display. If there were any American books on distillation prior to 1860 I would guess that either the Getz or the Filson Club would have them.

12-08-2002, 19:40
I bought both Complete Practical Distiller (M. La Fayette Byrn, 1875) and the companion Complete Practical Brewer by the same author which originally appeared in 1852.

Both these books are of great interest to fans of whiskey and beer in their historical aspect.

The reprints are extremely well done and easy to read (allowance being made for the elegant early 19th century English).

As stated above by Tim whom I thank for drawing my attention to these books, the distilling text does not mention Bourbon as such. It does though clearly imply that corn-based spirit (which is called in the book "Indian corn") was widely known and available. The book focuses on the production side and relatively little attention is given to storage or aging (there is some), but the book is full of fascinating information nonetheless. For example, the continuous distillation method was fully known and clearly widely utilised and is described in depth in the book, as is the older "alembic" method (pot-still).

One of the most interesting pieces of information is the very clear recipe given for rye whiskey: the author states that rye whiskey is made using 20% barley malt and 80% raw (unmalted) rye. He makes it clear malted rye was known too but shows his preference is for the use of unmalted in the mash. This is clearly Monongahela-style rye, which at the time was likely all "white goods" (a "modern" term which appears startlingly in this 1870 book!).

A great read, and Tim gives the website of Glenn Raudins who reprinted the book and from whom it can be bought for a very reasonable price considering the value delivered. I should say that while standing very well on its own as a brewing text of the era, that book is useful as well for students of distillation history because of its discussion of mashing and the number of specific references made to distilling.

12-08-2002, 20:24

You seem to be a history buff of distilling...

Here is a little bit of American Distilling History...From my great-uncle Everett Beam...This is a copy of a few pages of his letters that I have along with the rest of my family history...
He worked and retired 40 + years from Pennco in Schaefferstown--(Michter's Pot Still Whiskey in which he developed for Pennco Distillers)...Part of the letter tells the tale...


12-08-2002, 20:31
The start the paragraph says---For experimental purposes or laboratory purposes use stainless steel buckets or cans to make the slurry or mash-set on an electric---the rest is in the picture--


12-09-2002, 17:01
Great stuff! Thanks.

12-09-2002, 18:03
Boone, Neat stuff! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif I guess I'm proud of my family heritage and such, but I wish my family would have had a master distiller or some kind of secret recipe for yummy whiskey.....or something! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/frown.gif I can see it now......Old Cookshire No. #12....... http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif See ya, H'wood http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif

02-24-2004, 18:26
It looks like the people at Raudins Publishing are at it again!

They're re-publishing The Practical Distiller, 1809, by Samuel M'Harry

The short blurbs from their website
( http://www.raudins.com/BrewBooks/default.htm ):

"The fifth title in our Classic Brewing and Distilling Series, and our second
distilling title. When published nearly 200 years ago, Samuel M'Harry's
Practical Distiller book was only the second American book on distilling. The
book documents early American whiskey production, including techniques that
were the pre-cursors to those used in the production of Bourbon and Tennessee
whiskey. It is an essential read for whiskey and distilling fans."


"Published in 1809, Samuel M'Harry's Practical Distiller book was only the
second American book on distilling! It documents the early days of the
development of American Whiskey. It was published only 15 years after the
Whiskey Rebellion had forced a number of distillers to move down river to
Kentucky. American Whiskey was mostly Rye Whiskey. All distilling was batch
distillation done in pot stills, as continuous distillation had yet to be
M'Harry's books is by far one of the scarcest American distilling books,
and few copies seem to have survived the 200 years since it publication.
We are proud to republish this fine title before it became extinct!"

There's also a pdf of the table of contents available at

Tim Dellinger