History Of Whiskey

History Of Whiskey

  • Distilling has been around for over two thousand years (oils & perfumes), but distilling grains is fairly recent in world history (~1400’s)
  • Whiskey is a word derived from an anglicisation of the Gaelic word uisce meaning “water”. Other derivations are:
    • uskebeaghe
    • usquebaugh 
    • usquebath
    • usquebae
  • Whiskey can be spelled with an “e” or not. There is no rule, however most Americans spell it “Whiskey” (except Maker’s Mark in a nod to Scottish heritage), where in Scotland, Canada, etc. they spell it “Whisky”
  • The first mention of whiskey production was in Scotland from an entry in the Exchequer Rolls in 1494 when malt was ordered to be made into “aquavitae” (water of life) for Henry VII
  • Whiskey is a way for a farmer to take his excess grains and turn it into something that is not perishable (or that insects/rodents won’t spoil!) and is more easily transported that the bulk grain
  • Whiskey distillation in England got a boost during the English reformation (Henry VIII again!) when the Catholic monks, bishops and priests who knew about distilling (Brandy, Cognac & Whiskey) had to go “underground”
  • Since the emerging “whiskey” industry also made money, it got the notice of the tax assessors in the 1600”s (see discussion on proof above)
  • All Bourbon is Whiskey, but not all Whiskey is Bourbon
  • Bourbon exists as a legal term today, laid out by the U.S. Treasury as a way of collecting taxes:
    • Must be made in the United States
    • Minimum of 51% corn in the mash bill
    • All cereal grains
    • No coloring, flavoring or additives
      • e.g. “Angels Envy”
    • Nothing else but water
    • Must be aged in a New Charred Oak barrel
      • No minimum age
    • Distilled no higher than 160 proof
      • This keeps the grain flavors in the Bourbon
      • If you go higher, you’re making Vodka or GNS
    • Put in a barrel no higher than 125 proof
      • Prevents “over-oaking” the Bourbon?
      • Alcohol is great at pulling out flavors of anything
    • Bottled at not less than 80 proof
  • There is a popular misconception that Bourbon must be made in Kentucky
    • At least 48 states have a Bourbon
    • Many familiar Kentucky Bourbon brands have their roots in Maryland
      • Basil Hayden
      • Old Grandad
      • J.W. Dant
      • J. Beam
      • Willet
      • Wathen

History Of Whiskey Written by Scott Sanders

  • Tennessee Whiskey (e.g. Jack Daniels) is technically not a Bourbon because it is “flavored” by charcoal wood after distillation and prior to barreling
    • Most non-U.S. people don’t understand (nor care) about this distinction and call it Bourbon
    • Jack Daniels is one of the world’s most popular selling Bourbons
    • Jack Daniels also owes its heritage to a Maryland distiller (Nathan Green)
  • There are many stories about when Bourbon first started being aged in barrels and how it became known as Bourbon
  • In the 1800’s, Whiskey was sold wholesale in barrels to “rectifiers” who then adulterated it and sold to consumers
    • Rectifiers would add other ingredients to change the color and flavor
      • Prune juice
      • Tobacco juice
      • Etc.
    • This created a lot of really “nasty” whiskey and consumers revolted
  • This lead to America’s first “Consumer Protection” law – The “Bottled in Bond” Act in 1897
    • Framework for distillers to bottle a product under government supervision
    • Guaranteed to be of a certain quality
      • One distiller, in a single distilling season (Jan-Jun/Jul-Dec) at one distillery
      • Bottles at 100 proof
      • Aged  a minimum of 4 years in a federally bonded warehouse
      • Label must state where distilled and bottled
    • Distiller could defer taxes until Whiskey was bottled
      • Tax stamps not used anymore
    • Intent was to:
      • Guarantee quality to consumer
      • Have government oversight (make sure none went “missing”)
      • Provide favorable tax incentive
    • E.H. Taylor was one of the leading proponents of the Bottled in Bond Act
  • Bourbon is fill of stories, tales, myths, tradition on how things started by those in the 1700’s & 1800’s
  • 1785 – Basil Hayden headed the “League of Catholic Families” a group of twenty-five Catholic families from Maryland into Virginia (now Kentucky)
    • Pottenger’s Creek settlement, now Nelson County, Kentucky (near Bardstown) 
    • Land patent approved by Gov Patrick Henry of Virginia to Sam Pottinger, Hayden signed a bond for his land in Baltimore in 1785
    • Mostly of residents of St. Mary’s County, Maryland
    • He was called a “Master Distiller” and started producing a bourbon that used a larger amount of rye in the mash
    • Several well known distilling names also left Maryland over the next few decades:
      • Willett
      • Wathen
      • J.W. Dant
      • Mattingley
      • Medley
      • J. Beam
      • Nathan Green (a.k.a. “Uncle Nearest”) in the 1850’s
        • Now widely known (thanks to CEO Fawn Weaver) as the person who taught Jack Daniels to distill
    • These settlers brought with them:
      • Catholicism (first church West of the Alleghenies)
      • Bourbon/Whiskey recipes and equipment
      • Maryland Tobacco species (Type 609)
      • Family names 
      • Family recipes
    • This was an arduous and difficult journey back then
      • Four of Basil Hayden’s nine children died on the journey
      • This party did not use the Wilderness Trail
      • They went overland to Pittsburgh, then down the Ohio River on flatboats to the landing at Limesville (now Maysville)

