Originally the focus was on a group of farmers from one particular village, with a lead farmer. They would do distillation together, using each other’s equipment. Certification of this group was initiated. However, their Muslim neighbors started to complain about the increased smell of fermentation in the air thus the next year fermentation and distillation had to be done somewhere else, ina pure Christian community. A professional still was bought. The next thing was that the lead farmer died. His son was not interested in farming, in leading the group, or making brandy himself. Fortunately we found another family member who would supervise the farmer group, document or even organize their farming activities. He also organized that the fresh grapes were dried to raisins so that fermentation and distillation can be done in cooler periods of the year, for better fermentation. The project started to organize the ploughing of the fields of all organic farmers in one go.
The original certification body went out of business and the certification was transferred to another one from Lebanon. Remembering that pottery was invented in Mesopotamia we experimented in making clay jars, glazed from the inside, for bottling the brandy. However the jars leaked and we had to change to glass bottles. Another farmer group was found producing another variety. As they are far away from any city (for marketing table grapes) they are used to make raisins.Around that time the person who was monitoring the original farmer group suddenly emigrated to the US. The new certification body was in its turn taken over by an Italian one.
The biggest disturbing event was that in summer 2015 daesh (or ISIS) suddenly advanced, leading to an evacuation of the village where the still and the cellars are. While in the refugee camp, our distiller decided to emigrate to Australia. Daesh did not occupy the village but remained nearby, 4 km away. Most inhabitants started to come back. With some precautions it was possible to visit the village. Another distiller was found but we stopped buying new raisins from the farmers. When bottling, a heavy bombardment of a daesh advance 10 km away from our village was witnessed (everybody was on their roofs watching), fortunately the attack was halted.
A next problem to tackle was that when temperatures rise, the glass stopper with plastic gasket would pop voluntarily out of the bottle. This was temporarily fixed by attaching a champagne bottle type of wiring around bottle and stopper, until a more elegant solution was found. In the meantime, as there continued to be a negative travel advise for the area (till this day, May 15th 2017), the certification body had not been able to inspect farmers, distillation or storage in the cellar, and our organic certification lapsed. As soon as Mosul is liberated, organic inspection is to be resumed.