Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/108

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




THE answer given by Mr. Dawson to the question, "Can pure, un-adulterated alcoholic liquors be now obtained?" supposed to be vicariously asked by an inquiring public in his article, "How Alcoholic Liquors are made," in the May issue of "The Popular Science Monthly," would have been entirely correct if it had ended with a simple affirmation. As it stands, however, it is grossly misleading, inasmuch as it confounds substances possessing essentially different characteristics, which are universally recognized commercially by distinctive nomenclatures, and under the United States internal revenue system are controlled by different laws and regulations.

After giving a brief outline of the processes of mashing, fermentation, and distillation, which is in the main correct so far as it goes, Mr. Dawson says: "The process of rectification is generally done by re-distilling, or filtering through alternate layers of woolen blankets, sand, and granulated charcoal, . . . after which process a little burnt sugar is added to give them a kind of straw-color, simply, I presume, to distinguish them from water. . . . After rectification, the spirits are gauged by the United States gauger, and a rectifier's stamp is placed upon each package, and the whisky is then ready for market, pure and unadulterated, and known as one-stamp goods. Remember that I am now stating how good whisky is made. . . . Therefore, if you want a pure article, purchase from a distiller or first class reliable dealer. . . . Insist that the spirit must be at least twelve months old." Merely remarking that spirits to which burnt sugar has been added would not ordinarily be called pure and unadulterated, or the addition be considered necessary to distinguish between two such dissimilar substances as alcoholic spirit and water, I make the unqualified assertion that what is above described as good whisky is not whisky at all, and never can be. This will become plain upon a consideration of some of the distinctive details in the production of rectified spirit and whisky, by which it will appear that, although the molecular changes by which starch is converted into glucose, and glucose into spirit, are the same in both cases, the subsequent treatment differs widely, with a corresponding dissimilarity in the finished product.

It is well known that in the chemical transformations which take place during alcoholic fermentation, besides ethyl or ordinary alcohol, which is the chief remaining product, certain other substances are generated which are collectively known as fusel-oil, and which may be defined as "those products of alcoholic fermentation which distill at a higher temperature than ethyl alcohol" (173° Fahr.). The principal of these is always amyl alcohol, which boils at 273° Fahr. Besides this there are butylic and propylic alcohols and volatile fatty acids, princi-