02 August 2010

Dave Arnold and Tony Conigliaro

As Dave introduces the Buchi Still, Tony carefully attaches a flask of suspicious looking red liquid carefully extracted from a sous vide bag which Dave had bravely opened with his teeth.

Many had come to not only hear the two venerable speakers, but also to witness the Buchi still in operation. Much lauded by those seeking means of progressing their craft- and mainly due to it's publicity created largely by the two speakers- few expected such a lucid example of its application than a live distillation of habanero chillies.

Whilst this was being undertaken, Tony and Dave discussed why the still is so unique and therefore how it is able to produce far superior products than could be created through traditional or everyday means.
The still operates in much the same way as a classic pot still or alembic where a compound is heated, and the resulting vapours are cooled and collected to concentrate the desired aspects. The Buchi still, or rotovapor, differs in that it allows the pressure to be drastically reduced- to a 30th of room pressure and beyond. This has the effect of altering boiling points of liquids- akin to boiling water at a much lower temperature at the top of Everest.

This means that instead of ‘boiling’ delicate flavours, they can be distilled at a temperature that preserves their integrity and true essence without creating any undesired flavours that are created through ‘cold’ methods such as maceration and infusion.

This first use was exemplified with a sample of Horseradish vodka made at 69 Colebrooke Row by Tony where he re-distilled vodka with freshly grated horseradish. The result is a vodka with an incredibly fragrant nose, and the full mustardy bite of fresh horseradish.

To demonstrate its application, a sample of the 69 bloody mary was passed out, and quickly vanished. Similarly, some homemade Cacao was sampled, carrying a full cocoa flavour, all agreed that it packed a far superior punch to many commercial attempts.
A second use of the still was exhibited with a clear liquid passed- its identity undisclosed- to the audience.

Many were left guessing and confused, but all seemed to enjoy it. Tony and Dave had previously passed some Chivas Regal 18 through the still, and through careful management of the distillation markers, had managed to preserve the flavour of the whisky whilst stripping it of all it’s colour. The result- Scotchka! The remaining dark solution?

This was blended into vodka to create Vodsky, which was also passed amongst the addled audience. Not only did this highlight the ability to confuse the senses and an interesting backdrop for tastings, it provided a great insight into the abilities of both rotovapor and its masters!

Finally there was time for one of Dave Arnold’s projects at the FCI, and a sample of homemade aquavit – Skål - was passed around, with the express instruction of not to consume it until further details were disclosed! Made using the rotovapor, it had a much more intense flavour than an everyday aquavit, and a documented ritual to accompany:

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