The Natural Booze Manifesto

, by naturschnaps

In light of a rising craft fashion and with the EU-organic label becoming more and more delusional, we, “natural distillers”, feel the need to explain what we do and what distinguishes us from those who work industrially or and many other “artisans”.

Liber de arte distillandi de compositis, Hieronymus Brunschwig, Strasbourg, 1512.
Illustration anonyme, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

There’s a difference between craft and craft: working with your hands doesn’t mean you refrain from using industrially produced bases, resorting to the chemistry lab or buying your botanicals on the world market. And craft doesn’t imply organic.

People are confused, knowledge about distillation and distillates is rare and has been lost with the decline of rurality. Many new techniques have risen with the scientification and industrialisation of the production of distilled alcohol.
Time for us to do as our comrades in Natural Wine and nail down a Natural Booze definition.

Our Heritage

Distilling is an old craft belonging to alchemy and to the farmers world: distilling meant transforming matter and creating medicine, and later on it also meant creating tasty drugs from your local fruit. Thereby you could use your excess, have something to get warm on in cold and long winter nights and have a means of payment and exchange in the rural context. In any case, wherever there was farming, there was fermentation and once invented, the alembic was never far.

With alembics in every farmhouse or village, local traditions had evolved and recipes, working styles and methods had been born. This is the context of our craft. It has been willfully destroyed by legislation with great efficiency in many countries.

We believe that looking back and acknowledging our heritage while taking it to the 21st century, combining it with research findings and the piled up knowledge of all the people who distilled before us, we discover the wealth of a craft almost extinct.

The Foundations

Industrialisation has seen technical evolutions of distilling, but the basic concept: growing, fermenting, vapourising, has remained the same. It is with this awareness that we write. Therefore to us distilling implies taking responsibility for the land that grows the fruit. Industry and intensive agriculture have been destroying biodiversity, soils and water reserves. As distillers we cannot ignore the way our base has been grown and processed. We adhere to minimal pollution. This has implications.
Natural distilling means searching for the pure expression of

  • the fruit, cereal, vegetable or plant,
  • the land (terroir) and
  • the personality of the distiller and his method.

Together they will always lead to a unique product, for no distiller, no alembic, no land, no year’s seasons and no fruit/plant are the same. We reject the standardisation of flavour as proposed by industry. But we do insist on making high quality distillates. Alcohol can be harmful for your health, or it can be a cure. Dosis venenum fecit: it’s the dose that makes the poison, Paracelsus said. Its consumption is hence a question of balance. For a happy high that stimulates interesting conversations and leaves us with beautiful memories, we need good alcohol.

Natural Booze is by consequence defined by

  • craft work
  • untreated distillates
  • respect for nature

Our Avowals


We therefore adhere to 12 avowals:

  1. We distill in manually operated copper stills.
  2. We obtain our base from organic quality farming (with or without official label).
  3. We obtain our base locally and we know the social practices and working methods applied by the producer.
  4. We do not intervene in the mash: no sulfuric acid, no peroxide, no lye, no external yeasts, no artificial enzymes, no taste enhancement. Only fermentation on indigenous or self-raised yeasts can ensure that it’s the fruit that expresses itself and it’s the yeasts and enzymes present in this part of the world that have assisted. Wine used as base is respectively Natural Wine. If you use different bases, add yours. (Cereal bases need to be discussed yet.)
  5. We do not use additives to facilitate distillation such as anti-foaming agent.
  6. We do not use ethyl alcohol, as it is an industrial product.
  7. We do not clear or filter (activated carbon, milk protein, bentonite, gelatin etc.): Natural Booze is living booze. To remove thick deposit we may use a particle filter. That’s all.
  8. We do not use additives such as synthetic colourants, sugar, caramel, citric acid, glycerine etc (no elements modifying structure, colour, taste or look except if naturally obtained by maceration of a plant or barrel aging for example).
  9. We stock in wood, glass, stone or stainless steel, but not in plastic to avoid phtalate extraction.
  10. We pay attention to the quality of our diluting water.
  11. We are honest and transparent about our products.
  12. We engage in waste reduction, energy efficiency, water saving and good social relations.

The idea of this manifesto is to educate. We are not creating a label nor do we want to control or start a new bureaucracy. We want people to make their choice consciously, and we want to answer their questions truthfully. We’re not looking for perfection, we search to share our methods, doubts and quests of improvement. There is no control, only trust.

Collective of distillers of L’Atelier du Bouilleur, Distillerie O’Baptiste & Alcools Vivant, december 2018. - Text under Creative Commons licence BY-ND

#gnolenaturelle #naturalbooze #naturschnaps

Signing distillers and sympathisers (chronological order)

To sign, please leave your details in the comments.

