I have had a recent fascination with the idea of home-distilling. I am not sure what really brought it on... my love of drinking, my creative nature, or perhaps the enticing history that surrounded my initial reading; but, I have been spending a good part of my nights reading and investigating.
I will say, I have not done anything yet- I have not bought any equipment or anything like that; I am basically in research mode. In fact, I bought a couple of books that have not even arrived yet. We will see what comes of it, but hopefully I will at least end up with a good story.
I mentioned this interest to my father, and mentioned that a friend of his recently mentioned that he made his own wine and pomance brandy (or grappa), and offered to contact him to and see if we could visit. Although my interest is more in distilling, from my initial reading I knew this would be a great opportunity.
To be a home distiller, you must first be a home brewer to a certain extent- you need something to distill. That something, known as mash, is basically a beer or a wine of some sort- a fermented something. In this case, we are talking about fermented grapes.
The trip was great- not only did I drink some great homemade wine and grappa and hear the story of the process, but we also had some other great unrelated conversation. It was a really nice evening.
The wine was noticably young, but it was very good. It was a fruity red with a crisp mouth feel and a clean aftertaste. Honestly, no complaints about the wine at all. If I could get access to the quality of grapes he purchased I would consider something like that (he imports his grapes from California, and I am in Central America).
He mentioned something pretty interesting- he added nothing to the grape mash. It was stems, seeds, and grapes- but no water or yeast. He just let nature take it's course.
After the grapes ferment he would simply strain and transfer the mash to large vats. There were a few more steps before it makes it to the final bottle, but once he had the left over mash, he could then distill his delicious grappa.
He has a large copper pot still and condeser, and following all the same steps I have read about he produced his crystal clear grappa over the course of a 14 hour day.
Kept in a patron bottle with no label and served properly in a shot glass, the grappa was really tasty. It had a bite, like it should, but the essense of the grapes came through. It was not hard to drink but it was not what I would call smooth.
After we had a few he brought out a "pear in the bottle" brandy for us to try. A very interesting presentation and something that I had not seen tried tried before it was a treat. This was not a drink that would normally make it into my nights out, so I loved the chance to put a new spirit on my palate. It was smoother and obviously very different, but I honestly preferred his homemade brandy. I am a sucker for character, and his grappa had it
All in all it was a great time, and a really inspiring learning experience. It gave me alot to think about and some excellent produtcion tips.
My next step is to fabricate a small still and take a run at it. If it turns out to be mildly sucessful, I will upgrade to some more serious equipment.
Let's hope for some upcoming posts on this from me- I am sure there will be some humor.