Of The Proportions Of The Elements Necessary To Form A Good Vinous Liquor

What are the proportions of the elements necessary to form a good vinous


We owe the important knowledge of those proportions to the celebrated

and unfortunate Lavoisier, who has proved, by the most accurate

experiments, that there must be

100 parts of dry sweet substance, or sugar

400 parts of water

10 parts of ferment, or liquid yeast, which is reduced

to 8 7-10ths of dry matter.

510 parts in the whole, which produce 57 parts of dry alcohol; that is,

containing no more water than is necessary to its formation, and

consequently as strong as it can be. Let us dwell for a moment upon the

proportions just pointed out, and especially upon their result, which

exceeds any thing that has ever been obtained. Supposing the weight of

each of those parts to be one pound, we shall have

100 lbs. of dry sweet Substance, or sugar

400 do. of water

10 do. of liquid ferment


510 pounds in the whole.

100lbs. of sugar is the quantity required to make 12-1/2

gallons of sirup, composed of 8lbs. of sugar and 8lbs. of

water per gallon, 12-1/2 galls.

400lbs. of water, at 8lbs. per gall. make 50 "

The produce will be 57lbs. of dry alcohol.

A vessel containing one ounce of water, filled up with this alcohol,

weighs only 16dwts. and 16grs. From this report, it appears that the

specific weight of the alcohol is, to the weight of the water, as 20 to

24; that is, that water weighs 1/5 more than alcohol. If the 57lbs. thus

obtained were only water, it would only represent 7-1/8* gallons; but

being alcohol, it weighs 1/6* less, and consequently gives 7-1/8 gallons

more, the sixth of this quantity, (to wit:) 1-1/6* gallons, which, added

to 7-1/8*, make 8-7/24 gallons.

[TR: Poor quality made it difficult to verify the above numbers and so

noted with an asterisk]

But 1 gallon of dry alcohol, extended in 2 gallons of water, gives 3

gallons of liquor at 19 deg., which is called Holland, or first proof; a

produce surpassing all what has been hitherto known to the distillers. I

will prove it by an example: 1 gallon of molasses yields only 1 gallon

of rum, at 19 deg., to the rum distiller; still, molasses is a true sirup,

composed of 8lbs. of sugar, or sweet matter, more fermentable than

sugar. 12-1/2 gallons of molasses, representing 100lbs. of dry sweet

matter yield consequently 12-1/2 galls. of rum, Holland proof, which is

only half the produce obtained by Lavoisier; an immense difference

capable of exciting the emulation of all distillers, as it proves the

imperfection of the art.

What are the causes of such a dissimilarity of product? We must seek for


1st. In the difference of the strength of the vinous liquor. Lavoisier

employed only 4 parts of water to 1 part of dry sugar. The rum distiller

usually puts 10 gallons of molasses to 90 gallons of water, or the

residue of the preceding distillations.

10 galls. molasses contain

80 lbs. of sweet matter.

90 gallons of water weigh 720lbs.; therefore the proportion is, one part

of sweet matter to 9 parts of water--whilst that indicated by Lavoisier

is only 4 parts of water to 1 part of sugar.[A]

It is obvious how much richer this last must be, and that the

fermentation thus produced has an energy far superior to the other.

Thence results a rapid production of spirit, operated in a short time;

whilst that of the rum distiller languishes more or less, and a slow

fermentation wastes part of the spirit which it produces, even as it is


2dly. Bodies evaporate in proportion to the extent of their surface. One

hogshead of 100 gallons, should contain, according to Lavoisier's

composition, the elements of 50 gallons of spirit, at 19 deg.; whilst that

of the rum distiller contains only 12. Now, as every fermentable liquor

requires open vessels, the hogshead of the rum distiller loses as much

spirit as that of Lavoisier: hence it is plain how far the above

proportion operates to the disadvantage of the fermer.

3dly. Another source of loss arises in the distilling vessels

themselves. Nothing is more imperfect than the stills of a whiskey

distillery. Lavoisier's were so perfect, that he made the analysis and

the synthesis in the most delicate operations [B]. The vessels of the

whiskey distillers, far from being hermetically closed, allow the spirit

to evaporate through every joint. And this is not all: corroded by the

acetous acid, they are full of small holes, particularly in the cap,

where all the vapors collect themselves, as in a reservoir. It is easy

to conceive with what rapidity they escape, which occasions a

considerable waste of liquor. In proof of the truth of this observation,

we may refer to the smell of whiskey, so strongly perceivable on the

roads leading to a distillery, and preceeding from no other cause than

that liquor wasting out of bad vessels, to the great loss of the


4thly. A fourth cause of loss arises from the worm of the still. However

careful in keeping the surrounding water cool, there is always one

portion of vapor not condensed. This is made more sensible in the

winter, when the cold of the atmosphere makes every vapor visible; upon

examination, it will be seen that the running stream of liquor is

surrounded with it. In my description of my apparatus, I give the means

of obviating that evil.

To these several causes, may we not add another? May not the production

of spirit be in a ratio to the richness of the fermenting liquor? It is

certain, that in every spirituous fermentation there is a portion of the

sweet matter which remains undecomposed and in its original state.

Lavoisier found that it was 4.940; that is, nearly 5 parts in 100. It

may possibly be the same in a weaker liquor; which would increase the

loss, in the inverse ratio of the density of the liquor. Such are the

causes to which I attribute the great superiority of Lavoisier's

products; and from those observations I thought I could establish the

fabrication of whiskey upon new principles.