View Full Version : 'Practical' Distiller

05-03-2008, 12:19
Saw this site and the book while searching....didn't know if anyone had seen it before.


The book seels for less than I would have thought, $45

05-03-2008, 13:24
Thanks for that link Jeff.
I thought that was interesting that he suggested burning straw in the hogshead to "sweeten" the hogshead.
That was written in 1809, so what was the date they pinned on Elijah Craig as to when he cleaned the barrels by burning the inside?

05-03-2008, 13:59
Don't know if you have seen Mike V's bourbon class posts on BE.com. It was over at Woodford with Chris Morris. They toasted a barrel with straw....pics are available.

05-03-2008, 15:10
I've mentioned this book a number of times on SB. It is indeed a very interesting look at whiskey in the very early 1800's. With regard to using straw to sweeten barrels, it is not clear from the account in the book that this was done to char the barrels much less for methodical whiskey storage. The author seems to have been talking about vessels, some might have been barrels or half-barrels, that were used to make the whiskey (fermenting tubs for example). I don't have the book before me now, but this is my recollection. A handful of straw, too, probably wouldn't be hot enough to impart a real charring, it might have been enough to displace or disguise off-odours in wooden vessels being reused continually.

There is nothing in the book which suggests that whiskey should be aged in heavy charred new wooden containers. The book does acknowledge that storage of whiskey tends to improve it, as does shipping it, but that is the extent of it. He does not distinguish either between new charred wood and reused charred wood.

I believe that the practice of charring new barrels to hold whiskey probably did derive from the cleaning methods described in the book, but this probably took time to discover and moreover was something merchants would have happened on before distillers. It probably went something like this.

A store owner in a town took delivery of whiskey in a barrel that might, probably by accident, have been more heavily toasted than usual. He noticed that with time the whiskey acquired a cleaner, sweeter taste. His customers liked it, the rest was history.

Distillers would have sold white whiskey as soon as they made it, certainly M'Harry does not speak of aging or aging facilities. (Byrn, writing in 1857, gives little attention too to this area and what attention he gives is at odds with current knowledge, e.g., he felt that storing liqours in glass was the best way to improve them). M'Harry speaks of distilling apparatus, mashbills (which are similar to those for bourbon and rye today), fuels, and woods, yes, but the woods seem mostly designed to make the whiskey and ship it safely to market (hence his concern to use a tight-grained oak such as white oak).

It is an excellent book and historical resource, but I found the cask cleansing references ambiguous and consistent with the idea that whiskey was sold new or almost new then.