The science and art of anatomizing any alcoholic beverage in the seventeenth century to obtain water of life/brandy. A step toward quintessence.
The Traité de l’Eau de Vie, or treatise on Water of Life by Jean Brouaut, Paris 1646, is composed of three books. The part I have translated in this article is the second book entitled The Anatomy of Wine which presents all the aspects of a not common series of proceedings to distill and separate all the “physical” components of wine.
I said physical because molecular purity is here, neither wanted nor imagined. On the science history side, an interesting set of instructions to make an exceptionally pure brandy, and on the alchemical side, an indispensable part of arriving at the third book on quintessence starting from wine’s by-products.
I will note make comments on this part. The reading of the first two articles, or the first book on the same treatise, is indispensable to understanding why I decided to translate and comment this Brouaut’s work. So: Brouaut and the Alliance of Water and Fire part 1 and Brouaut and the Alliance of Water and Fire part 2.
“Traité de l’Eau de Vie, page 46: I know from experience that things which are not of the same substance are never really unified or mixed. Wine is not an exception. The tool we have in chemistry to separate is fire. With this tool, we can section, in actual anatomy, any wine.
Thus take some wine and distill it, without a cooler, till everything is raised, and only feces will stay in the bottom. This obscure, coarse, and viscous substance is what wine has taken from the earth. The salt verifies this we can extract from it since nothing terrestrial contains salt; for instance, the burned ashes contain salt. This salt is what we know under the name of TARTAR. If you make it dissolve inside a cellar, it turns into a liquor called the oil of TARTAR. (1)
To separate the salt from these feces, make them well burn and calcine in an earthenware that resists fire till becoming grey-white. Then put it in boiled water ( someone has barred the printed verb in the book and hand wrote tiedir, or in warm water), which water you will distill through a filter, which is a strip of cloth, in the way I will teach when talking of lining; then put it to evaporate and smoke on fire into a suitable vessel, you will have in the bottom a white salt, useful in many usages, and which, among other things, extract the Dye/Tincture from Antimonium; and perfectly make the crystal to melt, to compose artificial stones as beautiful as the natural ones. Or what will settle at the start of the filter is very coarse and black earth, which the vineyard has extracted from the supplier’s mother.
Thus you primarily have the earth and salt, the coarsest part to be separated from the wine. Here I don’t say anything of those feces settling in the bottom of the vessel ( measure unit) after being dried because this is not what we call TARTAR and what remains after the first distillation of wine. And which is different descending to the bottom, while what we are talking about will attach to the higher place of the vessel. In addition, the first is the wine’s feces directly out of the press. At the same time, this is the solid part of the wine, which is volatilized and kept around the vessel like a salt, which renders the taste the TARTAR salt epitomized by the most acute philosophers owing more to mineral than vegetal reign. Since the first feces, which descends to the bottom, has nothing to do with the nature of wind but is the manifestation, it is not to be put at the same level as wine’s anatomy parts or components.
When passing through the distilling apparatus, with its cooler, all the water taken out of the wine with a moderate fire and without a brandy taste is simple water extracted by the plant from the soil. When the Autumn is very rainy, there is a lot of water and less alcohol in wine. Go on till simple water and liquor of life ( brandy) are fully separated.
But there is another phlegmatic part that is separable from wine and with great consequences. Neither Lull, Ulstadius, Rupescissa, nor others who talked of brandy distillation have ever mentioned it. This is oil floating on wine’s and also cider’s phlegm. This is of green color, with tannins in few amounts, and smells awful, in such a way that if you have touched it, the fingers keep the stench for a long time.
As all is fragrant is a friend with brandy; on the contrary, all smells are the enemy. We are very likely equipped with the faculty of perceiving odors to keep us from deadly dangers. The above-mentioned oil is so unpleasant to be undoubtedly dangerous. I have mentioned at the beginning of this book that in every body there are two seeds: one of life and the other of death. The seed of life takes its part in preserving the Spirit of Life. At the same time, the seed of Death is against it. And as the vital substance is a clear and sweet thing, on the contrary, that which destroys it is dark and sour. In fact, in every body, there is a seed of Life and a seed of Death.
