PDA

View Full Version : Why Kentucky?



**DONOTDELETE**
02-03-2001, 11:38
While going through some old files at work this morning I found an interesting bit of information that should shed some light on Why Kentucky is famous for great whiskey. It is a 27 Juy 1888 testamony before a House Committee (unfortunately it does not say what committee it has "H. Rep. 4165_1 at the bottom of each page). It is from several distillers from Kentucky and starts with testamony from John M. Atherton. In his testamony he talks about how whiskey is made and that bourbon is about 30% small grains (rye and malt) and 70% corn. The grain comes from the west, Iowa in particular for corn and the barrels are made from white oak from Kentucky and Indiana and can only be used once (yes this is 1888). The most intersting thing is his answer to a question about whiskey in which he defines "Kentucky Whiskey" Here is his answer:

"To be definitely understood with reference to Kentucky whiskey, I may be permitted to say that by the term in the trade "Kentucky Whiskey", we mean, and the trade understands us to mean, a whiskey made for aging; a whiskey that is not intended to be consumed as soon as it is produced. That distinction defines the two great families of whiskey, so to speak, one for aging and the other for not aging. The latter is fit for use as soon as it is produced as it is afterwards, Under that category comes the great production of the United States - alcohol, cologne spirits and redistilled whiskey. Nearly all of that whiskey is made north of the Ohio River, and very little of it, comparatively speaking, is made in the State of Kentucky. THere is a little made in the Stae of Kentucky along the Ohio River, principally in the city of Covington, and having its center of operations in the city of Cincinatti, across the river. But by the term "Kentucky Whiskey" we mean whiskey made to be aged; to remain in a storage warehouse until then. It remains in the warehouse until the time it becomes fit to drink. It remains in the bonded warehouse until the dealers withdraw it for the trade. There is some little of the better grade of Kentucky whiskey that is taken out of bond and goes into consumption when it is fifteen months old, but it is a very small quantity. The consumption of thet whiskey does not largely begin until it has pased through its third summer. The age of the whiskey in the trade is regulated by summers. If it has passed through three summers it is three years old. After it has passed a third summer they begin to use it freely, but a good deal of it is not stored until four, five, six or seven years old. Then of course it is stored as tax paid whiskey."

The bonding period at this time was three years meaning the distiller had to pay the tax at the end of three years and swallow the angel's share as far as taxes were concerned. I think this sheds some light on why Kentucky has its reputation and that is because of aged whiskey.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
02-07-2001, 16:34
O.K., I guess judging by your silence that I am the only history geek who got excited by this definition of Kentucky Whiskey. Even so I am going force you to endure yet some more testamony from John Atherton. Just stay with me for a while.

"The first step in the manufacture of whiskey, after the supplies are procured, is to grind the corn. Then it undergoes vinous fermentation. In Kentucky all our fine whiskies are made by the distillers by using two stills and two worms. That which goes through the first still and through the worm connected with the first still is called low wine, or, in old fashioned language, "singlings". It is low proof spirits."
Q. Below 50? - A. From 45 to 65. It depends upon the success with which the fermentation has been conducted and the percentage of alcohol in the tub before it has been distilled at all. The then low wine is put into the copper still, the fire being made either with wood or coal, and a second distillation occurs, and the product of that second distillation passes through a second worm as whisky and goes to the receiving cistern which is under lock and key of the storekeeper or the gauger. Of course the first that comes from that second distillation will range in proof as high as 150, because all the distillation is mechanical and depends upon the fact that the vapor of alcohol goes over at a lower temperature than the vapor of water, and the first vapor that goes over when the heat is applied and when the temperature gets to 180 is alcoholic vapor; and as the heat increases and the alcoholic vapor disappears the the spirit is lower proof. In Kentucky the rule is, with our fine whisky generally, to continue the distillationin the copper still or the second distillation until the proof averages in the receiving cistern about 105. It is then reduced with water to 101 or 102 and barreled."

The next time you hear a distiller claim that they still make it the same way they always made it, quote this passage to them. An entry proof of 101 or 102 with a distillation proof of 105. The bourbon made like this would have flavors we can only dream about.

Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
02-07-2001, 20:59
"... The bourbon made like this would have flavors we can only dream about."

