Distillation in China

Distillation in China: Elixirs, New Medicines, and Liquors

Paul Buell

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Tarasco Still in La Escalera, Municipio de Charo, Michoacán. Courtesy: Ignacio Torres Mezcólatras de Morelia.

Distilling is thousands of years old but was originally confined to just a few areas, where it was probably independently invented. Later the technology spread and local traditions interacted. This project focuses on one aspect of the history of distillation: the new, portable stills of the Mongol era, which spread the world over, even to Western Mexico. They brought with them a new drink, brandy, the first of the high-proof distillates, almost universally called araq or some variant in Eurasia and beyond. This project combines study of written sources with extensive field work to rediscover early traditions still found among folk communities.