Facts on Infusion

Treatment and handling of your distillate.

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Facts on Infusion

Post by Bushman » Sat Aug 22, 2015 5:59 am

Facts on Infusion
The history of infusion comes from the medical field as a way of making herbal medicine. Cordial is another term for liqueur it's latin meaning "from the heart" was used to stimulate circulation. Around the fifteenth century liqueurs went from being a pharmaceutical remedy to being served as a drink because the same properties of alcohol that bond the medicinal elements in herbs and spices also make it bond with tastes and aromas.
Tincturing is a method used to flavor by soaking ingredients in already distilled alcohol. Liqueurs are distilled spirits that have been flavored with sugar, herbs, spices, fruit, vegetables, nuts, flowers, seeds, roots, even with bark.

The finishing process in making liqueurs is clearing:
Some folks like the presentation and want their drink as clear as possible while others prefer the flavor with less clarity. Some liqueurs throw off sediments as they sit. Methods for removing sediments or making your drink clearer:
First I like to put it in the freezer or refrigerator as it has a tendency to separate and the sediments drop to the bottom. But from here I use two methods "racking" and "filtering". By racking (syphoning out as much of the clear liquid as possible) it makes the filtering much easier as there is less sediments to clog the filter. Other things that can help with clarity would be to put your infusing ingredients in a strainer bag before adding it to the spirits or by not pushing on the solids when straining.

With all the fruit that has come available this time of year in the US thought some might enjoy the information.

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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by raketemensch » Sat Aug 22, 2015 1:12 pm

Bushman wrote:Around the fifteenth century liqueurs went from being a pharmaceutical remedy to being served as a drink because the same properties of alcohol that bond the medicinal elements in herbs and spices also make it bond with tastes and aromas...
...and also make humans bond with other humans.

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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by jedneck » Sat Aug 22, 2015 1:34 pm

Bushman, I really enjoy these informative post keep em comin.
welcome aboard some of us are ornery old coots but if you do a lot of
reading and don't ask stupid questions you'll be alright most are
big help
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by still_stirrin » Sat Aug 22, 2015 1:44 pm

jedneck wrote:Bushman, I really enjoy these informative post keep em comin.
+1.

Thanks Bushman.
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Bushman » Sat Aug 22, 2015 2:34 pm

raketemensch wrote:
Bushman wrote:Around the fifteenth century liqueurs went from being a pharmaceutical remedy to being served as a drink because the same properties of alcohol that bond the medicinal elements in herbs and spices also make it bond with tastes and aromas...
...and also make humans bond with other humans.
Good one!

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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by JoeyZR1 » Mon May 23, 2016 2:45 pm

How much flavor would you think I would get if I hung a bag of peaches in the boiler pot and let the vapor pass through? I read on here where somebody used a clip made for shark fishing to hang in the boiler.

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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by der wo » Tue May 24, 2016 12:15 am

JoeyZR1 wrote:How much flavor would you think I would get if I hung a bag of peaches in the boiler pot and let the vapor pass through? I read on here where somebody used a clip made for shark fishing to hang in the boiler.
Depends on how many peaches you take. :D
Vapor infusions with fruits like peach or plum or apricot are not so interesting. But if you want to try it with peaches, I would cut the fruits in pieces and remove almost all stones. If you keep all the stones, the bitter almond taste gets very dominant.
If you want a cheap fruit vapor infused, I would take apples. Nice drink, but you will need much of them.
Here I wrote more about vapor infused fruits:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 11&t=60563
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Thu Sep 14, 2017 12:43 pm

Being an herbalist by trade I've done a lot of work with plant extracts. A couple things I might add here:
There is a big difference between steam distilling plants for flavor and directly macerating them in a hydroethanolic tincture. Steam distillation of course pulls only volatile components, the aspects that are light and are as much aroma as flavor. Hell, there's even a big flavor difference between herbs directly boiled in the cooker vs. Herbs that are put in a gin basket or thumper. Direct tincturing pulls out a lot of other compounds that lend a lot of complexity to flavor and body as it were. The proof of ethanol you tincture at can dramatically affect the compounds extracted: higher proof 70-90% will pull out non polar stuff, resins, oils, alkaloids etc.
Lower proof 30-50% will pull out more polar stuff, tannins, mucilage/gum, saponins, polysaccharides and etc.
The flavor profile and consistency will be very different depending on how you extract the plants in question. Maybe at some point I'll post a generalized solvency chart that gives better details....just my 10 cents
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Bushman » Thu Sep 14, 2017 11:40 pm

Thanks, I am looking forward to the chart. This is an area for me that I am still learning.

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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Saltbush Bill » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:39 am

Sounds to me like you might be a handy man to have around a pile of botanicals and a gin still Alchemist75.

