Artisan Home Distilling

Use a small pot still to make "eau de vie" (brandy) from your fruit wines and capture the flavor of ripe fruit.

| February/March 2013

  • home distilling connects us with our past
    Offering guests a glass of "eau de vie" is an ancient custom. 
    Photo By Thomas Gibson Studios
  • a copper still
    A small alembic pot still can distill alcohol from fruit wines. 
    Photo By Thomas Gibson Studios
  • a basket of sweet mirabelle plums
    Sweet Mirabelle plums are good for jams and tarts as well as making into wine to distill into brandy. Two main cultivars are 'Nancy' and 'Metz.'
    Photo By Andreas und Karen Kaspar
  • a small oaken cask containing eau de vie
    Small oaken casks such as this one are relatively inexpensive, usually starting at less than $50. 
    Photo By Christian Draghici
  • distilled fruit eau de vies can be very diverse
    European tradition has given "eau de vie" made from differety types of fruit different names: poire is pear, framboise is raspberry and mirabelle is made from plums.
    Photo By Gilles Paire

  • home distilling connects us with our past
  • a copper still
  • a basket of sweet mirabelle plums
  • a small oaken cask containing eau de vie
  • distilled fruit eau de vies can be very diverse

Well into the 1800s, homes in both Europe and North America had a “still room” where the woman of the house used a pot still to transform herbs and flowers into medicines and perfumes. Farms also had equipment for distilling fermented grain into liquor, or fruit wine into eau de vie.

Even today, it is impossible to travel in much of the European countryside without being welcomed with shots of home-distilled spirits, including plum brandy or eau de vie, called slivovitz in Eastern Europe and mirabelle in France.

What Is Eau de Vie?

“Strictly speaking, any distilled spirit is an eau de vie,” said the late food authority R.W. Apple in The New York Times in 1998. “Cognac is an eau de vie made from [grape] wine; Calvados is an eau de vie made from [apple] cider. Scotch whisky is an eau de vie made from malted barley, and its name comes from the Gaelic word uisge beatha, meaning — you guessed it — ‘water of life.’ But in practice the name eau de vie is usually confined to the clear fruit brandies that the French also call alcools blancs, or ‘white alcohols.’ ”

Unlike other distilled beverages, eau de vie preserves the flavor of what was distilled. A whiff of plum eau de vie and you are right there in summer with a hot, ripe plum in your hand. Eau de vie is the only way to capture the aroma of ripe fruit. Jam doesn’t do it, and neither do fruit wines. Homemade eau de vie is summer memories in a bottle.



I got my start in DIY distilling thanks to the mirabelle plum tree that rains fruit in my backyard in June. I eat plums every day for weeks — I make tarts, I make plum jam, I make wine — yet from this single tree the plums keep falling. So I started making wine that I could distill into plum eau de vie. Plums are the fruit of choice throughout Europe for home distillation. They are easy to ferment into wine and to make into an evocatively perfumed alcohol. I suggest you start with them.

Home distilling is a safe hobby that enables you to interact with your fruit harvests in new ways. Distilling produces a beverage that is warming and adds a wonderful dimension to socializing. For step-by-step instructions, visit the article Step-by-Step Home Distilling.

