A few weeks ago, we were given some damson plums that were going to go to waste, so we did what we do best and experimented with a brandy recipe to make our own alcohol. Making brandy is a great way to utilise fruit if you don’t have any other use for it.
You can use any type of fruit you’d like but remember that different fruits contain different amounts of sugar. If you have a large amount of fruit, you can get away with not using any additional sugar, however, if like us you only have a few kilos, we suggest adding sugar to help bolster the alcohol content of your wash and increase your brandy yield.
This was very much an experiment for us and we learned a lot on the journey. Check out the recipe and our findings below.
Making the Wash:
- Rinse the fruit in a colander and then break it up with your hands or chop them into small pieces, removing the stones/seeds as you go.*
- Freeze the fruit overnight to help kill wild yeast and bacteria as well as aiding in breaking down the cell structure.
- Thaw the fruit then add it to a 10 L fermenter, add the dextrose and pectinase, stirring well to ensure the dextrose is completely absorbed. Top up to 9 L with water.**
- Stir in the campden tablets. Don’t add the yeast just yet as the campden tablets will kill it.
- Leave the fruit mixture covered with a towel for 24 hours, then sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the wash.
- Leave to ferment for 1-2 weeks between 12-32°C (54-90°F), or until your hydrometer reading is stable for two consecutive days. Our OG was 1.108 and our FG was 1.010.
* The stones from stone fruit contain some toxins, usually cyanide, which are released when the stone is crushed. We didn’t remove the stones, however, as they weren’t crushed or fermented for a long period of time, this had no detrimental effect on the final product.
** Collect any pulp in a muslin cloth or bag, then re-submerge the bag into the mixture – we didn’t do this but it would have been helpful later on as our tap clogged so we had to siphon the wash!!
Distilling the Wash:
- Strain the wash into a jug using a fine mesh strainer or muslin cloth.
- Pour 4 L of the wash into your Air Still, add a capful of distilling conditioner and ceramic boil enhancers, then turn it on to perform a stripping run.***
- Collect up to 1 L from the Air Still without discarding any foreshots at this stage.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the remaining wash, then add the distillate to the boiler and top up to 4 L with water ensuring the liquid does not exceed 40% ABV.
- Collect the foreshots (first 50-100 mL) and discard them.
- Collect up to 900-950 mL in a separate container, keeping an eye on the ABV. Stop collecting once it drops to around 20% ABV.****
- Transfer the distillate to a jar and add in your oak chips or oak spirals.*****
- Age for up to 6 weeks or more between 50-65% ABC (we aged at 55% ABV), tasting the spirit at different stages until it reaches your desired flavour.
- Dilute the spirit down to 40% ABV with clean drinking water, then bottle it up!
*** You can distil brandy in a single run (just remember to discard the foreshots), which will create a more fruit forward brandy. Performing a stripping run and a spirit run will produce a more delicate flavour and aroma from the fruit but it will also remove some of the excess congeners, allowing the fruit flavour to shine through further.
**** If you are comfortable doing so, you may collect the heads, hearts, and tails into individual jars and blend them together at the end based on your preferred aroma. We did this and had around 700 mL at 55% ABV.
***** We used the Still Spirits American Charred Oak Spirals and Still Spirits Medium Toast French Oak Spirals. Follow the dosage rates on your spiral/chip packet.
Head to your local Still Spirits stockist to pick up your ingredients and get experimenting today!
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