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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 3:43 am

Herbs are definitely my forte and first passion. Ferments and distilling are just one more creative excuse. I really need to put together a winter cordial, I've been kicking around ideas.....
Hydrosols of rose, cinnamon and clove... Tincture out ginger in a double run brandy at 80% abv. Once it's done extracting add the hydrosols.....
Boil astragalus root in water with a dab of honey and cut back the alcohol to 30% with the broth......hmmmm. new mexico winters are harsh and something served hot to warm the gut and spirit would be nice. The beauty of this whole craft is that I am forced to use herbs in such a way that I have to make things taste good even if they are intended for therapeutic value. Good practice if not always successful. It's easy to make a remedy but making it taste delicious has always been the high art.
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Bushman » Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:05 am

Alchemist75 wrote:Herbs are definitely my forte and first passion. Ferments and distilling are just one more creative excuse. I really need to put together a winter cordial, I've been kicking around ideas.....
Hydrosols of rose, cinnamon and clove... Tincture out ginger in a double run brandy at 80% abv. Once it's done extracting add the hydrosols.....
Boil astragalus root in water with a dab of honey and cut back the alcohol to 30% with the broth......hmmmm. new mexico winters are harsh and something served hot to warm the gut and spirit would be nice. The beauty of this whole craft is that I am forced to use herbs in such a way that I have to make things taste good even if they are intended for therapeutic value. Good practice if not always successful. It's easy to make a remedy but making it taste delicious has always been the high art.
A road trip to New Mexico sounds like something to add to my bucket list. Sounds great!

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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:32 pm

New Mexico has it's merits certainly though after having lived up in your neck of the woods for a spell I think making a trip back up there would be very nice. The deep forests of Washington in particular are some of the most serious woodland I've ever seen. Nothing like the sparse, dry, tinder box pine and aspen stands we have here. And of course the coast line.....yeah, I miss living up there.
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Bushman » Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:00 pm

Alchemist75 wrote:New Mexico has it's merits certainly though after having lived up in your neck of the woods for a spell I think making a trip back up there would be very nice. The deep forests of Washington in particular are some of the most serious woodland I've ever seen. Nothing like the sparse, dry, tinder box pine and aspen stands we have here. And of course the coast line.....yeah, I miss living up there.
Ok the offer is, you bring some of your product and I will treat you to a trip in my boat to the San Juan Islands. Ok I am getting us off topic any other communication needs to be in the form of a PM.

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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by distiller_dresden » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:48 am

Hey Alchemist75, maybe you'll know this, maybe not... I was (follow me here) watching 'Food: Fact or Fiction' and these people were eating some foods cooked together and certain foods have some chemical compounds in common that make them complimentary - mushrooms, chicken, strawberrys; pine, mango, chili. I don't recollect the specific compound but it was different per the two groupings, however each grouping had the same compound in common. So the question to this end is: I really LOVE the hell out of basil. I've been wanting to make a clean white liquor and make a basil infusion with it, but then couple it with some other two or three things and then dilute that and add some honey or glucose or something, basically make an easier drink (unless I liked it around 60 proof, don't know).

Any idea what kind of things might go really well with basil, chemically, what might complement it on a chemical basis?
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Wed May 02, 2018 6:03 pm

Sorry it took a bit to reply, haven't been on lately but I'm back.
So I pulled this little tidbit up on the net:
"...Several aroma compounds can be found in chemotypes of basil such as citral, eugenol, linalool, methylchavicol, and methylcinnamate..."
Basil is generally considered a savory herb and would usually be combined with other savory herbs but unless you were making bouillon hooch we wouldn't go there. It'd likely combine well with citrus notes though I'd keep the basil content light. Likewise it could combine well with mints or even a touch of clove. Lemon balm, lemon verbena, cat nip would likely play well with basil assuming things are balanced flavor wise. A bit of juniper might make a nice touch. Sort of a springy, lemony, green tasting wood elf gin thing going on.
In terms of how you'd infuse the flavors I'd do it via distillation either by a direct boil or thumper/gin basket. Doing it by maceration might pull grass clippings notes that might spoil the effect. Best way to get a really flavor forward product would be to put your botanicals in the thumper/gin basket and then do a steam distillation with only water. Collect only as deep as the point at which the flavors start to fade. Take the resulting essential oil rich hydrosol and combine it with your spirit BEFORE you cut it back to drinking strength accounting for the water added with the hydrosol. That's effectively cold compounding and makes for a loud product. A lighter flavor would be achieved by direct boil with your spirit in your rig....or you could use a combination of these approaches.
Last edited by Alchemist75 on Wed May 02, 2018 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Wed May 02, 2018 6:11 pm

And actually, if you combine spearmint specifically you might not need to sweeten it as spearmint tends to impart a delightful botanical sweetness of its own. Just be sparing with any mint you use as it will tend to dominate the flavor profile if you add too much.
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by distiller_dresden » Wed May 02, 2018 6:51 pm

Thanks for the reply, this is good info and exactly where I was hoping to go! I haven't any experience with distillation infusion; is that just having the basil and other things I'm infusing in the pot while I'm cooking off my wash? This sentence:
"resulting essential oil rich hydrosol and combine it with your spirit BEFORE you cut it back to drinking strength" - Are you saying combine what I get with the heart cut before I even cut it down to 120 proof to age it, in order to dilute it or else it will be HEYYYYYY BASILLLL AND OTHERRRRR STUFFF!