Varocketry
3/21/2015 8:52:46 PM

Legalizing Home Distilling in the US - One Year Later. Posted on behalf of the Hobby Distilling Association with their permission. On March 19, 2014 I posted an introduction to the Hobby Distillers Association that thus far has had 19042 Views. I hoped to accomplish several things at that time: 1) make all the HD fans aware of HDA, 2) explain that our only goal was to legalize hobby distilling in the US– we have not sold the first Tee-shirt, and 3) ask everyone who is interested in our cause to join the HDA. 549 of you have replied to the posts and quite frankly, the initial replies were not very positive since many did not know or trust me. One year later, we are still alive and working to get our hobby legalized with approximately 1300 members. As posted previously, membership only costs $30.00 a year and can be anonymous if you chose. For lots of information and membership options go to http://www.hobbydistillersassociation.org. The HDA is set up as a non-profit organization and all of the funds collected are being used to pay our lobbyist in DC. Everyone on the leadership committee is a volunteer and no expenses are ever reimbursed. One thing we have learned is that in DC, timing is everything. It was practically impossible to talk or meet with any representatives last fall because they were all out politicking for the mid-term elections. Senator Rand Paul showed some initial interest and then backed off. The encounter with his office allowed us to get a professionally written draft bill that we hope is close to what will be introduced. Senator Cornyn of Texas has also shown interest in sponsoring our bill – if you live in Texas or know someone who does, send him a note that you support the efforts of the HDA. We met with the top Administrator of the TTB, John Manfreda, and 3 of his administrative staff. Their job is to protect the revenue but with the Sequester cutting staff in all government agencies, they have to pick their investigations carefully. Mr. Manfreda was given a copy of our draft bill and we all felt that our proposal was well received. We asked about the raids in Florida last March and while we did not get a direct answer, it was my feeling that the ones who were arrested had been selling illegal moonshine and the TTB added 40 some hobbyist to the raid to see what kind of reaction they would get. The hobbyist’s names and addresses were obviously taken from the list of customer’s names sent in by still suppliers. I believe all of the raids were in the Jacksonville area. We also met with the Asst. Secy. of Tax Policy at the Department of the Treasury. Again the intent was to clear our proposal with the policy makers to get ahead of the curve if and when members of Congress have questions. As with the TTB, our proposal was not met with any objections. There seem to be two primary concerns about home distilling from congressional members and government staffers/employees. These are methanol poisoning and house fires resulting in injury or death. We found two studies concerning residential fires done in New Zealand where home distilling has been legal for 19 years. The result was a very insignificant 0.14% of all house fires were caused by home distilling. We all know that our booze is safer than what you buy at the local liquor store; however the stories about methanol poisoning got their roots during prohibition. In the 1920s, bootleggers added methanol, antifreeze, and all sorts of poisons to their products to increase profits. Another source of methanol poisoning was the federal government itself. In a sick effort to stop people from drinking any alcohol they could find, the feds required the manufacturers of denatured commercial alcohol to add huge amounts of methanol to their products – the idea was if they put poison in the commercial alcohol, nobody would drink it – Wrong. During Christmas season of 1926 (I think), over 800 people died in New York City alone from drinking commercial alcohol that had been methanol poisoned by their government. The purpose of this long post is to ask one more time for your help. Contact your Senators and district Congressmen/Women. Tell them that you support our legislative efforts to legalize home distilling for personal consumption. There is plenty of information on our website to use as lead-ins when discussing this topic. Believe it or not, time is of the essence. Hobby distilling is not a hot button issue for Congress and our small bill will most likely have to ride on another bill’s coattails. We need a sponsor in the Senate and the House and you can help. In 17 or 18 weeks Congress will leave DC for their summer recess and will be out of their offices for about 6 weeks after which the only thing they will care about is the 2016 elections (or re-elections as the case may be). Someone on this forum has an idea we can use to get Congressional attention. Someone out there knows someone who knows someone who can help. Our lobbyist, Keith Nelson, is contacting congressional offices on a regular basis so if you know a legislator he should call, let us know. Questions can be addressed to our website. You are welcome to email or call me. The HDA is the real deal – no other group has come as far or made as much of an effort as we have. Your support is welcome. Thanks for reading. Tom Cowdrey Tocowdrey3@gmail.com 804-296-6194


Tedsgettingdrunk
5/3/2014 12:35:27 AM

I just got a still from http://www.copper-still.net and definitely not to make whiskey strong enough to take the hair off a mule's ass...Nope only essential oils for me ;) I agree with Earthbaby 10 honestly. The feds are always tryin to keep the people under its thumb, its up to us to remind them who really has the pwer around here and that we elect them!


Meisfree
8/18/2013 5:26:14 PM

@Rcockran and THoffman...U can take your little un-intimidating jackboot fascist "Fed above all" attitude and shove it right up your ***. STATE LAW TRUMPS FED and my state allows personal production and use of a LEGAL substance...guess what? Thats right...I think your collars have some brown stuff on em...JACK!







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