Gangnam Spile

This is soooo late, and I’ve been so swamped with work and BrumBats stuff that I’ve not gotten around to posting this – so file it under stuff-to-do-in-2016…

I’ve wanted to have a go at birch tapping for years. I’d seen the Ray Mears bit on tapping (scroll to the bottom of this post to see it!), and I know there’s a huge culture of maple tapping in the US, but I’d always felt a bit intimidated by the idea of making my own spile, and was determined to have a go this year.

The awesome among you will have seek Katniss Everdeen use a spile in Hunger Games: Catching Fire to get a life-saving drink from a tree, and although I don’t anticipate being in some sort of dystopian arena mode scenario any time soon, I’m still happy to have added it to my repertoire of skills-for-the-apocalypse.

I’d found an awesome spiles kit on Amazon, but it was simply ridiculously priced, so I ordered it from a US site and had it sent to my brother (who lives across the pond) and had him post them to me. Result!

You’ll get the idea when you watch the video below, but basically it involves going during the right two weeks of the year when the Birch Sap is rising (usually the first two weeks in March, but this can vary according to your latitude and the temperature), drilling a hole (I used a 14mm flat drill bit) into the outer bark, and inserting your spile.  Catch the sap in a receptacle (the metal spiles I ordered came with a little hook from which to hang your bottle/pan).  I drank some straight out of the tree – FREEZING cold and just amazingly refreshing.

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So, the verdict: Well, most people say that they can’t taste the difference between birch sap and water, but I have to disagree – I can really taste the soft tannins in it, and to me it tastes like fresh, weak iced tea.  Just lovely!  And of course I followed Ray’s advice and froze some with ice cubes for adding to a nice single malt…

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