View Full Version : Bourbon Gas?

02-05-2005, 04:15
An article I came across in Popular Mechanics
May 1982.Enjoy....

02-05-2005, 08:27
In History past it was not uncommon for a distillery to produce something "other" than bourbon http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

I waded thru my files to find this article about Maker's Mark. It's a interview with Bill Samuels Sr....from the Kentucky Standard, May 9, 1988. The picture caption...Bill Samuels Sr. right with his son Bill Samuels Jr. left, listened as former Kentucky Governor Ned Breathitt talked about Samuels' contributions to the state. Breathitt's son created a bust of the elder Samuels that was unveiled at Maker's Mark on Friday at the Distillery's annual Oaks brunch.

(part of the article)...Then, the federal government interfered with the Samuels' business for the second time. As World War 11 got under way in the early 1940's, distilleries were required to halt whiskey production and make ethyl alcohol instead.

It was not for consumption, but for "production of ammunition" one of the main ingredients in bourbon, so the war effort took precedence. We had a market but we couldn't supply that market he said.

The switch in products required some retooling, which Samuels engineering background enabled him to accomplish, and his distillery which produced the ethyl alcohol as long as there was a demand, was sold, by this time one of the largest distilleries around.

Bettye Jo

02-05-2005, 08:53
The title of your thread made me wonder if you were looking for advice on how to get your wife to let you sleep in the bed after lots of bourbon and chicken wings... http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

02-05-2005, 09:05
Bettye Jo--that's pretty wild! What role does ethanol play in ammunition production?

02-05-2005, 09:53

I've heard stories about Navy men in WWII drinking alcohol intended for torpedos. I've always wondered whether there is any truth to it, and, if so, was the alcohol used in the propulsion system, the warhead, or something else.

Any old swabbies out there?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

02-05-2005, 14:40
I believe Sam Cecils book has the breakdown, but it is something like 1 gallon for a hand grenade, and 4 gallons for a jeep tire. Also some is needed for making a parachute. It seems to be a pretty universal material for manufacturing, especially rubber.

02-05-2005, 14:45
Also, ethyl alcohol needs rise during wartime because of increased requirement for antiseptics, swabbing and other purposes connected to medicine and hospital care.

I don't know if ethyl alcohol is used today for these purposes to the same extent as in the 1940's.


02-05-2005, 16:51
Maybe one of our resident scientists can answer the question about alcohol and explosives. I know alchol is used in the production of explosives, but I don't know exactly how.

As for fuel, a recent episode of The West Wing (an entertaining show but not my source for factual information) kept harping on the idea that using ethanol for fuel is a scam because "it takes a barrel of oil to produce a barrel of ethanol." Does anyone know if this, or something like it, is true? Obviously it does take energy to make alcohol, but does it take that much? Is alcohol truly useless as an energy source? (Presumably, it takes much less than the energy equivalent of a barrel of oil to extract and refine a barrel of oil.)

02-05-2005, 17:03
While not a swabby, I am kind of a military history buff and my first reaction was to say that WWII torpedoes were mostly run off of compressed air so I investigated on Google and found that to be true up to a point. The use of alcohol in the torpedo was used as a heating element as the compressed gas escaping tended to cool the torpedo and it's interaction in the cooled state with warm sea water prevented top performance. Alcohol and other fuels were used to warm the torpedo through a special ignition system that surrounded the torpedo engine to improve the performance.

I have seen films where "torpedo juice" was consumed by the crews of PT boats but I always had figured that came from the use of the uncharged torpedoes as a makeshift still or as a hiding place for the contraband.

02-05-2005, 18:22
I've read similar information about the cost of ethanol production. I've always assumed that ethanol blends in gasoline exist (1) for the oxygenating effect in reducing pollution -- especially in the colder months and (2) as a subsidy for agriculture -- to do something with surplus grain so that prices stay supported.

02-05-2005, 19:00
I don't want to start a political/economic thread, but if you're interested in this subject, you may find it elightening to go to Google and search on "gasohol archer daniels midland" or "archer daniels midland corporate welfare".

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

02-05-2005, 19:08
I've heard stories about Navy men in WWII drinking alcohol intended for torpedos. I've always wondered whether there is any truth to it, and, if so, was the alcohol used in the propulsion system, the warhead, or something else.