Ah yes, but are you certain they would not be nightmares? Some of the flavors that carry over at 105 proof might not be ones I'd like in my bourbon. And one group of flavors I enjoy derives from the oak of the barrel itself; would there be less of that with whiskey of only 101 proof to extract it? Ask Lincoln H.; I'll bet he already knows by now!

"O.K., I guess judging by your silence that I am the only history geek who got excited by this definition of Kentucky Whiskey... "

Not at all. NOT AT ALL. I'm still reeling over some of the implications of your previous post. I'm just not ready to respond yet. Maybe it's too much for a single response (even from me!) I'll probably slip bits'n'pieces into other responses as time goes by. I already did in a message to Chuck that managed to get accidently posted in here (by me, not Chuck), and you & I have hinted at it in face-to-face conversations before. It involves a sacreligeous question: Has Bourbon always been known as a type of whiskey, or was it originally a unique liquor of its own?

Yup, that post requires an evening together at D.Marie's to really do it justice -- just what days will you be in town next week, anyway?

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

jbutler
02-07-2001, 21:50
Perhaps a question to ask here is whether the flavor components of bourbon that are derived from the wooden barrel are predominently water or alcohol soluble. Certainly oils are more readily put into solution in alcohol, but there must be flavor components that are water soluble as well.


Cheers,

Jim Butler
Straightbourbon.com

**DONOTDELETE**
02-08-2001, 05:51
Good point. The water-soluble components would still be there. In fact, since the strength of the solvent agent (water in this case) would be increased somewhat (less alcohol = more water) there might even be an increase in those. At any rate, I guess another question would be, IF the balance of wood-derived flavors is affected, would that small a difference in the water/alcohol ratio be noticeable? After 4 - 20 years of barrel aging, I wouldn't be surprised if it is.

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

**DONOTDELETE**
02-08-2001, 16:18
John,
I am free any night next week. Just let me know when and I will be glad to meet you at the D.'s.
As far as the low proof, simply look at Wild Turkey. They have a low entry proof but I don't know what the distillation proof of their high wines is. I would think that the grain flavor would come through very strong in Mr. Atherton's whiskey but I do not think it would overpower the barrel flavor.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
02-08-2001, 16:22
John,
Later in the same testamony John Atherton states that the barrels were 43 gallon barrels. If you have ever seen one of these older barrels they are more narrow than modern barrels but very similar to them in size. I suspect that these barrels gave even more exposure to the would from the less alcohol in them. I still say I would love to have some bourbon made under these standards.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
02-08-2001, 18:03
Mike,
We'll be in Bardstown and Louisville Wednesday and Thursday. Our scheduling is totally wing-ding, as we can't seem to get any committments about anything. We're trying to arrange a visit with Even Kulsveen, but he won't say whether or when he might be around. We might get a chance to see Bettye Jo, but she hasn't gotten back to us yet. We're going out to dinner at Dagwood's with BrendaJ, but we can't even give her an answer as to which night yet. I think she's going up to Willett with us. And now that she's dug up Jim Razzino's McKendric number in Louisville, I'm going to try to set something up with him. I think we'll do Louisville things on Wednesday, drive to Bardstown and stay Wednesday night there, and do Bardstown things on Thursday, so how does Wednesday evening sound to you?

I believe Wild Turkey comes of the still around 107 proof, doubles to a bit over 120, and is reduced back to around the original 107 at barreling. And SOMETHING certainly gives all their bourbon a distinctively different flavor.

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

jbutler
02-09-2001, 08:33
Mike,
Are you saying that these older barrels are taller and narrower than a modern barrel, but similar in shape? 43 gallons is an odd damn size, and a prime number to boot.

Of course this is a subject for another thread, but I'd be willing to bet that the barrel shape has more to do with convenience of the coopers than maximization of interior surface area. If interior surface area were a real big deal, the barrels would be as nearly spherical as the coopers could make them (and perhaps they are already) ... an interesting thought however.


Cheers,

Jim Butler
Straightbourbon.com

MashBill
02-09-2001, 09:02
Mike,

Interesting point about the barrel sizes. By my rough calculations, bourbon aged in a 43 gallon barrel would be exposed to an additional 4 square inches of wood per gallon compared to a normal 53 gallon barrel.

