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Because they can feel/taste/experience the care and the love of mission that went into what they are drinking.
A lot of the mission is simply thinking seriously about what you’re doing.
and of course you have to know a lot about how to do it.
But two aspects are both crucial and rarely encountered. One is a genuine enjoyment and love of what you do.
Truly great spirits are made by hand. That breaks down into a long series of apparently simple acts, but almost every one of them involves doing just the right thing at just the right time.
It can be as simple as cutting roasted agaves into the right-sized chunks for milling
Or it can be making the heads cut – at exactly the right moment – on the second distillation run of wine from $2000/ton old-vine pinot noir grapes. Maybe you’ve done this hundreds of times, but every run is a bit different.
Or maintaining the right temperature in the condensing pan on the top chamber of a clay “Filipino” still
The people who are best at this have some inner urge to get it all right, but not in a mechanical way. A craft still is not a machine. It’s more like a skillet in the hands of a great chef: how do you get the best out of what’s in it? If you don’t love it, it won’t happen.
The second aspect is having a profound understanding of your ingredients. This runs deep. Here’s why:
Truly great spirits have souls.
Distillation goes way back. The ancient Greeks learned it from Egypt and used it to make medicine. Using a still to make strong alcohol is pretty recent.
The word “spirit” comes from medieval alchemy, when you were purifying and concentrating some interesting substance, isolating its essence. In medieval times, the process had mystical overtones, which is why humans called the results a spirit, which derives from the Latin for breath, what makes you alive. It often meant soul.
Like an alchemist, a distiller is trying to capture the pure concentrated essence of the plant he is distilling: grape, corn, agave. In a word, its soul.
The photo is of viognier grapes. They make fabulous brandies. Distilled into vodka, they take away the rubbing alcohol smell when blended into vodka distilled from grain or corn.
Know what? You have to pick them at exactly the right time, different from when they are harvested to make table wine. You go into the vineyard, crush a bunch, test the percent sugar in the juice with a refractometer, and tell the grower: ”Harvest the day after tomorrow, early morning”. You know the grapes better than he does. Why’s that? You love your materials. You want to do them justice. Ever watch a great chef buying vegetables?
The word “spirit” comes from medieval alchemy, when you were purifying and concentrating some interesting substance, isolating its essence. In medieval times, the process had mystical overtones, which is why humans called the results a spirit, which derives from the Latin for breath, what makes you alive. It often meant soul
Like we said: there are many many different things you do when you start out with a plant and end up with a bottle of great stuff. What’s the final aspect? You’re thinking about providing genuine pleasure to the human who will take a drink of your spirit. Here’s mezcal issuing from a potstill in Santa Ana del Rio, in Oaxaca. Think for a minute about everything it took to make this happen.
Here’s the best part: giving someone and genuinely rewarding experience: “Hey, this is GOOD!”.And it IS good, from its taste, not from hype. So go ahead. Drink Real. Love our spirits. They are all made this way.