Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/448

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

blanche, however, contains a relatively small quantity of sugar, or only about 7 to 8 per cent. Again, the riper the grape the more sugar it will contain, but experience has taught the vine-dressers of the Deux Charentes that, if their grapes are allowed to thoroughly ripen, the brandy produced is stronger, but proportionally inferior in quality. So that all the facts lend confirmation to the statement just made.

It was remarked, a little while ago, that the quality, or "bouquet," of the brandy—that is, its peculiar odor—was derived from œnanthic ether. This ether is obtained from the seed of the grape, and, according to Neubauer, is a combination of various substances, of which caprylic and caproic acid ethers are the most important part.

The strength at which Cognac brandy is sold in England to consumers is from 11 to 12 under proof, to which it is lowered by the addition of water, after, it is said, it has passed into the hands of wholesale and retail dealers. The standard recognized in the brandy-trade is 10 under proof, and it is never lowered beyond 12 under proof, except by special agreement. Below 17 under proof it is seizable by the English excise.

It is the opinion of those, who have investigated the matter, that very little, if any, adulteration is practised before the brandy is shipped from France. Heavy penalties, imposed by the tribunals on certain Charente farmers, who some years ago were detected in the practice of doubling the quantity of their brandy by sophistication, have operated to prevent other farmers from falling into like practices; and a still more powerful deterrent is that no farmer can adulterate his brandy without making it known to his neighbors. In France no wine or spirit can be moved about without an official permit, and a distiller in the Charente could not receive a cask without everybody knowing it; so that any one who procured a raw spirit would at once become a marked man, and excluded from doing business with shippers. It is said that the farmers now confine their attempts to cheat to overstating the age of the brandy they offer for sale.

Besides water, the adulteration is chiefly made with inferior spirit. In addition to the dishonesty, there is much injury to health and life involved in the practice. There is a kind of alcohol known as amylic, or fusel-oil, contained in the spirits obtained from every substance except the grape, but in particularly large quantities in the spirits of potatoes, beet-root, and Jerusalem artichoke, which, being inferior, are those chiefly used for adulteration. This fusel-oil is a deadly poison. Says Dr. G. O. Drewry, "The public would not drink such a poison at any price if they were once awakened to a sense of its terrible nature." It is never formed in the presence of tartaric acid, which, as is well known, abounds in grape-juice; hence, spirits distilled from the pure juice of the grape contain no fusel-oil whatever.

It remains, before closing this paper, to speak of the manner of