That makes sense! What's a hydrosol? I am utterly and completely fresh as a babe to herbs and my still. I can put them in water in my thump though, that makes enough sense, as does the pot. What's the difference in result with placing them just in my thump, vs placing them just in my pot? And in my pot, if they're just in liquid, or do I need one of those special baskets? Those baskets can be used for other things too, right, like placing orange peels or, I don't know, strawberries, to add flavor to a spirit I'm stilling - right?

Let's stay away from gin... I can't stand the stuff. I like the idea of basil and clove. I think finding one or two more flavor components would seal the deal, but it's a matter of what. Do you think clementines would be citrus-y enough? I like their mild, less acidic citrus and sweetness, which I know the sweetness wouldn't come over in an extraction type distillation, just the oils. I could always, once distilled, then macerate some slices in the spirit. Cat nip is interesting, I have a cat and some store cat nip, I assume that's not going to be the quality I would want, but what does that impart, whats the flavor or smell similar to? (sorry lots of questions) For a fourth, considering basil, clove, clementine... Maybe just vanilla, or maple? What about something 'heavier' like perhaps cherry or blueberry, would they overpower, or do they have the chemotypes?

digression... LOOK what I found on Google, I couldn't get a right click, so I print screened and then enlarged a bit with paint, it's still readable - "THE FLAVOR COMPONENTS IN COMMON HERBS"
*NOTE the below are both low in quality, but I think they are clear /enough/ that you can figure on them and make out the terms and compare so you can use them. If all else fails, maybe Google the caps title for each chart, I found them on the Google library or whatever thingy. Certainly very interesting so you can assemble a 'recipe' based exclusively on chemical compounds in each herb or spice that are in common so they are all complimentary, and create something nobody ever imagined!
flavor components herbs.png
Aaand "FLAVOR COMPONENTS IN COMMON SPICES" so with reference everyone can use the chemical compounds to combine spices and herbs in their extractions or distillations or macerations in order to be most beneficial and complementary to each other - matching chemical compounds! I'm looking for a 'fruits' one... Maybe Alchemist can help?
flavor components spices1.png
Here is the link on Google so that you can go to these two charts yourself and see them clearly if you desire!
https://books.google.com/books?id=bKVCt ... ne&f=false
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Wed May 02, 2018 7:21 pm

Alright, writing you a short book here, wait for it....
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Wed May 02, 2018 9:31 pm

OK, lots of questions here so let's see if I can answer them in a satisfactory way:

"Thanks for the reply, this is good info and exactly where I was hoping to go! I haven't any experience with distillation infusion; is that just having the basil and other things I'm infusing in the pot while I'm cooking off my wash? This sentence:
"resulting essential oil rich hydrosol and combine it with your spirit BEFORE you cut it back to drinking strength" - Are you saying combine what I get with the heart cut before I even cut it down to 120 proof to age it, in order to dilute it or else it will be HEYYYYYY BASILLLL AND OTHERRRRR STUFFF! "

Alright, so you can put botanicals in your boiler directly though the raw heat here can lighten or alter the native qualities of the essential oils. The best method to really capture the aromas of plants is to indirectly heat them with steam that is achieved with a gin basket or a thumper. The essential oils will far less subject to chemical degradation using this method.
If you use a steam distillation done only with water separate from the distillation of the spirit you'll be able to collect all the essential oils without having to redistill your spirit which would result in a loss of some of your precious product. Yes, you would combine the "hydrosol" with your hearts cut prior to cutting it back to drinking strength. A hydrosol is technically the water that comes along with an essential oil distillation. In our case we're not separating the water from the essential oil so our hydrosol is much richer than most hydrosols. A good example of a hydrosol would be rose water.
Because you're distilling the hydrosol separately from your spirit you get all the plants have to offer which gives you a very flavor forward end product. Most botanical liquors are traditionally made by distilling the herbs with the spirit itself with cuts made during the run which actually removes a good deal of the available essential oils. See London dry gin distilling techniques. Cold compounding post distillation always produces a stronger flavor profile.

Using a thumper as a "biomass extractor" is the same as a gin basket in terms of final results. One thing you can do differently with a thumper that you can't do in a gin basket is the addition of fruit juices or even other spirits such as wine along with your botanicals so you can achieve even more exotic results than with the basket. In fact you should add at least water to a thumper along with the herbs to ensure that you get adequate distribution of heat and agitation of the contents. I always add fruit juices to my botanical distillations and yes fruit juice does translate well through steam distillation so it adds fruity back notes to my product.

