The Soylent Green Of Whiskey?

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-115029161-1’);

My Wall Street Journal today included their “The Future of Everything” magazine. Featured on the cover was “synthetic spirits”. That isn’t something for Halloween but a lab-created whiskey from San Fransciso.

The company is called Endless West and was founded by Mardonn Chua. Originally their intent was to recreate expensive wines. The problem was that they couldn’t market them as wine under Federal law. However, due to a loophole in the regulations, they could create “spirit whiskey” so long as it contained 5% on a proof gallon whiskey.

In the spring the company raised an additional $10 million and hired a small staff of food scientists and analytical chemists, then outfitted its lab with equipment that allows them to intricately sequence the molecular makeup of spirits (the machines are also used in food science and life science research). Though they keep the exact makes and models of these machines under wraps—going so far as to cover up their names with stickers reading “Bonnie” and “Clyde”—Lee let me tour freely throughout the lab. He showed me one machine that he described as “an electronic nose,” which inserts needles into half-filled vials of commercial wines and whiskeys, absorbs the gas trapped above the liquid, then “de-absorbs” the compounds to identify and quantify them.

Endless West can then source these compounds, mixing and matching them to taste (and smell). To satisfy the Tax and Trade Bureau, Glyph contains some traditionally made whiskey. The bureau defines spirit whiskey as “produced by blending neutral spirits and not less than 5% on a proof gallon basis whiskey.” About 5% of Glyph consists of “distilled clean whiskey” that, according to Lee, isn’t noticeably distinguishable in flavor from pure ethanol.

“Distilled clean whiskey” is, in other words, vodka to which they are adding flavoring to make “spirit whiskey”.

Eric Simanek of Texas Christian University has this to say about synthesized whiskey:

But technology—and that ineffable, essential whiskey quality—may still be a limiting factor. “Science knows most of the components of whiskey, and most of the relative concentrations, but not all of them,” says Eric Simanek, the co-author of “Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey” and the chairman of the chemistry and biochemistry department at Texas Christian University. “It’s very much like a cocktail party. You have a guest list. The folks show up. But the outcome of a party isn’t necessarily predictable. And it may be one guest, whom you’ve discounted, who changes the entire tenor of the assembly. This is the challenge that Endless West has.”

I don’t think Jimmy Russell, Fred Noe, Harlan Wheatley, or Jim Rutledge have anything to fear from Glyph.

LSAT (Lightweight Small Arms Technologies)

The military has been working on a program to lower the weight of both the ammo and weapons carried by soldiers. Called the Lightweight Small Arms Technologies program, it is being run by the Joint Service Small Arms Program based at the Picatinny Arsenal. A summary of the goals of the program can be seen here along with an update here.

The video below shows both a live fire demo and a lab demo of the LSAT lightweight SAW.

The video below is from It shows the only publicly available video of the field testing at Ft. Benning according to them.

According to the article in the Kitup blog at, development of the lightweight M-249 SAW-like weapon is almost finished. It fires lightweight cased telescoped (CT) ammo. Researchers have fired about 10,000 rounds through three prototype weapons. According to Kori Phillips, the program manager,

With millions of dollars in Army research investment, the JSSAP office says it will be ready to put weapons in warfighters’ hands by next year. Phillips said eight new SAWs will be built by AAI Corporation. She also said that the office plans to run an exercise with an infantry squad equipped with the new lightweight machine gun and 100,000 rounds of cased telescoped ammo.

While the new weapon looks much like the older M-249 SAW it “uses a rotating action and a novel feed system that fires a standard 5.56mm ball projectile and ejects the plastic case and link from its own port.” The engineers report that have completely avoided failures to feed and eject.

While the cased telescoped ammo is almost ready for actual use, there are still developmental problems with the caseless ammo.

While the cased telescoped ammo is almost ready for prime time, the more exotic caseless rounds still need some work, Phillips explained. Testers are having problems keeping the rounds — which are essentially hard, molded propellant with an embedded 5.56 mm bullet — from degrading in high heat. They’re also expensive, hard to make, and tough on the shooter…..Excessive smoke, inexact timing and other uncertainties have kept the weapon attached to a bench.

Another article at goes into more detail about the M-4 version as well. It is interesting to read the comments regarding the lightweight ammo. One commenter noted that if the weight of ammo is cut in half he would end up just carrying twice as much.