If you’ve ever walked around any distilleries in the United States, then you’ve probably seen equipment made by Vendome Copper and Brass Works, Inc. In fact, 95% of Ameri- can Whiskey is made in Vendome stills. Think about it. That is a lot of equipment. And did you know they’re located in Louisville, Ken- tucky? Vendome has been fabricating stills and other related equipment on the banks of the Ohio River for 113 years. Over a century of production may seem like a long time, but distilling equipment goes back even before the discovery of the United States of Amer- ica. There are theories that the Africans were making palm wine as far back as 14,000 BC and the South Americans were making Chich, an alcoholic beverage made from potatoes, in 11,000 BC. There is also chemical evidence that fermenting and distillation goes back to Jiahu, China 9,000 years ago. Even with this evidence, the earliest written history of dis- tilling only goes back to Mary the Jewess/ Maria the Prophetess. According to writings of Zosimos of Panopolis, she lived between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD in the Middle East. She is attributed to being the inventor of several pieces of apparatus, including the first Alembic still and the Baine Marie, or Double Boiler. During that time, there were two types of Alembics she would have used: the Dibikos with two arms and the Tribikos with three. Mary/Maria has been called the First Alchemist. The Alembic still is the forerunner of the mod- ern pot still. Ibn al-Awwam, an Arab agricul- turist who lived in Seville, Spain, described in his book on agriculture an Alembic being used to get beverage alcohol sometime af- ter the 10th century. “Spirited water” was a healing elixir made from distilling grapes into wine or honey into mead. Around the 11th century, a coiled cooling pipe was in- vented and this made the vapor cool down better than a straight pipe that had been used previously. This type of Alembic was improved in the early 1500s when the Swiss physician, Paracelsus, started using a water bath (balneum mariae) to stabilize the liq- uid’s temperature. It also prevented the flask from cracking when heated. In the late 1700s, a type of condenser was invented which has become the prototype of condensing equip- ment we even use today. The tube with the distillate coming out of the vessel was en- closed in another tube with cold water run- ning through it. Pot stills have changed their size and shape depending on the country using them. An example being the Portuguese alembic which had a rounded shape because the earlier distillers found it would promote more water to condense back into the liq- uid being distilled and create a better spir- it. Different size pot stills are also employed to affect the spirit as well. Bigger pot stills have more copper surface area to hold onto the bad flavors and don’t get as hot at the top. Being cooler in the ceiling of the pot lets more of the heavier compounds contin- ue condensing (reflux) and fall back into the boil, allowing the lighter flavored product to rise. A lyne arm that turns upward serves a similar purpose. Smaller pot stills have less surface area and will get hotter at the top, MARY THE JEWESS, FIRST ALCHEMIST © Hundred-to-One LLC 2017. All rights reserved.