Who invented distillation?

Reader Rikki, that’s a darn good question. All we know for sure is that somewhere around 900 years ago people in and Europe and China started having a lot more fun on Saturday night. Greek alchemists had mastered water distillation long before, in about 100 A.D., but alcohol distillation took longer. It’s likely the technology traveled the Silk Road either East to West or West to East but nobody knows for sure.

Brandy was probably the first hard liquor in the western world, evidently an attempt to create a reconstituted beverage that was easy to transport and sell. Reduce your wine at production point, take it by ox cart to the point of sale, add water and presto — wine. That was the thought anyway. Tasting the first brandy, I can only imagine what that early entrepreneur said to his business partner as he approached with the water jug. Take another step and you’re dead, buzzkill.

It’s thought that the first brandies were made around the 1100 A.D. and got really popular in Europe around 1300. Why the process of acceptance took so darn long is anybody’s guess. Thanks, Rikki!

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4 Responses to Who invented distillation?

  1. Max says:

    This is completely unrelated and a bit late but wasnt sure if you would see this on your custard square posts-made just this week in Dunedin, NZ.
    https://www.facebook.com/mindfoodmag/photos/a.10152156340479533.1073741852.14832594532/10152571349974533/?type=1

  2. Jeannine says:

    I was raised in Alaska, and we used to occasionally make a crude sort of brandy by putting wine in a wide mouth jar, covering it loosely and setting it into a snowbank for a few hours. The water would freeze, the alcohol wouldn’t, and you were left with an easily strained soft ice and brandy mix. I’m sure that if wine made it to northern climes that would be a possible candidate for first brandy extraction method.

    • joepastry says:

      That’s a time-tested way to increase your hangover for sure, Jeannine! American Indians made maple syrup by the same method. While technically not “distillation” it’s extremely clever. ;)

      Cheers,

      - joe

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