Monday, January 3, 2011

Perfumer’s Alcohol

I am driving through the Siskiyou Mountains  at an elevation of 7500 feet (2200 meters), and it is snowing. Traffic has slowed to a stop. Getting over the summit between California and Oregon in time for my appointment is not going to happen. Rats.

My destination? Alchemical Solutions  in Ashland OR. I was hoping to buy some organic grape alcohol and to interview the master distiller, Peter Formosa. I call Aaron Glover, the CEO, on my cell to tell him I won’t be able to get there before he closes for the day. We reschedule our meeting for Saturday.

Small-scale micro-distilleries such as Alchemical Solutions produce high quality certified organic alcohol - in contrast to their large corporate competitors, they are more aligned with the long term values of sustainability.

It’s still snowing like crazy, but the roads are clear on Saturday. Peter drives out to open the shop and he welcomes me in for an informal tour. We begin our interview. “190 proof alcohol is made from organic corn or from grape wine”, he explains. “All phases of the production process - fermentation, distillation, packaging and shipping - are done according to strict organic guidelines. This is pharmaceutical grade alcohol that meets USP (United States Pharmacopeia) standards.”

“Fermenting is a simple metabolic process involving yeast and sugar” continues Formosa. “Although I remember once, as a beginner, when I overlooked one step and ended up with 1,000 gallons of polenta instead of fermented mash. That was an interesting day,” he chuckles.

Above: Peter Formosa and Shelley Waddington, during interview.
Below: The 1,000 gallon fermenters.

Below is the 55 gallon distillation unit and detail:

Above: Peter making adjustments during a distillation.
Below: Fermented mash prior to distillation.

I also learn that Alchemical Solutions delivers world-wide, but that most of their clients are located in the U.S.  “Our  primary clientele are herbal tincture makers,”  Peter informs me.   (Those are presumably the guys who buy those palettes of 55 gallon drums I see stacked up  - and I’m feeling pretty happy that they opened the doors for me and my little one gallon purchase.)

Shelley: “A lot of perfumers have questions about the various alcohols, Peter. Can you recommend a place for accurate information?”
Peter: “Our website provides the basics for people who want information about various proofs and percentages, denatured and undenatured alcohol, taxable and non-taxable alcohol, liquid extracts, kosher ethanol, you name it.  We even have a couple recipes  on there as well."

My hearty thanks to Aaren Glover, CEO and Peter Formosa, Master Distiller
I exclusively use their organic grape alcohol for all of my natural perfumes, for over 10 years.
They provide an excellent price and a superior product that supports organic farming and sustainable values.

They drove through the snow and opened their doors to me on a snowy day.

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Gloom Of Night…

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" was said about 2500 years ago by the Greek historian, Herodotus. He said this adage during the war between the Greeks and Persians about 500 B.C. in reference to the Persian mounted postal couriers whom he observed and held in high esteem.  I think Herodotus would’ve esteemed Aaron and Peter too.

Shelley Waddington
Ashland, Oregon, Winter 2010