Now, my experience with direct maceration of citrus has produced funky results particularly if the rinds get thrown in to the mix. If you bite into a citrus rind you'll notice that it's very rich in essential oils but then there's this weird, dry almost astringent character to it. If you directly macerate whole citrus slices without removing the rind you might get a weird mouth feel in your product. With those clementines I'd remove the rinds and then juice the slices discarding the left over pulp. Save the juice to add to the spirit later and cut up the peels to be added to the pot when you're ready to distill the spirit. In terms of how much of that juice you'd add in the end is up to you but personally I wouldn't add a lot as it may overwhelm things or even create a weird tooth paste and orange juice thing with the basil and other botanicals. I'd say the citrus oils in the peels will bring more to the table than the juice would. I'm trying to imagine citrus juice with basil in it and it makes me cringe a little but then my palate isn't the same as yours. Perhaps putting the juice of the clementines along with the rinds in your boiler or thumper? The limit here is your creativity honestly.
Catnip is a subtle beast indeed. It does have essential oils in it and if you distilled it into your spirit your cat would be very interested in your product as those essential oils are the part that kitchums loves so. A earthy, remotely minty character, a spectator in a herbal liquor that's there to lend an unplaceable quality to the complex orchestra of flavors and aromas.
Honestly I'd probably choose the more distinct aroma of fresh lemon balm or lemon verbena though you could combine a bit of catnip or a hint of some mint in the background.
The only herb you mentioned so far that forms a special exception to all of the above is vanilla. Vanilla has no essential oil that you can distill if you can believe it. Vanilla is very much a flavor as opposed to an aroma. You'll never find a non synthetic essential oil of vanilla on the market, it's a chimera, doesn't exist. You'd have to macerate that vanilla in your spirit post distillation at 60% abv or higher. Honestly the addition of vanilla to a basic profile of basil, clove and citrus rinds might produce a nice product just by itself, maybe sweetening it all up with a little simple syrup in the end. Hell, maybe even light touch of star anise for sweetness and further spicy warmth. Do you seek light and invigorating or warm and toasty? What's your theme? Spring rain or Christmas by the fire? Basil could potentially go either way. If you choose to add fruit juice of any type use it sparingly as it may bury the distilled botanical notes or conflict with them outright. Simple syrup or honey are my usual go tos as where I put the fruit juice in the thumper. Boiled and reduced broth of astragalus root is sweet, earthy and warm, it might work out well with your basil liquor or liqueur.
The charts you posted I've seen before and they are helpful in some regards though to be perfectly honest using organoleptic assessment of different flavors is more useful. Keep a stock of different botanicals and taste them all to know what they're like. Try putting a couple different ones in your mouth at once to see how they dance together. That chart reflects common flavor and smell components found in various herbs but you have to keep in mind that there may be a cocktail of 50 or more such compounds in each herb that gives it a unique character. Cinnamon and anise are obvious companions in arms but what about cinnamon and peppermint? They combine with a positive intensity of competing fire and ice. A sharp contrast as opposed to a similarity. See where I'm going with this? Let your nose and tongue be your guide. The human sense of taste is 10,000 times more sensitive than the most sensitive gas chromatograph, the sense of smell is equally sharp.
Fruit juice, when distilled, produces the flavor of the fruit as an ethereal essence sans sweetness. Apple juice distilled tastes just like apple except it's 100% sugar free and is more spirit than body, more sulphur than salt to use archaic alchemical jargon. I know of no specific tables covering this though running a search on fruit esters would yield, well, fruitful results. As a side I want to try steam distilling some sassafras macerated in flat root beer. I have no intention of consuming the result of this (sassafras oil is quite toxic) but perhaps using it as a body spray....hmmmmm
Anyway, did I help you any here? That chart you pulled up actually contains the info it seems you're seeking. Match oil components to oil components and get mad scientist with it. The idea of a basil flavored liquor is mad scientist as it is which is awesome. Sounds bizarre but there could be genius in it. This thread is one I did a while back that might help you understand even better:
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=67771
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by distiller_dresden » Wed May 02, 2018 10:17 pm

Alchemist, you are a gentleman and a scholar, friend. This is an amazing post. A lot to take in, but a lot to learn. I think I'll veer from citrus. I had an idea reading this. My grandmother used to make me fennel tea by boiling gently fennel seeds for a few minutes, in water, and then straining the seeds. She would let it cool just a bit, then add some honey, and serve it to me. It was the most divine tea; it had what you might call a licorice taste, but it wasn't. It was the ghost of a ghost of licorice. So mild, so ethereal, like fairy tea. I think now that basil hydrosol, and a somewhat stronger fennel seed tea would be a wonderful mix.

