Making your own distilled spirits has been a largely ignored area in the DIY market, and not since Prohibition has there been serious interest in “homebrewed hooch” until now. With local microbreweries and wineries popping up everywhere, it was only a matter of time until people’s interest turned to the harder liquors, the fine spirits market, and a surge of enthusiasm for home distilling. Indulging that hobby, however, is not easy. It requires a still, fire, is illegal to do in some states, and is a gray area with very little good information…at least until Victoria Redhed Miller’s latest book, “Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home” hit the bookstores.
So, how does one make a smooth dark rum, a single malt scotch, or a kickin’ tequila without poisoning yourself or blowing up your house in a still explosion? Miller, an avid do-it-yourselfer, went on the quest to answer those questions and documented the entire process, soup to nuts; all her hard work has made for an exceptional book that anyone can use to make the booze of their dreams.
Miller begins with a short history lesson on the “what” and “why” of liquor and liquor law (while making a most excellent case for Federal legalization of home distilling), but quickly progresses into the “how” of still construction and operation. She details every step of still assembly clearly so that even the least mechanically-inclined can duplicate her process. She also explains the liquor lingo of “heads”, “tails”, and other alcohol-related nomenclature as she moves through building, cleaning, testing, and using her distiller to make numerous spirits. Ingredients, mashing, fermentation, and aging are all covered thoroughly; Miller generously shares all of her experimentation, both successful and failed, and garnishes the lessons learned with a twist of humor.
As a bonus, Miller includes a chapter on boozy peripherals, such as the classic mixers of bitters, syrups, homemade tonic water (the real stuff without the high fructose corn syrup, mind you), and even maraschino cherries. The recipes included for these mixologist necessities are a pleasant bonus; even if you have no desire to build your own still, you might just want to make the best ginger syrup on the planet.
Miller’s chapter on the economics of liquor make for an interesting lesson that no farmer (or government) should ignore. Her concise, almost balance sheet-like analysis shows how anyone with extra fruit or grain could easily pad their wallet with a bit of networking and resourcefulness. Miller closes a farm-to-table loop that’s usually left open to waste by connecting the dots between the produce grower, the distiller, and the stockyard; information like that could easily keep more farmers in business and improve the overall economy of the United States.
Miller moves easily between the history, science, and implementation of creating homecrafted hard liquor, intertwining the three into an easy read on a difficult topic. If you’ve made your own wine but were intimidated by raising your game to include brandy or kirsch, fear not – this book was written with you in mind. All told, “Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home” condenses a vast amount of hard liquor information into a great read that goes down like a Château de Montifaud cognac – smooth, easy, and leaving you wanting some more.
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