Defects In The Usual Method Of Making Whiskey

1st. The most hurtful of all for the interests of the distillers, is

undoubtedly the weakness of the vinous liquor. We have seen that the

proportion of spirit is in a ratio to the richness of the fermenting

liquor; that Lavoisier, by putting one-fifth of the mass of dry sugar,

obtained twice as much spirit as the rum distiller, who puts in the same

quantity, but drowns it in water. From those principles, which are not

ontested, the distiller, whose vinous liquor contains only one-fiftieth

part of sweet matter, obtains the less spirit, and loses as much of it

as he gets.

2dly. Another defect is joined to this: bodies are dissolved by reason

of their affinity with the dissolving principle; the mucilaginous

substance is as soluble in water as the saccharine substance. A mass of

100 gallons of water having only 16lbs. of sugar to dissolve, exerts

it's dissolving powers upon the mucilaginous part which abounds in

grains, and dissolves a great quantity of it. There results from that

mixture, a fermentation partaking of the spirit and the acid, and if the

temperature of the atmosphere is moderate, the acid invades the spirit,

which is one of its principles: nothing remains but vinegar, and the

hopes of the distiller are deceived.

Some distillers have been induced, by the smallness of their products,

to put in their stills, not only the fluid of the liquor, but the flour

itself. Hence result two important defects. 1st. The solid matter

precipitates itself to the bottom of the still, where it burns, and

gives a very bad taste to the whiskey. In order to remedy this

inconvenience, it has been imagined to stir the flour incessantly, by

means of a chain dragged at the bottom of the still, and put in motion

by an axis passing through the cap, and turned by a workman until the

ebullition takes place. This axis, however well fitted to the aperture,

leaves an empty space, and gives an issue to the spirituous vapors,

which escaping with rapidity, thereby occasion a considerable loss of


3dly. The presence of the grain in the still, converted into meal, is

not otherwise indifferent. It contains a kind of essential oil, more or

less disagreeable, according to its nature; which distils

with the spirit. That of Indian corn, in particular, is more noxious

than that of any other grain; and it is the presence of meal in the

stills, which causes the liquors obtained from grains to be so much

inferior to that of fruits.

4thly. There is a fourth defect, at which humanity shudders, and which

the laws ought to repress. Vinous liquors are more or less accompanied

with acetone acid, or vinegar; but those proceeding from grain contain

still more of this acid. The stills are generally made of naked copper;

the acid works upon that metal, and forms with it the acetate of

copper, or verdigrise, part of which passes with the whiskey. There is

no distiller, who, with a little attention, has not observed it. I have

always discovered it in my numerous rectifications, and at the end of

the operation, when nothing more comes from the still but what is called

the sweet oil of wine. An incontestable proof of this truth is, that as

the stills of the distillers are of a green color in their interior

part; that they are corroded with the acid, and pierced with numberless

little holes, which render them unfit for use in a very short time. It

is easy to conceive how hurtful must be the presence of verdigrise to

those who make use of whiskey as a constant drink: even those who use it

soberly, swallow a slow poison, destructive of their stomach; while to

those who abuse it, it produces a rapid death, which would still be the

consequence of abuse, if the liquor was pure, but is doubly accelerated

by the poison contained in the whiskey. It is easy to remedy so terrible

an evil. The acetous acid has no action upon tin. By tinning the stills,

the purity of the liquor will be augmented, and the distilling vessels,

already so expensive, will be longer preserved. This operation must be

renewed every year. The worms must likewise be tinned, if they are

copper; but they are better of tin, or of the purest pewter.

Such are the defects of the present method of distilling whiskey. Having

exposed them, I must present the means of bringing to perfection the

fabrication of a liquor of such general use.