If I made a fennel seed hydrosol, would it come out like strong licorice though? Because I know fennel seed is one of the ingredients used for absinthe and I have no interest in making good n plenty hydrosol... I want that light, ethereal flavor, it would pair wonderfully with basil, and clove. Oh my would it. And sweetened with some wildflower honey! I wonder, what of wintergreen as the 'mint' option in all of this -

fennel, basil, wintergreen, clove, wildflower honey?
What would be the appropriate fruit juice to use for the basil in my thumper? Also, do I hydrosol the fenel, or would it be better to make a strong fennel tea, in the method as my grandmother, and use that with the basil hydrosol to cut my spirit down to drinking proof?

And for the wintergreen, also a hydrosol, yes? The clove, I am assuming, is best left to a leeching? I don't know the 'scientific' term for placing one in my diluted 120 proof spirit to age off and get the clove oils from the clove, I do that with rum, a few cloves, and actually whisky, but only 1 clove per gallon. It's almost imperceptible but seems to round out a harshness nicely without noticing the clove, maybe it's subtly numbing the tongue and mouth lol.

As an option from the wintergreen, though I'm not sure it would be as pleasant as that, I have some "saigon cinnamon sticks" which are quite potent, strongest I've ever smelled. I've never opened a jar of cinnamon sticks and smelled 'atomic fireballs' before, but these I do!

And you know... I think of course the usual spirit for something like this is a neutral, but what if I went with something akin to a scotch? Not a peated scotch, something more in line with a Glenlivet, I have 6lbs of Golden Promise Malt on hand, but I also have been itching to try the 'deathwish wheatgerm' recipe which calls to boil wheatgerm for 90 minutes to extract all the nutrients, then add sugar and it is basically a sugar wash from there. I was going to do it with some invert sugar and 3lbs of dry malt extract however. These flavors, in a nice mild scotch in the vein of a 'Glenlivet', scotches really carry a HUGE variety of unique and wonderful flavors quite well. Hmm.

Thank you for responding and all that wonderful information, it's inspired me! I would appreciate your help AND opinion with this idea I've put forth here. When we've come to a conclusion I would like to send you some of the finished product, of course it will be some time....
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Wed May 02, 2018 11:30 pm

Fennel is the black licorice that isn't exactly black licorice. The flavor of absinthe is a combination of factors but largely anise is to blame for it's cloyingly licorice flavor. I can't stand absinthe myself though I love gin and the more off the beaten path it is the more I like it. Anyway, a hydrosol produced using a moderate quantity of fennel would be ok. When I say moderate I mean make it more of a back note. You could macerate it in the final product but even there keep it light. Using a tea might not be a bad idea also but taste it before you add it to get a gauge of how much to add. Now, wintergreen, be careful with this herb. Wintergreen oil is never recommended for internal consumption as it is toxic. You can use wintergreen but use SMALL AMOUNTS. Besides it's toxic qualities it's very potent in terms of flavor and could quickly overtake the rest of the flavors in your product. Sooner mint of any type than wintergreen. I have a spearmint bias myself but peppermint packs more punch which would be more akin to wintergreen.
Cloves can be handled either by distillation or maceration in the spirit at higher proof. Maceration will bring out more of the full spectrum of cloves character which isn't a bad thing. Use sparingly so as not to overwhelm the basil (basil is the chief flavor yes?) But don't be too conservative with it either. Letting it soak in your product for a week may help "age" things a bit.
Given the direction your concept is going it's starting to look more like Christmas by the fire ish so I say yes to cinnamon. Yes also to vanilla while we're at it. Maybe basil is taking more of a background character? Maybe not? Choose your own adventure. Apple juice is a likely suspect here as it often is, it seems to go with everything. It just harmonizes well with so much. What you're describing isn't apple pie shine but there are some similar notes. Pear juice likewise might be a good choice here. Warm, spicy and sweet, yes? What if you added white wine along with the apple in the thumper?
So you speak of using a heart cut as neutral. You running pot or column? I make a gin that is well loved by those who have tasted it and the spirit I use is a breakfast cereal based sugar head run twice on a pot. The base spirit in the end is a hybrid of whisky and vodka which is ok neat but takes botanical flavors beautifully. I daresay my gin has far more in common with some boutique old Tom style than London dry. Those grainy, malty flavors lurk in the background and just further complicate my product. I like it and it drinks neat as well as mixed (I need to post my recipe) What spirit to use for your product? Instinctively I'd actually say rum. Hell yes to a flavorful base spirit, it can only enhance the overall product. In a way the thing we're describing is a spiced rum with basil as a left field player. Grain spirit would work too but for some reason I feel like rum is our canvas. Wildflower honey sounds like a splendid addition, it'd smooth the end product out nicely. I think you should consider adding the astragalus broth at least in part, maybe boil it with the honey in some water and let it cook down some. It brings some earth to the table. Dunno, this is your baby and you might have to make a few batches with different ratios to nail it. I almost never get it right the first time but usually by the second or third attempt I get what I'm after. Inventing a new recipe is a matter of trial and error. Basil is a novel concept, it's going to bring something interesting to this overall picture.
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by distiller_dresden » Thu May 03, 2018 9:47 am

