This model was reproduced through the collaborative efforts of the Jamestown Rediscovery project and the Corning Museum of Glass. It is based on fragments of an alembic unearthed by archaeologists at Jamestown, and was reconstructed by a glassblower at Corning to create an example of a c. 1607 alembic that would have been used at Jamestown. In 1608, two apothecaries and two “refiners” arrived at the colony – the apothecaries to research medicinal cures, and the refiners to practice alchemy on local metals. Both of these professionals would have required an alembic in their work.
The Virginia Company, financial backers of the Jamestown settlement, were interested in finding gold and precious metals. Combined with the artifacts uncovered, we can surmise that the primary purpose of distillation here was alchemy. Could these colonists have used their alembics for other purposes, like alcohol distillation? The answer is probably yes, but the first record of liquor produced in Virginia does not appear until 1620 at Henricus.