For those of you dieing to know (/wwwthreads/images/smile.gif ... What can I say, I'm an engineer..)
A 53 gallon barrel has a contact/gallon ratio of 39 square inches/gallon.
A 43 gallon barrel has a contact/gallon ratio of 43 square inches/gallon.

Bill
http://home.kc.rr.com/mashbill/

**DONOTDELETE**
02-09-2001, 11:32
Mike, if the difference in contact area would really be sufficient to affect the final flavor profile, what about another factor that seems to have changed over the years, at least at some distilleries. I'm talking about the practice of rotating the barrels. Of course, moving from one part of the warehouse to another makes a difference; everyone knows that. But the very act of taking the barrels off the rick and rolling them to another location sloshes the whiskey around inside, ensuring that MUCH larger areas of contact are made. It also keeps the staves drying out at the same rate. The more often that happens, the more exposure all the bourbon in the barrel gets. By comparison, barrels that are left alone for years have essentially the same few surface inches in contact with the wood the whole time; the extracted flavorings reach the rest of the whiskey only by osmosis, and the charcoal filtration doesn't affect most of the whiskey at all.

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

cowdery
02-09-2001, 12:26
For what it's worth, remember that the barrel was not only an aging container but also a shipping container. Most whiskey was sold in barrels until around the turn of the century.

Its suitability as a shipping container was also a consideration in its design.

This raises another question. Does anyone know if those barrels were simply pulled from the warehouse and shipped as is (in other words, single barrel whiskey) or were they "topped off."

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

cowdery
02-09-2001, 12:31
Rotation is certainly a factor of which all the distilleries are aware. Regardless of the extent to which they practice it, rotation is an element in their considerations. The prevailing belief is that rotation is too expensive and a large distillery can achieve the same effect by mixing barrels from different warehouse locations.

Rotation was certainly more important a century ago when whiskey was sold by the barrel, so you wanted each individual barrel to be as good as possible.

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

**DONOTDELETE**
02-09-2001, 13:53
Hey now y'all I still want every barrel to be as good as possible!

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
02-09-2001, 16:32
John,
I would love to get together with you and Linda on Wednesday. I get off work at 5:00 or I even have a couple of hours of comp time I could use to get off as early as 2:00. Lets get together for dinner and a trip to D. Maries. If you opt for the earlier time I could give you that distillery tour of downtown Louisville I promised the last time you were here. Let me know what you want to do.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
02-09-2001, 16:36
John,
I am sure that you are right. This causes me to recall the Old Mr. Boston "Rocking Chair" whiskey that played ipon the fact that sea captains would buy a small keg of whiskey and place it on the rockers of their rocking chair so that while they sat and rocked, it would mimic the movement of a ship and improve the whiskey. I know, this is a clever marketing gimmic, but sometimes there is truth behind the gimmic.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
02-09-2001, 16:37
You tell them, Linn!!!!
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
02-09-2001, 16:42
Jim,
There are other things to consider such as the fact that warehouse ricks were designed for these 43 gallon barrels so that limits the one deminsion so that the barrels can fit the ricks. The barrels were made with a little more bulge in the middle and maybe, but I am not sure, a slightly larger head in order to hold more liquid. Old barrels also had 7 hoops instead of 5 and a deeper lip around the head.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
02-09-2001, 16:45
Chuck,
I have seen pre-prohibition shipping invoices for whiskey barrels with similar but different gallons content, so I would assume the barrel was not "topped off before shipping.
Mike Veach

boone
02-09-2001, 17:45
Heaven Hill barrels have 6 hoops. I know for sure because when I designed their "Barrel Logo" I didn't know how many hoops there were so I went back to the dump room and checked.

boone

cowdery
02-10-2001, 15:37
Were they also volumes that appeared to be 5 to 15% less than the barrel's capacity?

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

**DONOTDELETE**
03-10-2001, 13:01
While researching a recipe for "rectified bourbon" for a tasting I came across these recipes I would like to share with you all.
"Old Bourbon Whiskey"
"Neutral spirit 4 gallons; refined sugar, 3 pounds, dissolved in water, 3 quarts; decoction of tea, 1 pint; 3 drops of oil of wintergreen, dissolved in 1 ounce of alcohol; color with tinciture of cochineal, 2 ounces; burnt sugar, 3 ounces."

"Monongahela Whiskey"
Neutral spirit, 4 gallons; honey, 3 pints. dissolved in water, 1 gallon; alcoholic solution of starch, 1 gallon; rum, 1/2 gallon; nitric ether, 1/2 ounce; this is to be colored to suit fancy. Some consumers prefer this whiskey transparent, while others like it just perceptibly tinged with brown; while others, again, want it rather deep, and partaking of red. The novice will find sufficient examples in "Coloring" to guide his fancy."

These recipes once again prove that Bourbon was an aged product at all times with lots of color whereas rye whiskey was not always aged and sometimes was clear product.

Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
03-10-2001, 13:22
That's interesting Mike. Isn't Southern Comfort nothing more than that?

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
03-10-2001, 14:40
Good observation Linn. Southern Comfort does use some aged whiskey, but not much.
Mike Veach

cowdery
03-11-2001, 18:47
Do you have dates for those recipes? It would be good to know when those expectations were dominant.

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

cowdery
03-11-2001, 18:52
To the best of my knowledge, Southern Comfort contains zero whiskey and makes no claim to contain any. There are a great many sources that say it does, which always amuses the folks at Brown Forman. It is classified as a liqueur and consists of alcohol (GNS), sugar syrup, a flavoring syrup in which apricot concentrate is the principal ingredient, and coloring. Its heritage, though, is exactly that of the old rectified whiskies.

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

**DONOTDELETE**
03-12-2001, 15:59
Chuck,
Circa 1861. I thought I had the date with the bib info, but it was not on that page. I will have to look the next time I am in Bardstown to get the exact date.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
03-12-2001, 16:02
Chuck,
Are you sure of this? I thought there was some aged whiskey but it was less than 5%. I could be wrong and I am not sure I remember where I heard that.
Mike Veach

cowdery
03-13-2001, 09:11
I'm sure. I have it on the best authority.

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

**DONOTDELETE**
06-03-2001, 06:57
Friday night I had the interesting experience of tasting the product made from this "bourbon" recipe. There was a lot to be learned from this experience because by looking at what people were doing to imitate bourbon, we can get a better idea as to what bourbon was at the time.

The first thing I noticed was the color. It was very dark and with a reddish hue. A true "red eye" whiskey. It was so dark that it led me to believe that it was imitating a very old bourbon - over 20 years old. It was darker than any 20 year old bourbon on the market today but that may be because they don't bottle at barrel proof which would make a darker product. (For the record I do have some barrel proof 20yo bourbon and it is darker than they are.)

The next thing I noticed is the nose with caramel and mint - lots of mint. I have noticed that very old rye recipe bourbons , bourbons of 15 years old or more, often have a mint scent in the nose. That was what they were trying to capture here. The caramel and mint oders are in fine old bourbons so they put these things in their recipe, but at the same time the caramel was not "bourbon caramel" and the mint was not the mint you in an Eagle Rare or some other old bourbon.

The last thing was the taste. It had bourbon characteristics but it was not bourbon. For the record it reminded me of a product made by U.D. called "Rebel Yell Shooter" which was a cinnamon and bourbon flavored "shooter" drink made in the early 90's when such drinks were the rage of the hour. This product was wintergreen instead of cinnamon, but the same type of flavor - mint with a hint of caramel.

What I learned is that aging whiskey to 20 years or more must have been common in the 1860's when this book was published. It was common enough to invite immitation.

Mike Veach

cowdery
06-03-2001, 12:50
This will undoubtedly strike many as a strange analogy, but it struck me as I read this that female impersonators exaggerate female characteristics in order to create the illusion that they are women. It may be the same thing with someone creating a fake bourbon, that they would actually strive to make it darker, redder, with more mint, more caramel, than any actual bourbon, to better "sell" the illusion. This doesn't change your basic premise, but it is reasonable to suppose that faux bourbon was a little more extreme than the real thing.

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

**DONOTDELETE**
06-03-2001, 16:49
Good point Chuck. I also considered that the ingredients may be a little more pure or refined now than back in 1860 giving it a darker color. The fact is, as I see it, that in any case they were going for a bourbon between 15 and 25 years of age.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
06-04-2001, 18:55
Another point to consider is that it doesn't really taste much like bourbon WHISKEY. Perhaps it also didn't LOOK much like whiskey of the time did, either. When I tasted it, I thought (and said), "This doesn't taste at all like whiskey. It tastes almost fruity. What it most tastes like is highly fortified Port or a kind of sweetish Cognac". Lincoln called it a liqueur. What would you suppose a New Orleans wholesaler might have called it? How about, "Bourbon"?

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

cowdery
06-05-2001, 17:19
It has always been my contention that we have a good example of an old style rectified whiskey still on the market today. It's called Southern Comfort. From the history of Southern Comfort's origins, more than 100 years ago in New Orleans, I infer that it was green whiskey flavored in a way that would cause it to resemble the most popular premium distilled spirit of that place and time, which was cognac.

In other words, John, I'm agreeing with you. Mike's point also is well taken.

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

bourbonv
09-15-2003, 13:31
Tim,
Here is the recipe that Lincoln made for the tasting I mentioned in the other post.
Mike Veach

Gillman
09-15-2003, 15:01
Hi, I would like to see this recipe. I don't see it appended to your post..

To me, rectified implies distilling to a very high proof to reduce congeneric content.

You speak of flavouring whiskey. In 1885, a book by Joseph Fleischman was published in New York which gave numerous recipes for blended whiskey. The whiskey was composed of neutral spirits (called spirit in the book); genuine bourbon; and in some cases, genuine rye (i.e., blended in to the bourbon/spirit mixture or to make an all rye/spirit blend). All these blends incorporated a fruit concentrate, for which Fleishman gives the recipe too, to add colour and flavour. One such concentrate was made from an infusion of spirit, prunes and raisins. Another was made from carob (he calls it St. John's Bread) and green tea.

I have confected some of these blends in small quantity. They can be extremely good. I favour the ones, of course, that have no, or very little, spirit. Fleishman's best blend was his no. 11: it was 45% bourbon; the same percentage of another brand of bourbon (probably mingling young and older brands); 9% straight rye (he specified "Monticello"); and 1% prune/raisin infusion. Made intelligently, this is very good indeed..

Gary

bourbonv
09-15-2003, 15:49
Gary,
The post with the recipe is the one I replied to, bringing it forward.

Rectifying meant a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some it was taking whiskey from different distillers and "mingling" it together to get the flavor profile they wanted. Others used neutral spirits and flavoring agents such as prune juice and cherry juice. Other made the drink described in the recipe found here. Others were even worst and even dangerous to drink. That is one of the reasons that the Bottled in Bond act passed and also the need for the Pure Food and Drug act that eventually led to the Taft decision.

In my post the other day about what's in your library, I recommended everybody should have a book on the history of Scotch and a book on the History of Canadian Whisky. One of the most influental people on the American whiskey scene is Hiram Walker and his Canadian Club whisky. It influenced Americans causing a wave of products made in the same way with flavorings and such. It also started the birth of Whiskey advertising in the United States. You should look at the old trademark books and see how many "Club" whiskies appeared after Hiram Walker started distilling.

Mike Veach

Gillman
09-15-2003, 17:04
Hi Mike, thank you, I will check that previous post.

I see now that the term rectify was used in a broad sense (probably meaning to "correct" the taste of new spirits or whiskey).

Thanks for the comments about Hiram Walker and the Scotch blenders; no doubt as you say they influenced the practice of blending in the United States.

However, I point out Hiram Walsker was American-born, in Massachusetts, if memory serves. He innovated in regard to blending, but did a lot of the work across from Windsor, in Detroit. Thus, I feel blending was truly a cross-border exercise, almost from inception..

Gary

tdelling
09-15-2003, 17:26
>Hi, I would like to see this recipe. I don't see it appended to your post..

Look up to post #3997 - 03/10/01 03:01 PM.

>To me, rectified implies distilling to a very high proof to reduce congeneric
>content.

Well, "rectified" is sort of a bad word nowadays, sort of like "blend".
Back in the day (before food purity laws), adulterants in food were rampant.
Meat, beans, you name it. It was dishonest and dangerous. "Whiskey" might
have hot peppers in it to give you a burn going down, and tobacco in it to
give it color, the give it twang on the tongue, and to make you sick the next
day. (Being sick the next day is an indication of quality, right?).

There were rectifiers with good names who made good whiskey by blending,
and perhaps adding things like raisins, but there were also scalliwags who were
out to swindle you at the expense of your health. So we, as a country,
decided that pure whiskey was the way to protect ourselves.

Here's the recipe again:
"Old Bourbon Whiskey"
"Neutral spirit 4 gallons; refined sugar, 3 pounds, dissolved in water,
3 quarts; decoction of tea, 1 pint; 3 drops of oil of wintergreen, dissolved
in 1 ounce of alcohol; color with tinciture of cochineal, 2 ounces;
burnt sugar, 3 ounces."

For those of you who aren't alchemists, "oil of wintergreen" is also known
as "sweet birch oil" and "teaberry oil", and can be extracted from birch
trees. Chemically, it's methyl salicylate, but I have no idea what kind
of purity the old recipe was pre-supposing. It's more of a birch flavor
than a peppermint flavor.

Cochineal is an intense red dye taken from little bugs that live on cacti
in Mexico. It's FDA approved for food use. You can heat it a bit to make it
darker if you want.

"Burnt sugar"... well, that's an art unto itself. The Maillard reaction makes
all kinds of interesting flavor compounds. Color can vary from light
tan to dark black, depending on how you do it, and flavor can likewise vary.
I think substituting caramel candy would be pretty much equivalent for
those who try their hand at making carmelized sugar and end up in dispair.

It looks like a fun recipe.

Tim Dellinger

ratcheer
09-15-2003, 17:33
(Being sick the next day is an indication of quality, right?).



I will never forget seeing Jim Stafford on the Tonight Show many years ago (probably in the 70's, maybe the early 80's). He was explaining that it almost killed him to drink booze and smoke marijuana at the same time, so he had to give one of the up. He said he chose to give up the marijuana, because with it, "you don't get to puke". http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

Tim

bourbonv
09-15-2003, 17:49
Gary,
Hiram Walker was born in the USA but he did his distilling in Windsor, Canada and his style of whisky really became what we know as Canadian whisky today (for better or worst). There is a lot to learn by studying the history of other whiskies because even in the 19th century the distillers were learning from each other. I believe the there was a give and take across the both the northern border and the Atlantic Ocean.

Mike Veach

bourbonv
09-16-2003, 08:44
Over the the past several years, John Lipman and myself have had a series of debates about the aging of whiskey. He is convinced that the idea came from Pittsburg and came down river and I argue that it came upstream from New Orleans. I think that when you read the first two posts made in this thread it becomes clearer that it did not come down river from Pittsburg and the Monongahela Rye tradition.

In the 1861 recipe for Monongahela Rye, the idea of coloring is optional, thus leading on to believe that this product was not always aged before consumption. In the 1888 testimony by Atherton he declares that very little whiskey made above the Ohio River was made for the purpose of aging while in Kentucky almost all of the whiskey was made to be aged in a warehouse.

Mike Veach

Gillman
09-16-2003, 10:18
The Atherton quotation is very interesting, but I don't follow his comment that non-Kentucky Whiskey was "alcohol, cologne spirits and redistilled whiskey".

That would exclude, whether young or old, genuine rye (Monongahela) whiskey.

In Joseph Fleischman's 1885 book on blending and compounding liquors, he lists the main bourbon and rye distilleries of the time. E.g. Monticello is one rye distillery he mentions; another is Mount Vernon.

He gives the then current market prices. The least costly rye was higher in price than the dearest bourbon.

And this was written in New York - the rye areas of production were closer to New York than the bourbon lands..

I do not seek here to compare rye and bourbon, merely to show that in the 1880's (and surely it could not have been much different in the prior decades) genuine rye whiskey was considered at least on a par with genuine bourbon.

Thus, genuine rye whiskey must have been aged. Even new rye whiskey would still have been whiskey, i.e., distilled at relatively low proof and possessed of the flavour (deriving in part from fusel oils) that make whiskey what it is whether new or old.

Maybe this Kentucky son was "boosting" the local product by dismissing the aged straight rye which was in certain markets its competitor?

There are many indications rye was aged well in the 1800's. In an ad for the liquors of W.T. Walters & Co, of Baltimore appearing in the city directory of 1855-56, the house vaunted its "Superior Old Monongahela" and others in its range of the "finest and largest stock of Old Rye Whiskey in the United States".

This wasn't new whiskey, no way.

