Samuel M'Harry's Practical Distiller, 1809

There's a lot of history and 'lore' behind bourbon so discuss both here.

Moderators: Brewer, brendaj

Samuel M'Harry's Practical Distiller, 1809

Unread postby gillmang » Mon Feb 21, 2005 6:07 pm

Glenn Raudins offers a reprint of this American distilling text, apparently the first distilling book published in the U.S. See http://www.raudins.com. I intend to buy this but haven't as yet (I did get Byrn's Complete Practical Distiller from Glenn). Glenn has reproduced on his site the table of contents to M'Harry's book. There is chapter called, "How to Make Brandy from Rye, Whiskey or Spirits". Maybe it says in there that French brandy can be copied by aging grain spirit in new charred casks. If if does, Mike and John's theories are correct. Does anyone have a copy of this book? I'd be happy to report my conclusions when I get it but maybe someone out there has the book now. Also, there is a chapter on sweetening of casks where (this is noted by Glenn as part of his blurb) the burning of straw is advised. I think someone on the straightbourbon.com forum who has the book said this part doesn't shed any light on the beneficial effects of aging whiskey in such wood and the chapter deals simply with a decontamination procedure, but I wonder if the chapter on brandy or other parts of the book may shed light on what became Bourbon, and why.

Note too the mash bills mentioned in the table of contents, all very modern-sounding. I paraphrase but basically M'Harry says, "you want to use all rye? Sure go ahead. Or use 1/3rd rye and 2/3rds corn, or half rye half corn, or all corn, hey, go for it!".

These guys in 1809 knew all this stuff, so that say, the Overholt mashbill of today was known to them, so was the Michter's Original Sour Mash recipe more or less, or the current Kentucky way to make rye whiskey, etc. These guys were cool, this stuff (and I haven't even read the book yet) sounds strangely familiar, we could be talking to M'Harry and his colleagues using our language and concepts and we'd be talking basically the same language. These guys could rock at Gazebo. They invented Gazebo. :)

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Re: Samuel M'Harry's Practical Distiller, 1809

Unread postby Strayed » Tue Feb 22, 2005 2:06 am

gillmang wrote: ... These guys could rock at Gazebo. They invented Gazebo. :)

Well, the truth is that Linda Lipman, Vickie Spencer, and Jo Kitzmiller invented the Gazebo, despite its current identification with another internet forum :roll:

I am SO glad someone's reproducing that book. It's been available on EBay and Amazon, but only at three-figure prices. I just went and ordered the Distiller's Set (M'Harry's and Byrn's). "Practical Distiller" appears to be a popular name; in addition to these two, there's also Leonard Montzert's "Practical Distiller" (1800's) and probably some other's, too. Do the Brown-Forman lawyers know about this? They're missing out on a great opportunity here!
=JOHN= (the "Jaye" part of "L & J dot com")
http://www.ellenjaye.com
User avatar
Strayed
Registered User
 
Posts: 303
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 8:58 am
Location: Ohio-occupied No. Kentucky (aka Cincinnati)

Unread postby cowdery » Tue Feb 22, 2005 2:29 am

True enough, John, but at least we can say we were in the room when it happened.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Feb 22, 2005 11:42 am

MMM, Bourbon Baked Beans, Atomic Burgoo and Brats....

Sorry, where was I...

Yes it is good that these books are being reprinted. I wish the University Press of Kentucky would do the same with Crowgey.

French Brandy from rye. That is John's theory in a nutshell. The next question is where was the market for that product?

Mike Veach
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4061
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Tue Feb 22, 2005 11:54 am

Well and truly noted. By the way, on burgoo, I have concluded it is a contraction of, "burghul stew" or possibly just of, "burghul". Burghul, of which there are variant spellings ("bulgher" is more common), is a form of wheat I believe and was the base of this British navy staple dish and somehow it survived, somewhat altered, in Kentucky (also Ohio and elsewhere).. I had it a couple of times in Louisville and its base was indeed like a thin gruel although whether it is still made from burghul wheat or not I cannot say. I have heard before about the famed Atomic Burgoo. :)

I have ordered the M'Harry book too, it sounds like a good read whether or not it sheds light on, "rye brandy".

Glenn has told me since that the M'Harry book is actually the second U.S. text on distilling. The first was by a man called Krafft. There's a German-sounding name for you, German and British-derived names seem intertwined in the whiskey story from the beginnings of U.S. history.

