Saturday, September 1, 2007

Juicy Job

As lads, my friend instigated, and I assisted with, the manufacture of a sort of rum or perhaps "cachaca" from refined sugar, water, and ordinary bread yeast. When fermentation slowed to a crawl, we made a still from Pyrex glassware, even incorporating a water-cooled Pyrex coil to condense it. His father assisted. He didn't know that our "experiment" was soon ramped up from the mere ounce we obtained, and which he thought was pretty harmless even if we tasted it. As it was only an ounce, and was too strong and alien for teenage boys to develop a taste for. He believed. Years later, my friend told me the rest of the story.Unbeknownst to his father or me, he continued his work and somehow (I must get the details) managed to make about 2 gallons of the stuff and stored it in mason jars. Unsatisfied with the strength, he distilled it twice, and it approached everclear or very strong vodka in potency. He and some other guys mixed it with various fruit juices and got bombed.That summer, he went for a job interview at an industrial chemical plant. The interviewer asked him of his interest in chemistry, and he explained his recent hobby. Intrigued, the interviewer peppered him with questions. "Well, I happen to have a few quarts in my trunk right now," he said, and they repaired to the parking lot where he magnanimously offered a couple of quarts to the interviewer as a gift. He got the job. And a cushy job it was indeed for a high-school boy. Nowadays we live in moonshine country, but I still turn my nose up at the stuff. Copper coils, metal pots, radiators for crying out loud: none of those hillbillies can be trusted to obtain the level of purity my buddy and I obtained using all glass equipment and double distillation.
About the illustration: Note the seams sealed with lead solder and the non-food grade ball valve attached. And the dubious plastic hose, although that might just be for the cooling water. But still! Yuck!
UPDATE: My long-lost friend just showed up and tells me: "Your latest entry barely hints at the truth and is dead wrong on most counts." This cracks me up. I believe him. So much for my memory.