Tasmanian distiller produces spit bucket spirit

A Tasmanian distiller so committed to the cause of sustainability and reducing waste has produced a spirit from 500 litres of wine swilled and spat out by guests at a two-day tasting.

Not wanting to see the vast quantity of discarded wine go to waste following the Rootstock sustainable wine festival in Sydney last year, Tasmanian distiller Peter Bignell, of Belgrove Distillery, hatched a plan to reuse liquid from the event’s many spittoons to create a new spirit.

“I hate waste, absolutely hate waste,” he told ABC Radio Hobart. “That bucket in the middle of the room with all the dregs of the wine and everyone’s spit in it, that’s a waste, that’s going to get tipped down the drain.

“I said ‘If I took that [spit bucket] home and distilled it and brought it back next year, who would drink it?’ and I think everybody’s hands went up.”

“We got 500 litres of wine. There were bits of bickies and cheese and the odd bit of beer in there.”

Twelve months later, Bignell has transformed the spit bucket wine into an 80-proof clear spirit called Kissing A Stranger, that apparently tastes a bit like an unaged brandy, but can’t carry the name as it hasn’t been aged in barrels.

Some of the spirit has been set aside to age, while the rest has been put into 200ml bottles for the 2017 Rootstock festival, which begins in Sydney on Saturday.

“People go around for tastings, they pour quite a bit in the glass, and they have a little sip and they want to try another one so they tip it out again,” Bignell said, speaking to The Guardian. “They are going to collect the buckets again this year and keep making it. It’s all about sustainability.”

While Bignell accepts that the idea of drinking something that was once spat out by a stranger, many strangers, might not be everyone’s cup of tea, he pointed out that spit has been used traditionally to make alcohol and that the distilling process was sufficient to kill off any germs.

“There’s coffee that they put through a cat’s digestive system and there’s a beer that they make by chewing on a plant and spitting it into a barrel and letting it ferment… so really it’s nothing new in the idea of using spit to make food,” he said.

Kava, a traditional Pacific Islands beverage, is made from a plant of the same name, which is not alcoholic but does have mild hallucinogenic properties. Apparently the enzymes in saliva help extract the active ingredients in the plant. A traditional Peruvian corn beer also uses saliva enzymes to turn the corn into fermentable sugars.

Bignell produces rye whiskey at his Belgrove Distillery, which is powered by bio diesel.

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