Gary
Last edited by gillmang on Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bunghole » Tue Feb 22, 2005 11:59 am

Not only that, but we have photographic evidence! Proof of our proof.

I've got to order those books, but I just ordered cigars yesterday!

:arrow: ima :sunny:
User avatar
bunghole
Registered User
 
Posts: 2158
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2004 10:42 am
Location: Stuart's Draft, Virginia

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:17 pm

Gary,
You have never had burgoo until you have had the famous "Atomic Burgoo". Vickie is a great cook!

I think I will order the book as well to add to my growing library. Then again maybe I will wait until you or John Review it first...

Mike Veach
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4061
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby bunghole » Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:40 pm

bourbonv wrote:Gary,
You have never had burgoo until you have had the famous "Atomic Burgoo". Vickie is a great cook!

I think I will order the book as well to add to my growing library. Then again maybe I will wait until you or John Review it first...

Mike Veach


That's "Atomic Bourbonic Burgoo"!

Mike don't you have the original editions at your disposal? Isn't there an oringinal copy of the Kraft book at the Getz?

:arrow: imahungrynow :king:
User avatar
bunghole
Registered User
 
Posts: 2158
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2004 10:42 am
Location: Stuart's Draft, Virginia

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Mar 10, 2005 8:03 am

Well, the M'Harry 1809 distilling book came. Very interesting book. I think John put his finger on the part that relates to what we talk about here, i.e., origin of charred barrel aging and maybe bourbon. I'll try to post a full review of the book in the book review section (I've been busy at work including part of weekends), but I'll say here I don't think there is any question that term "branding" meant firing the barrels inside. The book is too early to speak of branding in any modern sense. The very word "branding" means evidently burning (it is an alternate spelling of the word burning). "Brandy" means Burnt Wine and my this gets interesting because generally it has been said brandywine (origin of the term brandy) comes from the term burned wine, i.e., boiled wine. Wine (and cereal beer) are boiled of course to make spirit but is it possible the term brandy is related to the idea of spirit being matured in burned barrels, and so meaning burned wine in that sense? This would bring closer to the origin of bourbon the idea that John suggested of brandy practice being at the root of bourbon development (since cognac and probably European brandy in general is aged at least for part of its life in new charred barrels, this is unquestioned). What a tangled web! But in any case, this casual reference in the book to branding barrels is intriguing and may be at the origin of bourbon development. Not that it started it, but it seems clear M'Harry (and probably Elija Craig and others before M'Harry) knew that storing whiskey in new charred (or probably any-charred) barrels imparted desirable flavor and color. M'Harry passes on an idea but he doesn't claim to have invented it (whereas he makes that claim for his method of yeast propagation and management). M'Harry in other parts of the book states casually that "aged" or "old" whiskey has a particular taste (which he doesn't describe). He doesn't talk about aging as a methodical practice though, in fact if anything he ignores the whole aging issue other than, (i) where he talks about how to emulate aged whiskey by various means, e.g. by adding burned sugar or parched wheat (Byrn may have picked up his references to that from M'Harry), and (ii) his aforesaid reference to the branding of barrels to deliver a superior article to consumers. The part John cited, where M'Harry says the producer that follows the practice will have a significant leg up on the competition, is written in a tantalizing almost coy kind of way, as if M'Harry knew he was on to the something and sooner or later someone would market whiskey regularly aged in charred containers and make a killing. Probably this was local lore here and there in Pennsylvania (where M'Harry lived, there is no reference to Kentucky) but as I say although the writer may have realised distilling was on the cusp of something significant for the most part he seems to assume whiskey will be drunk new or fairly knew. I infer from the book that the benefits of aging whiskey in charred barrels was discovered accidentally, as a side wind from the process of burning barrels to sanitize them.

