The Hunt For American Chestnut

After digging through stacks of century old documents, it is now clear that it is only a matter of time before someone recreates a chestnut matured whiskey or rum.  If we want to make sure we are the first to do it, we need to find a source of American chestnut wood and fast.


But first, lets summarize the last Journal entry: 


In a May 5th journal entry we outlined the need to recreate rye and rums matured with American chestnut wood.  The short summary goes like this: 


1.  In the 19th century, ageing barrels could have been made from either oak or chestnut.  Both casks appear to be common enough to be traded on the 19th century commodity exchanges. 


2.  With the onset of the chestnut blight, prices for chestnut wood skyrocketed as America's most common hardwood faced extinction. 


3.  The European chestnut data seems to indicate that enough of the key chemical compounds found in oak are present in chestnut to trigger the distilled spirits maturation process. 


4.  The trees are effectively extinct, and have been so since the great depression, making finding the raw material less than simple.   


We began our task with wood reclamation business.  It turns out that many 19th century barns and houses were built of chestnut.  There are people today who make their living reclaiming the old wood and selling it.  



 The problem with this strategy is the "wormy" part of the antique American wormy chestnut market.  It turns out that, a set of mites would tunnel into chestnut as soon as the trees died.  Since the majority of the wood used for these old structures came from trees that sat dead in the forests for many years we have yet to find a dealer with wood in suitable condition to use for making beverages.  


You can read all about wormy chestnut here.  


Our next strategy was to find out of there was a supply of surviving trees.  Which took us down the road of becoming members of the American Chestnut Foundation or ACF.  People after our own hearts, the ACF is a non-profit resurrection science project dedicated to using humanities new found powers of genetic engineering to bring extinct stuff people like back to life!



The problem:  No amount of money (that we are willing to pay) was going to convince these people to cut down one of their precious trees so we can make it into whiskey and rum. 


the solution: 


Antique furniture! 


Here is a picture of Rattleback Rye's Dr. Wynn Sanders examining our teams latest purchase, a 140+ year old night stand made of effectively extinct American chestnut.   


 Now to make this into suitable wood for spirit maturation.


To be continued.









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                               Photo credits to Juliet Frew, Dario Griffin, Greta Tuckute