Jonathan Forester is a brewer and distiller in Maine. He writes about spirits and cocktails at Slashfood.
Oh, to have had the chance to have attended a seminar like this a few years ago!
Mike McGraw will be giving what I think may be a very well attended and exciting, interactive session, Artisan Still Design and Construction on July 17th, and I plan to be there. All of us out there, the hidden hobbyist’s, the tens of thousands of home distillers who frequent the distilling forums on the Internet, know who Mike is and hang on his every word about home distilling.
For most of these folks, home distilling is a fun past time, similar to home brewing or wine making, just a little more involved. Or maybe evolved as well, since distilling is the next logical step to the brewing and fermenting process. It’s like the evolutionary difference between apes and humans. Just a tiny little change, that makes all the difference.
For a small minority of us, it was how we learned about the commercial aspects of distilling. I’m currently building a commercial, artisanal distillery on Penobscot Bay on the Coast of Maine, and learning the process was a lot more difficult that I thought it would be. To save time and effort I had a craftsman who specializes in copper stills make mine for me. Knowing what I do now, I wish I had bit the bullet and built mine myself. I could have taken a few courses in metal working and built my still for much less than having someone else do it for me. For fanatics, ummm… I mean people like me, building the still yourself is more than half the fun. I look forward eagerly to hearing Mike’s advice and words of wisdom on how to, and not to, build an artisanal still. I hope to see all of you interested in home distilling joining Mike at the Artisan Still Design and Construction interactive session at Tales of the Cocktail.
Of course, it’s not all just about building the still that I’m learning about. There is the whole, involved, time consuming, and even maddening process, of building the whole artisanal distilling facility. If you want to learn more about what it’s like, read the online book/journal “Diary of a Distiller” on AOL Food/Drinks at AOL.com and Slashfood.com, with a new chapter posted every Friday. And if you want to know even more, just offer me a cocktail at Tales and I’m sure to talk your ears off.
I just want to add that, as you may have read in fellow Tales contributor, Michael Dietsch’s post about the seminar Hausegemacht, home distilling varies as to its legality in many parts of the world. Its best to know the risks before you start to build, let alone use your still.
One important piece of information to consider is that in the US there is legislation afloat to allow for the distillation of alcohol on residential property for personal use and commercial sale as long as taxes are collected on the product. While this bill has been killed in other forms in the past, it seems to be much stronger now, so who knows? American home distilling may be legal soon enough!