Tobacco Barn Distillery | Hollywood, MD | Bourbon & Whiskey

  • 1791 – The Excise Whiskey Tax—legislation that proved wildly unpopular with farmers and eventually precipitated the 1794 “Whisky Rebellion.”
    • Large producers paid at a rate of six cents per gallon, and the more they produced, the further the tax breaks. Small producers, however, were stuck with paying nine cents per gallon in taxes.
    • Only cash would be accepted for tax payment which further infuriated farmers and those not in large cities
  • 1806 – U.S. Navy encouraged the sailors to accept whiskey as a substitute for the more expensive rum. Sailors who did not partake, were paid an extra three to six cents a day.
  • 1842 – The ration was reduced to one gill (four ounces) in 1842 and totally eliminated 1862 during the Civil War
  • Alcohol was still allowed in the Officers Mess until 1914 when Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels signed the infamous “General Order No. 99” banning all alcohol on Navy ships
    • “Cup of Joe” comes from this, as a cup of coffee was thr strongest drink allowed after Secretary “Joe” Daniels signed this order

History Of Whiskey Written by Scott Sanders

  • Some aspects that make the “contours” of Bourbon so interesting
    • Mash Bills
    • Sour Mash
    • Sweet Mash
    • Barrel Proof
    • Single Barrel
    • “Straight” Whiskey
      • 2 years old
      • Differentiated from unaged
      • No age statement required above 4 years aged
      • Used for Bourbon, Whiskey & Rye
  • Color – Aroma – Taste – Finish are aspects of tasting Whiskey
  • The wood has a significant impact on the taste of Whiskey
    • White Oak & Tylosis
    • Hemicellulose – when heated above 284 F will break down into wood sugars & create flavor notes
      • Brown sugar
      • Caramel
      • Toffee
    • Lignin – This is where “vanillin” comes from
      • Vanilla & spice notes
      • Some artificial Vanillas are made from wood lignins
    • Tannins – Essential for long term whiskey maturation
      • “Harsher” tanins are taken out by first seasoning the oak staves by drying over time
    • Lactones – Present in all species oak but higher in American Oak
      • Create the woody & coconut flavors
      • Less impact of lactones with higher char level
  • Char levels
    • Level 1 – 15 seconds
    • Level 2 – 30 seconds
    • Level 3 – 35 seconds
    • Level 4 – 55 seconds
  • My distillery (Tobacco Barn Distillery) is a “Single Farm” Bourbon Distillery
    • We grow the corn on site for our Bourbon
    • We source the Rye from the local Mennonite community
    • Our water if from a deep ancient aquifer (35M years old)
      • Pure water, 7.2 Ph
    • Sustainable – We have solar, geothermal and use intensive water recycling
    • Produce 2 x 53 gallon barrels per week
      • Buffalo Trace puts 63 x 53 gallon barrels in a warehouse every 40 minutes!
    • We use a “pot still” process and take “heart cuts” from our distillates
      • We only put 60% of what we distill in a barrel
  • We will be flying 4 x 25 gallon barrels in a Harrier Jet later this year

History Of Whiskey Written by Scott Sanders

History Of Whiskey Written by Scott Sanders

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