Well, what I'm picturing/feeling now is basil hydrosol used to dilute (from pear juice concentrate/moscato wine thump charge), clove maceration in 120 (just 1 or 2, day-to-day monitored), wildflower honey sweetening (just into final product), strong fennel tea (used to dilute), pure madagascar vanilla bean bourbon maceration in 120 (to be filtered out later), my strong saigon cinnamon maceration in 120 (strictly monitored day-to-day, kept mild and background/complimentary)

Clove, vanilla, and cinnamon would be separate macerations so I can control the flavors without interference.

I'd like the basil and fennel to be forward, holding hands, spinning around in a dance with the vanilla, clove, cinnamon, honey the music they dance to in the splendid dance hall of the spirit I finally select for them...

I'm not picturing Christmas so much as... Kind of old world mysterious, potion, tincture of a divine and mysterious flavor you can't place but long to taste again and again. I think rum would be too much sweet and overpower and 'hide' the full power of the honey, because I like my rums rich and darker-bodied, not a fan of white, though I suppose I could consider a white, that would remove the hiding problem. What do you think of the idea of a Glenlivet kind of zero-peat malty scotch carrying these flavors? Would it be too much?? Better served in a white rum? Were you thinking white, because as I think about THAT...

I think in the end I /may/ dilute down to 75 or 70 proof depending how the 80 is when I try it. I don't mind a bite, but I want it to be smooth without being distracting with too much alcohol bite. I definitely don't want a low alcohol though, this is going to be a 'warm me up' drink like you'd find made only in a small village in the mountains of Austria. That's the inspiration of the seed idea. What else might I add - took out wintergreen, do you think from what I've clarified here that a mint still would go, or maybe another herb could background?

What do you think of peppercorns or something more 'neutral' that would bring something interesting like that 'bite' to the party, I think it's szechuan peppercorns are fruity a bit...maceration?

edit to add maybe this astragalus root is worth looking into, I'm just completely unfamiliar with. I can get cut and sifted pound on Amazon for $17. I guess it's sweet with a kind of herbal and slight bitter aftertaste? That might fit right into what I'm looking for, one of those old-world herbal kind of high alcohol tinctures you find in all the small cities in Austrian mountain towns
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Thu May 03, 2018 12:11 pm

I was indeed thinking of white rum but only because I feel like the sweet, buttery flavor of it would compliment your botanical bill. I can't say I see a reason not to use a scotch or even irish. Distilled grain spirits would have been a very common choice for herbal liquors back before column stills were used. Scotch will tend to be heavy but it's going to be fine given things like fennel and vanilla.
Yes to the wine/pear juice in the thumper, that'll bring a fruity, brandy character. White wine, single distilled with only a foreshot and tail cut has a rich banana character to it. In fact I prefer my brandy only once distilled with minimal cuts. The peppercorn idea might be better than the mint given that the rest of the bill is taking on a more warm character. Maceration would bring out a fuller character though it could easily go in the thumper which would lighten it's presence. My initial thought was that basil and mint in combination would produce an invigorating, cooling beverage for a summer evening perhaps served chilled with a slice of cucumber but the contrast with vanilla, clove, cinnamon, fennel and basil might mess with the toasty alchemy you're shooting for.
A final proof of 70 is likely to make the flavors and aromas seriously pop out. Less ethanol bite to it though 80 proof might be more gut warming. Shoot, maybe even boil a little ginger in with the astragalus and honey? Starting to sound like a semi medicinal elixir for the colder months. Astragalus is an herb used mostly in traditional Chinese medicine though it has come into the western herbal materia medica as an important tonic herb. Beyond it's sweet, earthy flavor it has well studied anti viral and immune fortifying effects. Excellent preventative for colds especially. Make the concentration of it higher and you may enjoy some of its healthful benefits. It will certainly combine well with honey and even the aforementioned ginger idea. This would be the stuff the St. Bernard carries in the cask around his neck. I like where you're taking it, I've contemplated a similar concoction my self employing anise and rose in place of the basil. A warming winter philtre to be taken in 2 or 3 shot doses just prior to a meal
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Thu May 03, 2018 12:18 pm

Also, upon mixing the astragalus/honey broth with the spirit you may get some precipitation occurring because of the insolubility of astragalus poly saccharides. This isn't a bad thing though you'll probably want to decant and filter the final product.
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by distiller_dresden » Thu May 03, 2018 12:49 pm

Oh, filtering is definitely planned, the final spirit is going to be as clear as I can get it; I like my liquors to be very 'pure' looking. I was definitely picturing those medicinal tinctures you see so common in Germany and Austria that often have tens (hundreds? I don't think so, but LOTS, 40-60) of herbs and spices in them, but mine won't be so horribly medicinal. I want something more enjoyable and pleasant, that reminds me of my grandmother's tea, but also is more mature and sophisticated, something your pour two fingers of on a cooler breezy summer night, or a winter night, and enjoy sipping slowly. Picking the different flavors out, sometimes getting somethings one or two more in one sip, more in another depending on your nose/tongue balance and just how you're naturally breathing taking sips.