His discussion about mash bills is very interesting. Generally he is only concerned with yield and whether the slops can be good feed for cattle and hogs. E.g. he says hogs prefer slops that were made from a mash that does not use too much rye but where there was a certain percentage of corn. Another factor he is concerned with is how easily the grain can be mashed. He concludes that the best approach is half rye and half corn (with some barley malt for conversion, he states that specifically). The reason he gives is, the grains are easier to mash whereas, say, an all-corn mash is hard to work, to "scald") . And it is here, in the 50/50 mash bill discussion, that I saw the one time he refers (albeit indirectly) to the effect of a mash bill on taste, he says the 50/50 way of working is not just ideal in economic terms but also is good for "the whiskey". Clearly he means it tastes better made with a 50/50 mash of rye and corn than if made with the same grains in different proportions. Otherwise he never talks about taste (as opposed to purity, but that is different, e.g. he is concerned continually to avoid making a whiskey that tastes musty or sour, say from bad yeast, or is too turbid). He is concerned also in general to tell people how to make spirit from what is available, which shows how things were different then. But his 50/50 corn/rye mash discussion would mean his whiskey might have tasted like, say, Pikesville rye does today, or Rittenhouse, or the original Michter's Sour Mash (which was 50% rye, 38% corn). I was going to say Wild Turkey rye too but to me the current one has a taste of 5-8 year old whiskey and I doubt any whiskey was kept that long in M'Harry's time. But clearly (and we see this from Byrn) whiskey was kept at least a year or two in some cases and this would make a 50/50 corn and rye mash whiskey taste quite close I think to today's Rittenhouse or Pikesville which have a youngish taste. M'Harry's all corn whiskey probably was close to the Mellow Corn Mike has just reviewed. Wow.

In general the book is all-American, a no-nonsense savvy piece of work from a hands-on guy who knew his stuff. He makes an amusing knock for example at some scientists who never get their hands dirty making an actual fermentation. M'Harry was a man who had worked his way up, he states that specifically and it comes out in various other parts of the book. The language is old (in some cases) but the tone is quite modern, he was a smart guy, all business and (this comes through in many ways) with a well-developed ethical sense. There is no reference to Scotland, Germans or any of that stuff. He speaks as an American about a country that is fully formed and knows what it is about. His few references to foreign spirits (generally rum or gin or brandy) are to the effect of, "those drinks are okay but we can do better". He does in one section approve of foreign fermentation practice because he believes it results in cleaner ferments, continually he is concerned about ferments that might go sour but apart from that he shows no real interest in foreign liquors or the culture from which they (and Americans themselves, indirectly) sprang.

America in this book was a confident, self-sufficient country as early as 1809.

Gary

P.S. The part about rye being made to seem as brandy in fact is not that revealing (about whether bourbon was devised to resemble and compete in certain areas with cognac). He says add 1/4 to 1/3rd real brandy to rye whiskey and age it for a while and it will be an excellent brandy substitute. So nothing in the direction of aging all-cereal whiskey in new charred barrels and selling it to people as brandy...
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby Strayed » Fri Mar 11, 2005 10:00 am

gillmang wrote:C'mon guys I spent half the night (literally) putting together that e-mail on M'Harry's book, how about some reaction? :)

Yeah; I know what you mean. I didn't spend THAT long with this reply (I wrote it offline), but I still had to answer to SWMBO* as to when I was going to get some things done around here :lol: :salute:


* SWMBO = She Who Must Be Obeyed)
...as if M'Harry knew he was on to the something and sooner or later someone would market whiskey regularly aged in charred containers and make a killing. Probably this was local lore... ...but as I say... ...for the most part he seems to assume whiskey will be drunk new or fairly knew.

... and nearly all of your second paragraph ...

... and again in your postscript :
P.S. The part about rye being made to seem as brandy in fact is not that revealing (about whether bourbon was devised to resemble and compete in certain areas with cognac). He says add 1/4 to 1/3rd real brandy to rye whiskey and age it for a while and it will be an excellent brandy substitute. So nothing in the direction of aging all-cereal whiskey in new charred barrels and selling it to people as brandy...

There appears to be a theme that runs all through the book, that is contrary to what we think of distillers today. I get the impression that "what distillers do" and "what rectifiers do" were much further separated in those times. M'Harry is writing to distillers. It's pretty evident that he isn't writing to young men who think they'd like to BECOME distillers; there is an assumption that the reader is not unfamiliar with distilling at a cottage level at least. And what distillers did was make clear, white whiskey and drink it. Or maybe sell or trade it to local friends and acquaintences. The more successful distillers could also include among their customers perhaps one or two spirits rectifiers, who bought whiskey from several distillers and... well, took it away somewhere. It's quite possible that the distiller (who had no need to purchase "store-bought liquor") was completely unaware of what the rectifier was doing with that whiskey, and made no connection between the poteen from his still and that bottle of "fine brandy"being served to the gentlemen in the tavern.