The rye distilleries in Maryland were converted during WWII and produced fuel for the Navy. A few year's ago my Father-in-Law , a WWII vet, remembered this vividly and said everyone drank it. It was called torpedo fuel.

02-06-2005, 11:25
I'm hardly an expert in explosives and gunpowder, but I'll give it a try.

The short answer: modern gunpowder ("smokeless powder") is made from
nitroglycerin, nitrocellulose, and some additives. Nitrocellulose is
basically just cotton dipped in nitric acid, which adds nitrate (NO3)
groups to the cellulose molecules. You want to control the amount of
nitrogen you add... too much, and the stuff is unstable and blows up
when you don't want it to. It's also a little hard to physically work
with... apparently there's some way (I'm a little fuzzy on the details)
to get it to "partially dissolve" in an alcohol/ether mixture, and you
can then extrude it and shape it and dry it and chop it up into little
bits. That's where the ethanol comes in.

The history of gunpowder, TNT, etc. is really intresting... although there's
a lot of money to be made and there are plenty of interesting intellectual
challenges, there's a lot of danger involved as well. Alfred Nobel might
have made a fortune, but he lost his brother in an explosion at one of their

It's also interesting to watch how the development of tecnology affects
history in general, and the history of warfare in particular. (Also, a lot
of things were developed for military use that really helped the rest of
society more than they actally helped the military.)

The development of smokeless powder was a big improvement over the classic
black powder (charcoal, surfur, saltpetre) whose formula we're all a bit
more familiar with.

Tim Dellinger

02-06-2005, 12:32
Alfred Nobel might
have made a fortune, but he lost his brother in an explosion at one of their

Let's take that on a little further, A paper incorrectly reported that it was Alfred that had died, and while we think of political correctness being a recent developement, it was alive enough in that day for the writer to claim that Alfred had gotten his just reward, by dying, that is. Seeing his name nearly in stone, and perhaps not universally loved, he decided to begin the Nobel prize.

02-06-2005, 13:06
I think Alfred Nobel actually had two brothers with historically important
deaths... Emil was the one who died in the factory explosion, while it
was Ludvig whose death was mistakenly mis-reported by a French newspaper.
Alfred was called a "merchant of death" in the article, and, as you said,
this caused him to endow the Nobel Prize.

The invention of dynamite, or course, made many things much safer...
railroads had to make nitroglycerin on site since it was too dangerous
to transport. I suppose it's a double-edge sword, much like bourbon.
Both are things that... ummm... okay, I'll say it... can be used for
good or for evil.

Tim Dellinger

02-07-2005, 17:43
From BOURBON, STRAIGHT: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com/bourst.html)

The alcohol the whiskey industry produced was used in many essential war industries such as the production of synthetic rubber (650 million gallons), explosives (102 million gallons), fuel (66 million gallons), anti-freeze (126 million gallons), plastics (75 million gallons), textiles (70 million gallons), other chemicals (115 million gallons) and drugs (30 million gallons).

The alcohol destined for explosive production was referred to as "Hitler Cocktails."

02-08-2005, 10:29
Dane .....The WWII torpedos were generally powered by a mix of compressed air at 2800 psig, alcohol, and water. The compressed air, alcohol and water were mixed in a combustion pot and ignited creating a hotter, higher pressure, higher volume of gas to power the torpedo's turbines than if using compressed air alone. At the end of the war, they developed torpedos that used Navol (hydrogen peroxide) and alcohol for fuel to create combustion gases for the turbine but were not in actual service during the war. These were far superior to the older compressed air torps as there is no nitrogen in the combustion gases .... all that nitrogen is what caused the obvious wake.


02-08-2005, 11:29
One of the stranger stories of business is that Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress, played an active role in developing U.S. torpedo technology in the early 1940's. She even obtained a number of patents which proved useful in other areas as well, I think even in microprocessor design (or maybe it was cellphones). I think too she had a not-all-that-distant German ethnic background, which if true lends an additional layer of irony.


02-08-2005, 12:41
She was born in Austria.

Her invention was a way of using radio to control torpedos. The innovation was randomly changing the frequency so that the enemy could not jam the signal.

I looked it up.