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Current herbal experiments

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I have been working on a little project which I thought I would share here with you all. I am in the process of distilling 20 something herbs and plan to order more in addition. Fun stuff. Basically what I do is take an oz of spice, herb, fruit, etc and macerate it in 120 proof for a week and then strain and resolute to 80 proof distill off. It gives me a baseline for using them and engineering a recipe for whatever. I have been very intrigued by how they are turning out.

Eventually I will use the distilled essences to titrate and blend to calculate recipes. Anybody have any suggestions for herbs to experiment with?

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I'd be interested in learning more about your results. I'm trying something with some peppers. I have in the past just soaked these certain peppers in vodka, which makes a delicious infusion. Now I'm trying some distillations with it to see how the flavor carries through. First try was with peppers macerated over the weekend in ngs and then distilled, with peppers in the pot. The end of the run smells of boiled pepper, gross. So, next I'll try a distillation from a longer infusion minus the pepper fruits. Using a nice little 2000ml glass lab still, pretty handy.

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Well, I got this one used off of ebay for $106. There's a bunch on there, this one had a vigreux column on it. Works pretty well with an oil bath and hotplate.

Which one?

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So far I haven't tried peppers. So far I have done Angelica root, rosemary, anise seed, lime peel, lemon peel, and bitter orange peel. I have at least 15 more waiting to get redistilled. Plus a list of at least a dozen more herbs, etc on order. So far all of the bitter or sharp characteristics and color seem to stay behind. It is really fun to see how they have been coming out. Very pure and expressive. The trick will be determining quantities for recipes. That is where the art comes into play

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thats a very worthy experiment.

I'd be interested to hear how distilling individually compares with mixed.

I wonder if certain pairings would have an effect on how one component or the other comes over.

I've got nice little 30 gallon system for experiments, but I think a glass lab still is a good addition to any distillery for these sorts of things.

Steve

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See, and I am looking at 30 gals :) At this point though, I don't want to "waste" too much product that will be other wise salable. I put quotes around that because obviously the experiments have value as well. Once we scale the herbal part of our offerings up I would like to get a nice alembic that size. It will be interesting like you said to mix the distillate and compare to the mixed maceration. That is definitely in the cards.

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I would recommend local botanicals, like ones you could forage for or perhaps herbs that native people might have used for medicine long ago. Make your gin something unique.

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I did the same thing with 55 different botanicals last summer. Very interesting to see the difference in flavor after a cold infusion has been distilled. Found a couple of botanicals that I will be keeping secret, but I'll also tell you I got fantastic results with a New Mexico Chipotle, Cacao nibs, and fresh citrus peels. However, I can also tell you to give some things a miss...like saw palmetto, epazote, sarsaparilla, and a mysterious herb I bought called "Cancerina."

An ounce is really a lot, though. I'd recommend about 5 t0 10 grams per liter, or you will end up with distillate that is VERY oily. I was infusing 180 proof house made spirit.

If you forget about your bench still and bake a bunch of residue into it, send me a PM...I have LOTS of experience with that (hint: users of similar looking instruments may or may not have good advice.)

Fun!

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An oz is a lot, but working with so many herbs, I figured I would just start at a standard mix for everything, and then work from there. Some of them were very potent, others not so much. More work to be done! And you are correct, it is quite fun!

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I would recommend local botanicals, like ones you could forage for or perhaps herbs that native people might have used for medicine long ago. Make your gin something unique.

We did that, all native botanicals. You can't sell that legally though, because they are not GRAS.

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Don't have to sell them...they look so cool on display!

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Generally

Recognized

As

Safe

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We did that, all native botanicals. You can't sell that legally though, because they are not GRAS.

Is GRAS a list kept somewhere? I don't see why native botanicals in general wouldnt be allowed.

Also, I've read conflicting reports about the use of Sweetflag (calamus) in bitters, amaro and vermouth. Is it currently allowed for use in any of these products?

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The GRAS list is on the FDA website. Calamus is banned per the FDA, even in alcoholic beverages.

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Yeah I read that about calamus after I had ordered some. Oh well. I didn't end up using it. I'll figure something out for it aside from bev use

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So, Is there a detailed list of botanicals that are GRAS certified on the FDA website somewhere because I can't seem to find it? As a future absinthe maker I am very curious since I hadn't ever heard of this before.

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The FDA does not require an item used in production to have GRAS. The GRAS list just says that they guarantee those ingredients, compounds, etc to be safe. If what you want to use is not listed as GRAS you need to contact the FDA to ensure that it is not prohibited, however. A recent conversation with the TTB and FDA was fairly productive here. I wanted to use an ingredient not listed and, after a short conversation, was given permission. However, this ingredient is not, and will not, be listed as GRAS for beverage purposes without some serious work.

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An oz is a lot, but working with so many herbs, I figured I would just start at a standard mix for everything, and then work from there. Some of them were very potent, others not so much. More work to be done! And you are correct, it is quite fun!

You can always smith the oiliness down by adding neutral and then water. Lots of great gins are made by distilling a super oily concentrate and smithing down.

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