Like I said, it depends how 'smooth' the 80 proof is, I don't mind stomach warming, it's all about the mouth feel because I want something you can hold in your mouth and savor as if it was a very fine 30 year old barrel aged port or sherry. Obviously nowhere NEAR the sugar content. I do like the idea of peppercorn to 'cut' into the sweetness of the honey like a 'stop' to it, it will be sweet, mildly sweet, but hopefully a very mild, fruity szechuan pepper is in there pinching your tongue like little beach crabs. It would be giving a contrariness to the sweetness, and then the sort of 'umami' of the fennel and basil, maybe the basil is contributing some bitter along with the astagalus, and my HOPE is that I'll have gotten the cinnamon/vanilla/clove perfectly balanced so that they are almost indistinguishable as a single flavor. I want to bring them together into a single 'chord' flavor that is a background, like a good 'chord' should be, the basis of a beautiful, memorable song.

The liquor I choose is the melody, and the basil and fennel are the refrain. I like the idea of ginger... What of it's forms? I can tell you, I LOVE ginger ale. I LOVE Thai food where ginger is in there, also Chinese. However, I HATE ginger by itself, like pickled ginger with sushi; NO. Raw ginger stuff, can't do it, always too strong and astringent. Candied ginger, nope; BUT, when it's diluted enough, like candied ginger boiled in lemonade then sweetened with honey - delicious. I think a ginger hydrosol I'd be getting into my 'nope' territory because it's getting the pure ginger oils and I find those really hard to take, they would probably be really diluted out, but I think that basic 'flavor' of the oils is what puts me off. So maybe candied ginger, it's ginger but it's been 'dried' by preservation in sugar, right.

So how would I use that. Maybe soak the it in the pear juice concentrate and the wine for some days, testing to make sure I have enough, adjusting until I'm happy, then also chop the hell of it up and leave it in the mixture when I place all that into my thumper with the basil for hydrosol extraction? Or even make a candied ginger 'tincture' with the spirit I'll end up using, making it strong, and adding it to taste to the pear/wine in the thump, would either of those work? Which do you think would be preferred/better results?

Options we've discussed for the base alcohol: white rum, or a scotch recipe. What of brandy? Especially what I have in mind, just now, with this in mind, and it's basis, those many herb/spice things you find in Germany/Austria... What about this brandy I'm going to get mashed in within a month:

1.25 gallons apple brandy backset
.5 gallon pear juice concentrate
1 gallon 100% juice white grape peach
.5 gallon 100% juice pineapple juice
1 gallon 100% juice organic peach mango
1 gallon water
6 lbs frozen bluberries
8 lbs frozen black cherries
6 lbs frozen peaches
4 lbs frozen mangoes
1 lb Lyle's Golden Treacle
1 lb Lyle's Black Treacle
2 lb homemade invert sugar

It's going to have ALL KINDS of different flavors to it... Perhaps the it would be our target? Do /part/ of the creation with the dilution part to get down to 120, then age it very, very gently on some oak, I'm thinking medium toast Hungarian, and perhaps some light toast French, or mayyyybe some Japanese (which I am so CRAZY LUCKY to have happened upon some that will be arriving shortly, but a few boards of it, however PLENTY to last me nearly a lifetime for my usage)? I've heard Japanese oak imparts fruit flavors as well as 'Japanese temple incense'...

Or maybe the brandy is best left alone to itself, as any delicate fruit flavors would be buried by what we're planning here, hmm?

chart of flavors:
Oak-Flavor-Chart1-e1439428578405.jpg
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Thu May 03, 2018 1:35 pm