However, there is another excrement in wine, much more difficult to separate since it is obstinately mixed with it. This is a subtle Tartar that is not extractable till the last distillations, which tends to attach to glass vessels and marks it with a floury whiteness so as not to be detached by any wash. This Tartar doesn’t lie in the phlegmatic water but really in the very substance of the wine, whose smokiness it is the cause. During the last distillations, when the Spirit of Life is very close to its simplicity, if you taste what remains in the bottom, you will perceive it as sharp and sour, from which one might guess this is the substance to give the typical brandy flavor. Which, separated from all excrements through repeated distillations and circulations, gives off its lovable sweetness, much more attractive than the most sophisticated wine in the world.
Chapter II. On Wine’s Excrements and their mix.
To see the evidence of the non-perfect mixture of wine and water, make a little filter-shaped strip of lining, put an end into a glass filled with wine, letting the other side be suspended into an empty glass. You will be able to see the water rising on the strip as clearly as before the mixture with wine, and it causes the wine to get thicker because of its tincture; in fact, the red color we love so much is nothing but bottom sediment of dark feces left at the first distillation.
Chapter III. Method to separate those excrements.
The anatomic art separates wine excrements. So, take four or five pots of wine, cider, or other brewing product, Then put them to distill at Balneum Mariae at such a heat you can count five or six between two drops. Go on like that till you have extracted the two parts, or better when tasting it, all Spirit has gone. Between a distillation and another, remember to allow the cooler to chill.
This done, close the phlegm inside and after well-luting the vessel and recipient’s joints. It will be enough a cloth pasted with flour and water. When all is well luted, and the vessels are placed into the Balneum and light the fire inside the oven, adjust it a few degrees below the temperature of the first distillation, as the spirit at each distillation becomes more subtle and so needs less heat to rise.
Go on like this till the coming out of watery phlegm’s insipidity. In the case this still tastes Brandy, continue the process. When you finish a distillation, open the chilled vessel and wash it. Carry on your distillation till you have it without phlegm; this will happen on the seventh.
This done, you can test its perfection by pouring a little in a silver spoon and putting fire to a paper: all must burn without letting any phlegm inside and with a clear and large flame, neither blue nor rising in a pyramidal shape. Another test is making an oil drop to sediment at the bottom, contrary to floating on the surface.
But if you want a better method, I will give you one: make the alembic’s nozzle through a chilling pipe filled with water and well lute all joints. In this way, you can extract already at the third or fourth distillation. To make this operation, you will need glassware or earthenware, not leather or lead tools.
All these distillations made, you will put your Water/Brandy to circulate inside a well-closed pelican and place at Balneum or inside cinders at very regular heat. Go until you detect a wonderful celestial scent coming out of the pelican. The more circulation, the more your liquor will be perfect, get a supernatural nature, and be worthy of the name QUINTESSENCE. Because of that circulation, it will acquire a perfect temperature to remove any excess, cold and hot, in the body.
Chapter IV. On ovens fit distillation.
The following: AA oven’s wall; aperture for alembics; CC oven’s inner part; D iron rail for the fire: E coal slot; FF room for cinders falling; G slot for venting; H door with one or two holes to vent the fire.
This oven’s proportions must be strictly repeated to keep equal heating. The CC part has to be oval. The iron rail has to be little to keep down fire. In addition that the rail sticks have to be round in sections not to keep cinders. Employing this oven, you can do all distillations, sublimations, calcinations, circulations, and other operations.
Chapter V. Saving Oven.
A room for coal; B lid; CC room for cinders to head vessels; DDD holes for dry and balneum distill tools; EEE vaults to calcine inside; F cinders discharger; G device to increase or decrease the heat inside the vaults; HH high heat to put the vessel to boil; II edges; KK drying chambers;”