What I think M'Harry is doing with his book is introducing his readers to some of the rectifier's "tricks o' the trade". He is showing current distillers how to be more successful by (1) teaching them how to produce the cleanest, purest (i.e. lowest in congeners) alcohol base possible, and then (2) teaching them how to use this base to create their own array of marketable liquors. Sort of like the books we've probably all seen today that show you how to "duplicate" every rare and fine liqueur that ever was by simply adding drops of this and that to vodka.

I really enjoyed your viewpoint of M'Harry as a proud American in a society that had only recently declared its legitimacy to a world who hadn't entirely bought that idea yet. I think perhaps the rectifiers of the time may have represented themselves as a class above the distillers, not unlike the way Europeans in general felt about the "colonials". I had interpreted that "Hey! I can do that just as bloody well as he can!" attitude you point out as being directed at the processors, but you've made me look at it again, as being directed toward old-world attitudes on a societal level. By the way, although I enjoy comparing the taste of one whiskey against another as well as anyone, it's this aspect of American whiskey that really keeps me here.
=JOHN= (the "Jaye" part of "L & J dot com")
http://www.ellenjaye.com
User avatar
Strayed
Registered User
 
Posts: 303
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 8:58 am
Location: Ohio-occupied No. Kentucky (aka Cincinnati)

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Mar 11, 2005 5:02 pm

Excellent thoughts, John, thanks. In rereading the book (I find it hard to get past those weird long s's) I see too that he makes more than casual references to age. He speaks fairly often of something properly aged (without defining the age range but it seems to be 1-2 years) usually in the context of comparing America's best to rectified or to foreign liquors. He notes that foreign liquors have the advantage of becoming "milder" (his exact term) from the sea voyage and states American liquors if sent to Europe similarily would benefit. (A prophetic statement and now ORVW Pappy 15 year old has been named U.S. whiskey of the year by the British-based Whisky Magazine. Note too M'Harry's amazing prophecy concerning the potential for spirit made from potatos). It later became a practice of some rectifiers and merchants to ship rye on clippers and bring it back in a mellowed condition. I see what you mean about the divide between distilling white dog or short-aged whiskey (say the Mellow Corn type (I speculate)) and the business of rectifiers who, some of them, probably long aged whiskey or as you say used short-cuts such as sugar coloring. So it may be he noticed what they were doing and was trying to encourage distillers to do that too. This may mean that it is shippers and rectifiers and merchants that got the idea of requesting longer-aged whiskey from distillers and Mike earlier cited a near contemporary letter which shows some evidenc of that.

GAry

P.S. John I don't think M'Harry's object was to obtain a neutral-tasting liquor. He refers to the desirability of either filtering singlings (one run) or doing a second distillation. So his double distilled whiskey would likely taste a lot like Georgia Moon or Mellow Corn, not vodka.
Last edited by gillmang on Fri Mar 11, 2005 8:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Mar 11, 2005 5:34 pm

Gary,
What can I say other than you and John have convinced me to order the book this weekend.
Mike Veach
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4061
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby Strayed » Fri Mar 11, 2005 8:14 pm

Hey Mike! I love your avatar picture.

For those who don't know us, that's Mike on the left and Linn on the right. I'm the short, fat one in the middle. :laughing5:

Gary: I agree with you about Georgia Moon (or Mellow Corn if they took M'Harry's advice and aged it awhile). But I think those products would have been considered outstanding examples, as far as the technology went in those times. You weren't about to get 199-proof GNS out of those pot stills. In those times "proof" (i.e. 50% alcohol) was a goal, sometimes attainable by a skilled distiller.
=JOHN= (the "Jaye" part of "L & J dot com")
http://www.ellenjaye.com
User avatar
Strayed
Registered User
 
Posts: 303
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 8:58 am
Location: Ohio-occupied No. Kentucky (aka Cincinnati)

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Mar 12, 2005 7:40 pm

John,
Linn and I running a distillery together, what an amusing thought! Would any of the product ever make it to market? After all, we would have to check every drop for quality.

Bacjk to the subject. Here is an interesting experiment to to try. Take a glass of Mellow corn, a glass of Scotch, a glass of Cognac and a glass of 100 proof Old Grand Dad and compare them side by side. Then read what Gary wrote and see if it does not clarify some of the discussion.

Mike Veach
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4061
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.


Return to Bourbon Lore

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests