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cowdery
01-06-2001, 19:54
You often hear it said that frontier distillers were mostly of Scotch, Irish or Scots-Irish stock, yet it seems like an awful lot of them were Germans too, the Beam (Boehm) and Stitzel families come immediately to mind.

What do you think? Is this another Bourbon History Myth?

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

**DONOTDELETE**
01-06-2001, 20:42
Chuck,
I would place this in the catagory of myth. My experience in researching early distillers do show more Germans than Scottish or Irish or Scot-Irish. To the names you have I can add Weller, Spiers, and Bernheim.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
01-06-2001, 23:54
I believe the myth is partially based on the fact that there is a history of Scotch and Irish whiskey making, and American whiskey-making is supposedly an extension of that. So, although there were several important whiskey figures who immigrated here from Germany, what were they doing before they came? Was there once a German whiskey-making tradition that has since vanished? Several of these people (Weller and Bernheim for example) were dry goods salemen before getting involved in whiskey sales, so they didn't really begin as distillers, but are there records that indicate their families had been distillers in Germany? I suppose that we could include Holland in here as well. At least there is a currently visible distilling tradition there, although mostly gin. Were the Van Winkles distillers before coming to America?

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
01-07-2001, 08:29
John,
Weller was a dry goods salesman? This is news to me. He was a farmer's son from LaRue County who came to Louisville and joined the Louisville Legion in 1847. He went off to fight in the Mexican War under Zachary Taylor, got very ill, earned a discharge and came back to Louisville and started W.L. Weller and Brother with his 15 year old brother. If he was a dry goods salesman he must have been doing that in Mexico as a side line to being a corperal.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
01-07-2001, 19:15
Chuck,
Here is some more food for thought. My research indicates that even though the still came to Europe from Egypt or the Near East, the worm was originated in Germany. This is important because without the worm, high proof alcohol is difficult, if not impossible to produce. Germany has also always had their Schnapps, usually distilled from rye. Since the Scottish/Irish depend mostly upon barley for their grain, then maybe American whiskey is more influenced by the "Pennsylvania Dutch" than the Celtic whiskey tradition.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
01-07-2001, 20:04
Oh, did I say "Weller"? How silly of me. Of course I meant Louie WHEELER, who owned a little general store in McGoffin County where he sold shirts, tools, and an occasional mason jar of his aunt Teak's famous "Old Wheeler's Aunt Teak".

Seriously, I'm not sure why I had thought of Billy LaRue (who was a third generation distiller, in fact, which would indicate that there was indeed a distilling tradition in Germany). I was probably mixing him up with the Shapira brothers (of much later).

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
01-08-2001, 17:57
John,
Everybody makes mistakes and Wheeler was such an infamous distiller after all I can see where you got the two mixed up. I don't know about a pre-Kentucky distillery conection with the Wellers. I do know from contact with a man writing a genealogical book on the Wellers that they were from the Maryland where they made matches. I do know that in making matches, which is basically gunpowder on a stick, that alcohol was used to make the gunpowder. It is possible that they had a still to make their own alcohol for the process. I don't know and my source could not find out either. There is no mention of stills in Daniel Weller's father's will or inventory of estate.

Mike Veach

kitzg
01-08-2001, 19:57
I am proud to say I just picked up a bottle of "Old Wagon Wheeler" last night -- I believe that was from Louie's barrels. ;-)

Greg

**DONOTDELETE**
01-08-2001, 22:29
According to Sally Campbell, William's father and grandfather were distillers.

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
01-08-2001, 22:33
Greg, those are forgeries. Louie didn't use barrels; he used boxes. New, corregated cardboard boxes. Charred. Which explains why there are so few examples left of his product.

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
01-09-2001, 07:34
Yes John, but didn't Elijah Greg invent the charred cardboard box?

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
01-09-2001, 09:42
You're absolutely right, Linn. And, like Louie Wheeler, Elijah Greg was an entirely mythical figure.

Which brings us right back to the topic of the thread...

