Lesson Three: How People Make Distilled Spirits

While we don’t know when distillation was invented or by whom (we don’t even know in what millennia or on which continent), we know it was slow to take hold. Why? Distillation requires not only equipment and expertise, it requires lots of extra beer or wine. You’re distilling down to a concentrated form of the original beverage. If you start with about thirty liters of beer, a rough distillation to approximate whiskey strength will yield about one liter of the stuff. Not cool if you have lots of people dependent upon the beverage for sustenance. But if you have plenty of leftovers after the hoi polloi have been fed and watered, or if you’re filthy rich and can extract all the beer (or grain or grapes or wine) from the lowly vassals at your velvet slippered feet, well, distillation is perfect. Put another way, beer and wine were deemed sufficient for people until technological improvement and/or concentrated wealth offered opportunity to nascent distillers. That happened in Greece, China, Pakistan, India and Italy many centuries ago and we’re still improving the craft.

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