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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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FALL 2017 distiller 37 Vanilla V anilla is the orchid with the world in its thrall. Often orchids are considered to be rare, and indeed some of the 113 wild species of vanilla are. But domesticated vanilla vines occupy more than 271,391 acres of land around the world, yielding around 8,000 tons of vanilla pods each year. Yet even this abundance is not enough. Demand for vanilla continues to grow, and anything from capricious weather to military coups can damage vanilla crops and their supply chains, causing yields to plummet and restricting vanilla from reaching markets. In 2000, vanilla cost $20 per kilogram; in 2004 it was $400. Consequently, while we know vanilla is one of the most beguiling avors at the disposal of beverage manufacturers, avail- ability of good quality vanilla can uc- tuate and its pricing is volatile. Vanilla is a high-stakes ingredient, potentially expensive to manage and potentially the element that transforms a drink into an outstanding product. Vanilla's beguilement of people began at least ve centuries ago. Vanilla planifo- lia is the species predominantly used for vanilla production; it is native to trop- ical forests from Mexico to Colombia. Vanilla was described as a medicinal plant in America's rst medical book, the Badianus Manuscript, which was written in 1552 by two Aztec schol- ars—Martinus de la Cruz, a doctor, and Juannes Badianus, who translated the doctor's knowledge into Latin. Vanilla was also used by the Aztecs in choco- latl, an otherwise bitter drink made with chocolate. Before vanilla came to the attention of the Aztecs, it had already transitioned from being a wild plant to a cultivated plant in the care of the Totonacs of Eastern Mexico. To reach the United States, vanilla rst travelled to Europe as an unnotable com- ponent of assorted trade goods sent from Mexico to Europe by the colonizing Spanish Empire in 16th century; toma- toes, jaguars and armadillos attracted more attention at the time. Vanilla vines were carefully tended in hothouses in Europe, but owering was elusive and no aromatic black pods were formed. In the 1700s, William Dampier, an explorer who skirted the boundary of piracy as a former commander in the Royal Navy turned privateer, was the rst European Susanne Masters Opposite— Green vanilla pods ripen in a greenhouse in the Netherlands.

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