There's a great article in the current Malt Advocate that concerns just when bourbon and rye whiskey started being red. The article tends toward the idea that the original rye whiskey, as well as bourbon before the War Between the States, was much more like rye-based German schnapps than like it is today. Just what IS schnapps? I mean, I've drunk it, but I'm not certain what it is. I suppose that's what the German distillers were trying to make in Kentucky using corn and rye grains.

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

cowdery
01-09-2001, 10:34
The distilling tradition of northern Europe, which includes gin, akvavit, schnapps and vodka, goes toward a neutral spirit that is then flavored in some way, with seeds, berries, herbs, etc. The base of the spirit is grain, traditionally rye.

The challenge all distillers have faced throughout time is how to make their products palatable. The whiskey- and brandy-making cultures have done it with aging. Others have done it with flavoring.

The schnapps sold in the US today are a bit of a corruption, because they are sickeningly sweet liqueurs. Traditional schnapps are more like akvavit or Dutch gin.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

**DONOTDELETE**
01-09-2001, 13:31
So Chuck, if I wanted to have a bottle or two of authentic German (or Dutch) schnapps or akavit in our collection (we have some good examples of Scotch, Irish, Canadian, and American Blends for comparison) what would be your recommendation? Consider that I'm not looking for the best schnapps, just the best examples of how that liquor relates to American whiskey (probably rye).

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
01-09-2001, 17:19
John,
Daniel Weller is W.L. Weller's grandfather. It is his father, Johannas Weller who was born in Germany in 1716 and came to America and settled in Fredrick County, Maryland in 1730 who was the match maker. It was the death of Johannas that caused the family to move west coming to Kentucky where Daniel's brother became a famous gunsmith (Weller Rifles) while others moved to Ohio and became involved in the glass industry there.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
01-09-2001, 17:31
Chuck,
In the Beale-Booth Family papers in the Filson Club there is an undated but probably early 1820's manuscript that is a page of recipes. This page is interesting on many levels. At the top of the page is a drawing and a description for making a charcoal leeching vat (about 10 earlier than the so called "Lincoln County Process" in Tennessee is said to be invented) and other ways to make whiskey more fit to drink. These recipes include making homemade gin and cherry bounce. Cherry bounce is made by leeching the liquor through wild cherry roots to give it more flavor. If Linn is interested in the recipe, I can make a copy and send it to him. He can make some and bring it to the next bourbon festival.

Another collection has an 1820's letter from a grocer in Lexington to the Corliss distillery in Bourbon County saying that the whiskey that they make is very good and he would like more but it ends with him telling the distiller that he has heard that if the distiller will "burn or char the insides of the barrels that it will greatly improve the flavor" but he will leave it up to the distiller. This shows that the product was an unaged product or at least the aging was done in uncharred barrels at that time but charring was being experimented with at that time.

Mike Veach

brendaj
01-09-2001, 18:29
Hey Chuck,
Been away from the keyboard for several days. I'm trying to catch up and feel my heritage allows me to chime in here. My Granny was a Burke...the folks from Scotland that settled Burke Springs (where they make Maker's Mark today). I am decended from a long line of Bourbon drinkers.
This is on a lighter note. The discussion was about flavoring versus process. I absolutely love whole hog barbecue and someone that knows me sent this today. Thought I would forward it here and ya'll would get a yuk. (This link won't be live very long...just for ya'll.....)
http://mail.centralky.com/~brendaj/spamshiners.html
Hope all had a good holiday (I love holidays best once they're over).
Bj



Blowin' smoke in Bardstown

**DONOTDELETE**
01-09-2001, 20:38
Brenda,

You ought to put that one in the recipe topic. That sure is the most unusual way of making barbeque I've ever seen! I guess when the "white hog" comes off the still you just double it over cut-up barrel staves?

That was funny, even if the cartoonist doesn't know a whole lot about how stills work :-))

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

cowdery
01-10-2001, 14:14
I don't know if you can buy any authentic schnapps or Dutch gin in the US. I do know you can get akvavit, though I can't recall the brand name. It is imported by Jim Beam.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)