The ad also advertised "Pure Spirits" and "Tuscaloosa Extra Rectified Whiskey". These are mentioned after the aged ryes. The list starts with cognac and other imported liquors and it is evident from reading the ad that the costliest liquors are mentioned first and the least costly, last. Clearly, rye whiskey was aged at least as long as the 3-7 years Atherton speaks of and was held in high esteem and commanded higher prices than the rectified version.

Gary

Gillman
09-16-2003, 10:41
I'd like to add a p.s. to my message above, which is that possibly Atherton meant;

(i) most rye whiskey is sold young;

(ii) some is aged (because he says it can be drunk new as well as "after"); and

(iii) by definition, bourbon is different than rye because bourbon is meant always to be aged, it is never sold young.

I can agree with this interpretation. Still, Atherton was I think playing a little fast and loose. Bourbon too had a non-aged counterpart, corn whiskey. Young white corn has been sold in Kentucky from the beginning, and still is. It wasn't of course called (even before the law mandated that it couldn't be) "Bourbon", but it was the elder brother, as white rye whiskey was to aged Monongahela.

Also, as I said earlier, genuine Monongahela and Maryland rye whiskey, young or old, were really whiskey, not, "alcohol, Cologne spirits [which is silent spirits, like vodka] and redistilled whiskey". So, I think as a respected Kentucky distiller, he may have been giving the competition an elbow, as it were. Still, I'll agree with his main point: bourbon by accepted practice at the time was invariably an aged product but the same could not be said for rye whiskey.

No wonder rye ultimately went down the tubes as a major whiskey category in the U.S. It never had a clear profile, even well before Prohibition. Surely this contributed to the ability of people in the aftermath of Volstead to accept Canadian "rye whisky" - most of which was really a blend - as a valid substitute for traditional U.S. rye whiskey. Hiram Walker didn't assist the process, to be sure, but it seems that rye whiskey had a blurred image much earlier that contributed to its ultimate demise. In a sense, this "problem" is still with us. Lot 40 (a Canadian straight-type rye), Van Winkle's ryes, Pikesville Rye, Wild Turkey rye, Maytag's rye and the others still made are all fine products but they differ from each other quite significantly. Bourbon, though, older or younger, fine, good or less good, is much more of a defined taste, in my view. Thus, Jim Beam's 4 year old bourbon is not all that far off from, say, Knob Creek in taste. Sure, they are different, but they share a strong family resemblance and this is true of bourbons compared even as between the different makers. Rye is a different story. Thus, to the poster who asked what would substitute for ORVW 13 year old rye, I would say, not really much else, it is a unique flavour in the rye spectrum. Still, Julian Van Winkle has a fine palate. When that stock runs out I have no doubt his next selection for the ORVW Family Reserve label (to come from Buffalo Trace, I understand) will be as good in quality as the one from UDV if not (we'll see) identical in palate.

Gary

bourbonv
09-16-2003, 10:59
Gary,
Maybe I should explain more why Atherton was testifying before the Congressional Committee. This was when they were trying to get the bonding period extended to 8 years. The arguments made but not included here continue with the fact that brandy distillers usually sell an unaged product and are not a factor in the increase of the bonding period and I think that is point he is trying to make here. A great proportion of rye whiskey was made to be an unaged spirit and ended up as he says "alcohol, cologne spirits and redistilled". You must remember though that Pennsylvania and Maryland both had thriving distilling industries until prohibition closed them down. Their overall production exceded Kentucky's many times. Thus if only say 10% of the spirits produced became aged spirits, it would still form a sizable proportion of the overall market in aged spirits. This does not count the whiskey sold as unaged spirits that was then bought by rectifiers and aged by them for future use in the market.

You talk about rye being higher priced than bourbon. That was true. Actually the overall demand for rye was higher than that of bourbon up until prohibition. That also means that distillers in Kentucky made a lot of rye whiskey for aging. Atherton did not say Kentucky bourbon was made for aging, but that Kentucky whiskey was made for aging. A large percent of that whiskey was rye. Just about every distillery I know of had a rye version of its bourbon label. Some examples include Old Fitzgerald, I W Harper, Henry Clay, Old Stagg and others.

Mike Veach

Gillman
09-16-2003, 11:07
Thanks, Mike, and I agree with you and anticipated some of your points in my second post.

I do know, too, that much rye was made in Kentucky although Atherton gave as a mash bill a classic bourbon, not rye, recipe, so I think he had in mind principally bourbon whiskey as it later came to be defined.

