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Max Watman’s description of one of the liquor-distilling experts he interviews in “Chasing the White Dog” also applies to the author himself: “He hobbies hard.” In the grips of a passion for homemade spirits, Watman fumblingly assembles a rudi­mentary still, violating federal law and risking death by explosion or ergot (a poisonous fungus). Such dangers make him anxious, but Watman has the enthusiast’s capacity for losing himself in recondite detail. He lovingly catalogs the ingredients of a whiskey mash on display at a supply store in upstate New York: “crystal six-row malted barley, torrefied wheat, Maris Otter, Belgian candy sugar, flaked maize, amylase enzymes.” He minutely recounts his distillation experiments, but the tone is less instructional than slapstick. “After three sips, my mouth was numb,” he says about one of his early batches of whiskey. He eventually makes some respectable applejack.
via vz
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