Distiller magazine


Distiller magazine a publication of the American Distilling Institute, the Voice of Artisan Distilling; devoted to the craft spirits industry: vendors and distillers alike.

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Contents of this Issue


Page 135 of 139

136 distiller Book Reviews D arek Bell is the owner or Corsair Distillery and author of Alt Whiskeys: Alternative Whiskey Recipes and Distilling Techniques for the Adventurous Craft Distiller. Bell received training at the Siebel Brewing Institute and graduated from the Bruichladdich Distilling Academy in Islay, Scotland. Bell, along with his wife, and friend Andrew Webber founded Corsair in 2007. Since then, Corsair has won more than 90 awards and been named "Craft Distillery of the Year" by three different organizations. Corsair and Fire Water are inspired by the guiding philosophy: "If it has been done before we are not interested in doing it." With Fire Water, Bell hopes to encourages craft distillers to experiment and create new spirits rather than recreating what already exists. For Bell, the meat smoking culture of the South inspired Bell to investigate what hickory- and cherrywood-smoked whiskeys would taste like. For any distiller interested in creating smoked spirits, Fire Water is an invaluable resource. Bell starts by describing how to get smoke flavor into whiskey and the efficacy of several method. He then details how time, temperature and humidity affect how smoke attaches to grain. Bell also notes how smoke intensity can dissipate during storage, mashing, fermentation, distillation, maturation and proofing. ese sections are extremely helpful and they are likely to save a novice smoker weeks of trial and error. e bulk of Fire Water is comprised of an incredible collection of tasting notes for whiskeys smoked with an exhaustive list of woods, barks, roots, and herbs. Bell engaged Nancy Fraley and Julia Nourney, two of the best noses in the spirits business to evaluate each of the smoked whiskeys. Bell believes that it is important for distillers to get an objective, outside evaluation of their spirits so they stay grounded in the fact that their spirits are not soley for them but for their customers. Every smoke source includes a brief description of it as well as Nancy and Julia's impressions of how each affected the nose, palate, and finish of the whiskey along with some concluding remarks. It was particularly interesting to read how the affects of some smoke were focused on the nose or just on the palate or only on the finish. Bell concludes with some recommendations about which combinations of smoke sources work well together and create a rich smoke experience from the first smell to that lingering sensation after the last sip. In the end, one of the most striking attributes of Bell's Fire Water is its thoroughness and his incredible generosity to share the results of his research. e openness of Fire Water stands in stark contrast to the vague and closely held "traditions" of the large whiskey distillers. Bell seems eager to have have other craft distillers benefit from what he has learned, and inspire them to play with fire and create something new. FIRE WATER: EXPERIMENTAL SMOKED WHISKEYS Darek Bell Bowling Green, Corsair Distillery, 2014 Paperback/200 pages ISBN 978-0983350019 Available @ Amazon H umans have been consuming booze for almost 12,000 years, yet we understand very little about how this substance affects us. In his new book Proof: e Science of Booze, writer Adam Rogers attempts to pour us a tall glass of understanding on the topic. Adam Rogers is a writer and editor at Wired magazine. His sto- ry "Angels' Share" won the 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science's Kavli Science Journalism Award. Before working at Wired, Rogers was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and worked for Newsweek covering science and technology. Proof: e Science of Booze is a natural extension of Rogers' skill as a science reporter and his passion for alcohol. Far from being a science textbook, Proof is a series of vignettes about the scientists who aim to understand the processes and tradi- tions underlying centuries of booze production. At its heart, Proof aims to explain the relationship humans have with alcohol, and ex- plores the science underlying this complex set of interactions. To that end, the first five chapters describe the practice and science of making alcohol. Yeast, sugar, fermentation, distillation, and aging are fully explained such that a complete novice could understand, while still holding the interest of an experienced professional. Chap- ters six through eight describe the physiological effects of alcohol on the human body, including the sensation of smell and taste, effects on the brain, as well as the dreaded hangover. Proof is an expertly crafted book that keeps the reader's attention by focusing on the human drama surrounding the history and sci- ence of booze. Rogers takes what might otherwise have been a dry explanation of technical topics like yeast metabolism or the slow chemical transitions that occur during aging, and places them in- stead into a much more compelling context of scientific discovery. Rogers accomplishes this in part by weaving together stories of the men and women who have advanced the technology, science and understanding of alcohol. Each chapter follows a similar format, starting with the story of one person or discovery. is structure allows Rogers to oscillate between very focused and technical ex- planations of how we smell alcohol or it affects our brain, with the broader story of human experience and interaction with alcohol. e stories within Proof present a key paradox. Despite our long history of making alcohol, there is still a lot we don't know. Alcohol retains a sort of cultural magic, which connects us to early practi- tioners who knew how to make booze without fully understanding what they were doing. Alcohol not only has the ability to connect us to a place—like Burton beer, Bordeaux wine, or Kentucky bour- bon—it also connects us to the past. PROOF: THE SCIENCE OF BOOZE Adam Rogers New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 Hardcover/272 pages ISBN 978-0547897967 Available @ Amazon by Eric Zandona

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