  • L’Atelier du Bouilleur (distillery), Autignac, France
  • Baptiste François / O’Baptiste (distillery), Valence, France
  • David Mimoun / Alcools Vivant (producer), Chalais, France
  • Arnaud Lintilhac (sympathiser), Marseille, France
  • Frederic Bourgoin/Bourgoin Cognac (winemaker and distiller), Tarsac, France
  • Laurent Cazottes (distiller), La Pangée, France
  • Yann Lioux / Jean Tonique LYBR (producer), Montpellier, France
  • Coeur De Cuivre (distillery), Vauvert, France
  • Moby Dick (distillery), Plogoff, France
  • Matthieu Collin (sympathising chef), Paris, France
  • Anne Perrin (sympathising chef), Paris, France
  • Laurent Pernet /Ambix Distillation (distillery) Vizille, France
  • Florence Faure-Brac (sympathising phytotherapist) Sumène, France
  • Thibaut Suisse (sympathising botaniste), St. Hippolyte du Fort, France
  • Garlonn Kergourlay (sympathising brewing expert), Montpellier, France
  • Philippe Cuq / Le lieu du Vin (sympathising wine merchand), Paris, France
  • Julie-Aimée Rainaud (sympathising wine agent), Paris, France
  • François Cancelloni (sympathising former distiller), Ex-Ergaster/Picardie, France
  • Florence Guy (sympathising winemaker), Murviel-lès-Béziers, France
  • Marilyne Fernandez (sympathising sommelière), Perpignan, France
  • Matthieu Frécon/ Edelweiss Distillerie (distiller), Sarreyer, Switzerland
  • Philippe Froment (sympathising marketing and communication coach), Taulignan, France
  • Elodie Juillet (distiller of essential oils and alcohol), St Affrique, France
  • Edward Jalat-Dehen/ Brasserie de l’Être (sympathising brewer), Paris, France
  • Etienne Thomasin (sympathising brewer and distiller in the course of incorporation), Vosges, France
  • Christian Binner (winemaker and distiller), Ammerschwihr, France
  • Manuel Engel, Engel Naturbrennerei (distillery), Schönau (Rottal-Inn), Germany
  • Surk-ki Schrade/La Vincaillerie (sympathising wine merchant), Cologne, Germany
  • Pierre Rousse (winemaker and producer), Limoux, France.
  • Hendrik Schaulin / pHenomenal Drinks (sympathising limonadier), Hamburg, Germany
  • Sébastien Bellétoile/Meuh Cola & Cow (sympathising craft limonadier, about to develop his own aromatic alcoholic plant extracts), Granville, France
  • Vincent Marie/ Domaine No Control (winemaker and distiller), Châtel Guyon, France
  • Theo Ligthart/ Freimeisterkollektiv (producer), Berlin, Germany
  • Hervé Mercier-Metz/Le comptoir de l’alchimiste (distillery), Mane, France
  • Ian McCarthy / Artemis botanical wines and distillates (winemaker and distiller) California, USA
  • Stéphane Casaubon & Joëlle Bolduc / Les Esprits tordus, (micro-orchard and craft distillery), L’Assomption, Québec, Canada
  • Christophe Bauer, (sculptor and home distiller), Colmar, France
  • La Piautre (malthouse-brewery-distillery), La Menitre (Anjou), France
  • Laurent FELL /Mas de l’Escarida (winemaker and distiller), Cubagnac (Sanilhac, Ardèche), France
  • Yann Charlier/Charlier&Fils (brewery-distillery), Warcq, France

Download the manifesto
for printing:

for reading in A4 pdf:

Natural Booze on Facebook (French)!

P.S.

Additional Info: What you should know.
1. There is a EU-spirits regulation (was No 110/2008, now 2019/787) that obliges Vodka, Gin, “Geist”, Bitter and other spirits to be made from 96% ethyl, hence industrial, alcohol – that includes organic label spirits.
2. The same regulation allows adding sugar to round off the taste, caramel to adapt colour and other adulterations.
3. Many distillers believe in heavy interventions on their mash (sulfur, yeast, lye, peroxide, sugar, enzymes).
4. Some interventions involve animal products such as clearing with milk protein, fish-glue or gelatine.
5. Researchers at one of the most reknown institutes on wine, arboriculture and spirits, Changins in Switzerland, estimate that we know barely 10% of what happens in alcohol distillation It’s still largely a chemical mystery, and that’s part of what we like about it (it’s alchemy!)


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