I shall not speak here of the juice of grapes as being naturally divided into wine, tartar, and lees, but of wine as artificially divided into pure spirit, phlegm, and feces.
The spirit is that hot, subtle, pure, clear, cordial, and balsamical substance which arises with a small heat after four or five distillations, being indeed but the twentieth part of the wine. This spirit is not that inebriating substance of the wine as most think, for a man may drink the spirit that is extracted out of ten pints of wine without distempering of his brain at all when, as perhaps, he would be distempered with drinking a pint or two of the wine.
Now, this spirit contains in it a subtle ammoniac and essential sulphur inseparably conjoined which, indeed, are the life of the spirit, and may be separated from the mercurial or watery part thereof which, after separation of them, remains insipid, but yet of wonderful subtility. They may be separated thus: first, rectify the spirit as high as you can the ordinary way. Then rectify it once or twice in these following vessels.
Note that if there be any phlegm remaining in the spirit, it will go no further than the middle receiver, especially the second time. By this means you have so subtle a spirit that unless it is kept close stopped it will fly away in the air. Then take of this spirit two ounces, and pour it upon six ounces of calcined tartar before the salt be extracted, and mingle them together. Then distill it in balneum, and there will come over an insipid water which, as I said before, is very subtle. Then put on a like quantity of the said spirit as before, and distill it off. This do so long until the water that comes over is not insipid, but the spirit comes over again hot as it was poured on. For by this time the fixed matter is glutted with the sal ammoniac and sulphur of the spirit. Then put this dried matter into a glass sublimatory, and put fire to it, and there will sublime a salt from thence, even as camphor is sublimed. This salt is the true essence of wine, indeed, and its virtues are wonderful, for there is no disease, whether inward or outward, that can withstand it. This is that essence of wine of the philosophers which is so penetrating, oh wonderful cordial and balsamical, which if you do once obtain, you shall need but few other medicines.
Now, this spirit or aqua vitae is in all vegetables as you may see in malt and vegetables that are putrefied before they are distilled which then yield a burning spirit. Yet it is in wine more than in any other liquors. I say liquors, for if you take eight gallons of sack and as much wheat, which is a solid body, and the wheat being malted will yield more aqua vitae than the sack. The phlegm is that which remains after the spirit is distilled off, and is a putrid, insipid, cold, narcotic, and inebriating liquor, debilitating the stomach and offending the head. A few spoonfuls of this will presently make a man drunk, when as two pints of wine itself would hardly do it. Nay, the phlegm of half a pint of wine will make a man drunk. Whence you may collect what a great corrector of malignant spirits and vapors the spirit of wine is which, while it is mixed with the phlegm before distillation, does temper and correct this inebriating quality thereof, and as it does this, so also being given (I mean the pure dephlegmated spirit) to them that are already inebriated, does much allay their distemper. This phlegm therefore being of so narcotic a quality is the cause of palsies and such like distempers.
Moreover, it is to be observed that when this phlegm is distilled off there remains at the bottom a viscous corrosive matter which by reason of its viscosity is the cause of obstructions, and by reason of its corrosiveness the cause of the gout, colic, stone, etc.
This feces, being distilled, yields a sharp spirit and fetid oil which leave behind them a saltish substance out of which, when the salt is extracted, there remains an insipid earth. Now, if any shall object against what I have asserted and say that aqua vitae or spirit of wine are inebriating, the causes of paley, gout, stone, colic, weak stomachs, and such like, as we see by daily experience in those that are given to the drinking of these liquors, to which I answer it is true. But then I must distinguish of aqua vitae and the spirit of wine, for there is a common aqua vitae and spirit of wine, of which also they make anise seed water by putting a few anise seeds "hereunto, and other such like waters, as clove, angelica, lemon, etc., with which this nation is most abominably cheated, and their health impaired. But these are not rectified thoroughly, but three parts of four of them are an insipid narcotic phlegm, containing in it the feces I spoke of, all which I can in a day separate from the true pure spirit, which spirit rather prevents than causes such distempers And the truth is, all the goodness of the wine is from this pure spirit.
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