Gary

bourbonv
09-16-2003, 11:12
Gary,
I agree with what you are saying here but there is one point that I think you left out in the demise of rye whiskey.

After prohibition Kentucky embraced their distillers where as Pennsylvania became very restrictive toward alcohol as a whole. This meant the bourbon tradition survived in the state where its roots were deepest and rye was left to whither a slow death, surviving only in foriegn soil, so to speak.
Mike Veach

Gillman
09-16-2003, 11:17
Thanks, I did not know that. I think too in the Northeast cities where rye had been prized, Scotch whisky filled the gap resulting from the lack of sufficient aged rye stocks in 1933. Whereas outside the Northeast, people were less ready to accept such foreign substitutes. This may have been for cultural reasons and/or economic ones.

Gary

cowdery
09-16-2003, 13:13
What I find most interesting about Atherton's testimony is:



The age of the whiskey in the trade is regulated by summers. If it has passed through three summers it is three years old.



Is that still the practice? It's much like the aging of racehorses. Whiskey born on June 20, 2003 will have seen three summers as of September 22, 2005, while whiskey born two days later won't be three until September 22, 2006.

I'm assuming "pass through three summers" means the entire summer.

Of course, in 1888 they didn't distill in the summer. They distilled in the spring until the weather got too warm and resumed when it cooled off in the fall.

bourbonv
09-16-2003, 13:23
Chuck,
That is an interesting point, but some distillers did distill in the summer. The limiting factor was their water source. If it was good and steady during the summer so they could use it cool the worm, then they could distill, even though it was at reduced yields unless the water source was steady enough to cool the mash as well. The Getz Museum has some patent drawings from the Old Crow distillery from the late 1860's patenting water cooled fermenters with copper pipe coils to pump water through to cool the mash.

Bottled in Bond Act pretty much killed the idea of using summers when the idea of seasons was introduced. Even so you will often see whiskey with something like "eleven summers old" on the label to show that it is oled than 10 years, but not a full 11 years old.

Mike Veach

cowdery
09-16-2003, 13:32
Whoa!

Atherton says, "Nearly all of that whiskey is made north of the Ohio River," referring to "alcohol, cologne spirits and redistilled whiskey." You can't interpret that to mean aged whiskey was not made north of the Ohio River. He was speaking on behalf of Kentucky's whiskey, which was almost all "made to be aged." He had no reason to mention whiskey that was "made to be aged" if it was made outside of Kentucky. Nothing in Atherton's testimony as reproduced here can be construed to support the theory that rye whiskey was often sold "green" even in the 1880s. Did the distilleries "north of the Ohio River" have a thriving business in "ready to drink" spirits products too? Absolutely. But that without more doesn't mean they didn't also make aged whiskey.

What this evidence shows is that people in that period used the term "whiskey" to refer to products we would not call whiskey, such as GNS ("alcohol") and "cologne spirits." His "redistilled whiskey" is what we would call "blended whiskey."

Until prohibition, sophisticated drinkers in the northeastern United States considered aged rye whiskey to be "the good stuff." Bourbon was popular mostly in the West and South. The Northeast also likes its blends, such as Seagrams Seven Crown. In the Northeast to this day, Manhattans are generally made with an American Blended Whiskey like Seagram's Seven, and not with bourbon or rye.

cowdery
09-16-2003, 13:41
Yes, rectify was meant exactly in the sense of "to correct." Today it mostly refers to the making of liqueurs.

Gillman
09-16-2003, 13:43
Chuck okay but net net, I read this extract as suggesting, "ours is better because made to be aged as such. The rest (or most of it) is cologne spirit stuff, whereas we make the traditonal article which needs to benefit from a tax deferral because it is the real thing and can't be sold for many years until it is ripe."

In Kentucky, there must have been large sales at the time of corn and white wheat whiskey (old ads show this, sold by the same distiller, e.g. Sam Cecil's book does). So in substance, how was it really different, yet he refers hardly at all to the tradition of aged rye whiskey north of the Ohio river..

Gary

bourbonv
09-16-2003, 13:51
Chuck,
I stand corrected. Your point is valid as to this excerpt. I think I might have to go back and look at the parts I copied again to see what else may be of interest in this thread.
Mike Veach