Second in our Classic Brewing & Distilling Series is The Complete Practical Distiller from M.L. Byrn. The first edition was published in 1854, just two years after Byrn brought us The Complete Practical Brewer. Where The Complete Practical Brewer focused on brewing beer, this companion book focuses solely on distilling alcoholic beverages. (No fuel alcohol discussions in this book.) We have republished the 8th edition of this book, copyrighted in 1870 and printed in 1875, to which the publisher added "Practical Directions for Distilling" by Th. Flinz.

This book brings not only a good manual on distilling but also a good American perspective on distilling around the time of the Civil War. (The first edition having been issued before the Civil War, and this edition after the Civil War.)

The following excerpt from the preface best characterizes what Byrn was attempting to deliver in this book:

" For a long time the public have been in want of a work on the art of Distillation and Rectification, couched in such language that every one could appreciate it ; and of such size and value that the price, and the time required to read it, would prove the least objectionable. ... I trust that in the following pages the reader will find every thing that the present state of science calls for, and that the suggestions may prove of great practical advantage ; which I think they will do, as every thing is given in the shortest and plainest manner. "

Distillation Processes
The text includes many discussions on the processes of distilling liquors. The general discussions include:
  • Malting for distilling
  • Fermentation
  • Distillation
  • Rectification
It also includes discussions on distillery construction, and the equipment necessary.

Specific Processes & Recipes
One important aspect of the text is that it contains processes and period recipes for specific liquors and spirituous waters. There are discussions about the common spirits:
  • Malt whisky
  • Rum
  • Gins: Dutch Geneva, Hollands Gin, Common Gin
  • Brandies: French Process for Distilling Brandy, Apple Brandy, Peach Brandy

There are also discussions concerning less common spirits and sprituous waters, including:
Potato Spirtis, Arrack (spirits from rice), Irish Usquebaugh, British Molasses based spirits, etc. Check the table of contents below to see the variety of spirits included.*

An American Perspective
One particularly interesting chapter in the book discusses the distilling equipment that was common in the United States at the time of this publication.

Byrn also discusses that the United States "abounds in many fruits, roots, and vegetables that will yield spirit upon distillation." He includes specific discussions on making Cider-Spirts/Apple Brandy, and Peach Brandy in the United States.

Interestingly enough, Byrn makes no mention of the term "Bourbon" in the text, but does mention that Indian corn can be used in malt whisky.

Continuous Distillation
In 1831, Aeneas Coffey invented the Coffey Still, or also referred to as the Patent Still. This enabled the concept of "continuous distillation" as opposed to the previous "batch distillation" done in Pot Stills. The invention of Continuous Distillation allowed for the creation of "Grain Whiskey" and therefore was also the start of many of the blended whiskies we now know. (Many blended whiskies include a portion of grain whisky.) The first edition of The Complete Practical Distiller was most likely the first American distilling text to include a chapter on the topic of Continuous Distillation.

The Complete Practical Distiller leads to the making of Nirranda Whiskey
Though an American Distilling book, at least one copy found its way to Western Victoria, Australia! Reportedly, in the late 1800s, Tom Delaney used The Complete Practical Distiller to make his near legendary Nirranda Whiskey! Visit the Delaney family site by clicking here to see more of the tales about their ancestor and his whiskey distilling. Click here for another interesting Delaney whiskey site.

Table of Contents
To get a better idea of what the book contains, take a look at the table of contents from the actual book.  A PDF version can be viewed by clicking here.

Book Details
The book, as seen to the left, is a hard cover bound in bonded leather with gold foil stamping on the spine and front cover. It is 220 pages and printed on 60lb. natural offset paper.

How to Order

No longer available. We hope to make it available as an e-book in the near future.

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* A limited quantity of these sets are available due to the limited number of copies remaining of some of the books. (Complete Practical Brewer and Complete Practical Distiller.)

** Sets that contain a pre-order book: If you order a set of books which contains a pre-order title, the entire set will be shipped when the pre-order title comes back from the printer.

* Disclaimer: Recipes from old books should be viewed with caution. Ingredients may have since been deemed dangerous. These books are being published soley for the historical perspective and information.