Saturday, June 19, 2010

On the Road to Extraction

This week has been quite busy, and I haven't found myself with a lot of time to update this blog.  I'll try to summarize to the best of my ability most of what I've done.

Every day I've spent at least two hours sealing or staining the various doors and windows around the Liquoristerie.  It's been about eight years since anyone has done the job, so the wood soaks up a lot of sealant and stain.  I've already gone through two 5-liter buckets of sealant, and I haven't even started on most of the windows.  There are four sets of large wooden doors that I've been working on getting sealed, but some of them are so weathered that one set of doors takes almost an entire bucket.
I've also been working on staining various windows around the place, but they're all covered by metal bars, so I have to use a small brush and work my way through the grates in order to get at them.  I feel somehow very official with my red plastic palette and stepladder though.

On a different note, we got a new shipment of dried plants in, and we're going to start a maceration next week!  Apparently the nomenclature is important over here, because we do not distill alcohol, we macerate plants.  A distiller ferments sugar (using barley for whiskey, wine for cognac/brandy, etc.) using specialized bacteria in order to transform sugar into alcohol.  A liquorist performs macerations, and uses high-potency alcohol in order to extract flavors from plants or spices.
Pascal let me move it into our warehouse with the forklift, too!  That was fun.
We have a stock of older dried plants that Pascal wanted to do a mini test maceration of, to see if they were still good. 
First, he mixed some dried white anise with water, then poured some 97% alcohol into the beaker.

He swirled the flask, mixing the alcohol and water solution together.  Ideally, we want a mixture of about 57%, but I'll get more into the technical stuff when I post about the real maceration next week.
He let it sit for awhile with a cap on, letting the alcohol bring out the flavor of the dried leaves.
Throughout the day he periodically poured out a small amount in little plastic shot glasses for everyone to try as the maceration progressed.  At the end of the day, we determined that the plants were still good, as the mixture had a strong flavor after only six hours of macerating.  For the larger projects, we let the mixture sit for six to eight weeks, depending on the flavor.

I'm looking forward to working on the maceration next week, it should be very interesting.  I spent a lot of time this week translating their French version of the factory tour, and made up an eight page document for myself in order to prepare for the tour that I'm going to have to give soon.  Pascal's going to need my help though; apparently the guy who usually helps him broke his foot, so he is incapacitated.  I'm excited to take on the apprentice liquorist position though.  Apparently, one person's accident is another's good fortune.  C'est la vie.


  1. C'est la bonne chance! Thanks for the new post...very interesting. I'd like to see a picture of you in your "artist's garb" looking official (haha). I'm confused when you say the Liquoristerie does macerating and does not distill alcohol, but that you will be working on distillation next week. What's that mean?

  2. Ah, I keep mixing up the proper terms. I should have written maceration! I'm changing it now.

  3. So interesting! Love this post! Am looking forward to more distillation processes.