So it's the pungency of ginger you dislike. Fortunately that aspect of ginger is largely in its essential oils and can be chased off by boiling the DRIED root. This is why I say boil it (moderate quantity) with the honey and astragalus in the water based broth you add last. Doing it this way will only pull it's heat without the punch in the sinuses you get from whole, fresh root. Don't put it in the thumper because all you'll get is the part you hate the most without the earthy spice character we really want here. Using candied ginger would work but keep in mind you already have honey in the mix so you'd be adding more sugar to it. It might start to get too sticky sweet. Be conservative with the ginger in the broth, a little will go a long way. Let astragalus take the lead along with the honey. Ginger will simply provide an additional grounding character and warmth. Essentially that's the whole point of the honey/astragalus/ginger broth: grounding. The rest of your ingredients are going in the thumper so just by themselves they'll tend to be off in the aether and will be more spiritual than physical. Very pungent and energetic. Giving them a body to inhabit will balance it all. A little astringency will help too. Astragalus shouldn't be too bitter although it's chemotypes will vary depending upon growing conditions and climate. Usually I think of it as mildly sweet and warm.
A lot of the old European "tonics" used far too many herbs in them, too much of an attempt to address all of the above. In herbal medicine our best formulas rarely contain more than 6-7 herbs and usually less than that. We like specificity. In liquor making this still holds true, the more botanicals you add the less and less any one of them can fulfill its role. Kind of like the wall of sound achieved by an orchestra vs. The more refined and simplistic sound of chamber music. A "wall of aroma". My gin recipe has 7 botanicals in it and of these 3 seriously pop forward while the rest provide a backdrop. In many commercial gins there may be 15 or more botanicals in them in smaller quantities producing a completely unplaceble something behind the obvious juniper. Many folks like that sort of thing but I like being able to pick out different flavors as they play peekaboo behind the main notes. Basil is your main flavor as juniper is to gin and everything else is the harmonizing elements and given the bill you're using they'll likely stand out from each other as more or less distinct notes. The wine and pear will ultimately be in the very back providing this ethereal fruity something, a background drone. The grain (or molasses) flavor of the base spirit will join in here as well. Astragalus, honey and ginger could almost be compared to percussion, solid, hard and definitely there......
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Thu May 03, 2018 1:40 pm

Whoop, I missed your edit. Give me a bit to reply....
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by distiller_dresden » Thu May 03, 2018 1:48 pm

Haha, sorry bout that, I thought I made the edit quickly enough, it was all in one go, but whole post with edit was the thought occurred literally after I hit submit, then edit took me about 20 minutes to compose.

Have to say as well, Al, thanks for being on board with me here. I super extra really appreciate all the input, man. You've no idea. I really do plan on sending you some of this when I get it finished and polished and I'm happy with it, so long as you're willing to share with me your address at that point in time. It'll just be a bit, as I have things in the fermenters currently and plans for them when they're clear, but it'll be in the next couple months...

But you are great and I just really really appreciate this partnering.
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Re: Facts on Infusion

Post by Alchemist75 » Thu May 03, 2018 3:31 pm

Brandy? Perhaps but only if it happened to be a straight red wine variety, red wine brandy is warmer than white. That fruit bill you've got there sounds very complicated indeed. To use a new word I've picked up I'd call that unicorn sweat lol. I wonder how that peach will be in that mix. I attempted an apricot brandy last year from a hobo wine my buddy made with fresh picked apricots and sugar. It ran off tasting like hell. I warned him not to sugar it over much but he did anyway. Not clear if the added sugar wrecked the flavor or if apricots just don't lend themselves well to distillation. The heads on it was awful, the heart was semi passible and the tail was bitter. It SMELLED good but dear god the flavor.....the base wine was delicious however. I wonder if peaches might pose similar challenges. Hmmmm.
Anyway, I've done spiced brandy in the past by simply putting herbs in the boiler with the wine and actually it came out pretty good. Little hot but drinkable, needed aging. I think the brandy you're describing sounds good but I can't see it as the base spirit for what you're talking about here unless you put some of the finished brandy in with the pear juice instead of wine just to give a hint of it. It's got too many fruit flavors going on that would get lost in the muddle of herbs and spices or even conflict. Almost like adding fruit cocktail or something. Stick with white rum or grain spirits, simple and warm. Again, to use the metaphor of a full orchestra vs. a seven piece chamber music ensemble. Wall of sound vs. a more simplistic and refined sound where the individual instruments can be distinguished even in perfect harmony. Unless you're a gifted composer it might be hard to nail the nuances if you have so many elements to coordinate. If you have a large quantity to play with you could certainly attempt it...
I'd say either a multitude of fruit flavors or a multitude of spices but not both at once. Keep the fruit character of your spiced spirit simple and refined. Pear and white wine or alternatively a white brandy. They will be behind the spices no matter what you do so complexity there may not be of benefit. I'd be quite curious to taste the product you're describing, the basil as the chief flavor is going to be very interesting indeed. It has a medieval sound to it all. In the modern era a lot of the old recipes from the middle ages have fallen away. They did very different things with their spirits than big distillers do today. More inventive perhaps as distillation was still in an adolescent stage. So yes, stick to scotch or rum as our base, simple white wine and pear as our fruit contributors and the botanical bill as described. I doubt the finished product will need any aging, it should be smooth as embroidered Chinese silk and just as vibrantly "colored". You have a name for your spirit?
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