As I came round Bristol Temple Meads, blue flashing lights appeared in the rear view mirror. With the moonshine sloshing around in the back, there was only one thing for it. I’d have to make a run for the county-line, to the safety of South Gloucestershire!
Regular readers will know that we are not adverse to a bit of home brewing and cider making here at The Secret Acre. So when a friend suggested we tried our hand at Apple Brandy it seemed rude not to.
Except of course that technically home distilling is still illegal in the UK. And it’s not just for commercial or tax concerns. You have to be very careful in the process to remove those chemicals that give moonshine a bad name. You know, the ones that make you go blind and stuff.
Fortunately chemistry comes to the distiller’s aide, with the bad stuff coming out first at a lower temperature, before you hit the sweat spot. It’s one of those useful coincidences that is so utterly unlikely, Douglas Adams would surely have said it was a complete giveaway to the existence of God. But the upshot is that armed with a thermometer, proper kit and the correct guide, the home brewer can’t really go wrong. Fortunately.
Now, as someone whose entire view of alcohol stills has been informed by The Dukes of Hazzard, the ‘proper kit’ came as something of a disappointment. Rather than the Heath Robinson’esk copper contraption promised by Hollywood, the still from New Zealand, where they clearly take a laxer legal view of blindness, turned out to be, well, a tea urn with a copper hat!
Nonetheless, having brewed 25 litres of strong cider at about 8%, we double distilled it down in said tea urn to around two litres of 80% proof spirit, before diluting it 50/50 with our apple juice for the final apple brandy.
A few bottles for our home consumption this Christmas. Now surely even Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane wouldn’t begrudge us that.