PDA

View Full Version : Whiskey in the Old West



Sweetmeats
12-31-2006, 21:19
So I'm watching Deadwood for the first time recently, and everything they drink was pretty much whiskey. What type of whiskey did they drink back then? They even mention whiskey from Basil hayden but I'm not sure how accurate that is.

FlashPuppy
12-31-2006, 21:32
As I understand it, Deadwood happens to be very period correct. All of the characters are factual, all of the stories check out. I may go so far to say that Deadwood is closer to a history book than a TV series.

ILLfarmboy
12-31-2006, 22:11
I'm not sure if this is the proper way to provide a link, but here is the address of a web page any fan of Deadwood will find informative: www.legendsofamerica.com/WE-DeadwoodHBO.html (http://www.legendsofamerica.com/WE-DeadwoodHBO.html)

I'm a huge fan of this show. In fact I'm a huge fan of most all westerns. everything from many of the Duke's early work for Republic Pictures in the mid 30's, classics like The Outlaw (with Jane Russell) to modern westerns like Open range etc.

Back on point: The website contains pictures of saloon art and advertising some of which are ads for brands of whiskey. How truthful the ads are is any body's guess. Interesting nonetheless.

Sweetmeats
12-31-2006, 23:56
Thanks for the link!

robbyvirus
01-01-2007, 20:39
I'm a huge fan of Deadwood, and very disappointed the series was cancelled. That said, I could swear that there were several scenes in Deadwood when a whiskey bottle was visible that looked exactly like today's Bulleit bourbon bottle, complete with orange label. Did anyone else notice this? Was this a "frontier whiskey" product placement?

Sweetmeats
01-01-2007, 20:41
Supposedly they are moving forward with two 2 hour movies to wrap up loose plotlines.

Edward_call_me_Ed
01-02-2007, 03:59
I have been meaning to watch this. I read a (The?) book called Deadwood a couple of years ago. I assume that this book is the origin of the HBO series, but I don't know that for sure.

I just checked Amazon Japan and they want about 200 bucks for seasons 1&2. That is a lot of bourbon... I will check the video rental first.

Ed

TnSquire
01-02-2007, 14:57
I am by far NOT an expert on western whiskey but IFRC most was bought in bulk and decanted on site. It was most often watered (or worse) down and sometimes what was called whiskey was really not whiskey at all.

ILLfarmboy
01-02-2007, 19:04
I am by far NOT an expert on western whiskey but IFRC most was bought in bulk and decanted on site. It was most often watered (or worse) down and sometimes what was called whiskey was really not whiskey at all.

I believe you are right. Wasn't this one of the reasons for the Bottled In Bond Act of 1894(?)

I remember reading somewhere that Wild Bill Hickok's favorite favorite mixed drink was a stone fence:a shot of rye in a glass of lemonade. Indeed I have always gotten the impression that rye was much more popular than bourbon.

I'm to lazy to search it out, but what about "western" actors from the silent era such as Tom Mix, who before his acting careerer had joined the army in 189? and had spent some time as a lawman (in Oklahoma I think)? He and some of his older contemporaries were, in the 1920's and 30's, sort of a living link between the real west and the Hollywood version.:bowdown: Mix was by most accounts a real party animal, nothing like the wholesome William Boyd AKA "Hopalong Cassidy". I wonder if Mix left any written accounts of his early drinking exploits. And what information could be gleaned from them.

TNbourbon
01-02-2007, 19:32
...the Bottled In Bond Act of 1894(?)...

1897, with the first bourbon issued 1901. Yes, it was.

cowdery
01-03-2007, 14:02
Verisimilitude: The quality of appearing to be true or real.

Deadwood does a good job, but verisimilitude is often achieved by catering to what people have been conditioned to expect, rather than to true accuracy.

The Deadwood TV series begins in 1876 and moves forward from there. At that time, most whiskey would have still come in by the barrel, but bottled whiskey would not have been unknown. Especially in a gold-mining boom town like Deadwood, bottled whiskey is exactly the kind of luxury good that would have been available for a price.

However, the show tends to give us what appears to be a bottled product, with a paper label on it, in almost every instance, which probably is not accurate. Ceramic jugs probably would have been more common in reality than they are on the show. A character like Jane, for example, who is drinking the cheapest thing she can find, probably should be shown drinking from a jug, not a glass bottle.

The mention of Basil Hayden is either a product placement or a homage by the film maker. Likewise anything that looks like Bulliet, which is based on old apothecary bottles, not old whiskey bottles.

The problem is not so much that they are showing bottles but that the bottles appear to have paper labels on them. Whiskey was served from bottles but they were "house" bottles that were used like decanters. The Bella Union might have had fancy crystal ones while the Gem would have had what appeared to be plain bottles, but they would not have had any kind of label on them.

TnSquire
01-03-2007, 14:44
Kudos to Deadwood---The only place on T.V other than J.R. Ewing's office you can drink whiskey before breakfast.

Sweetmeats
01-03-2007, 15:08
Having Chuck around always brightens my day. Thank you sir for the info!

dave ziegler
01-03-2007, 15:35
Verisimilitude: The quality of appearing to be true or real.

Deadwood does a good job, but verisimilitude is often achieved by catering to what people have been conditioned to expect, rather than to true accuracy.

The Deadwood TV series begins in 1876 and moves forward from there. At that time, most whiskey would have still come in by the barrel, but bottled whiskey would not have been unknown. Especially in a gold-mining boom town like Deadwood, bottled whiskey is exactly the kind of luxury good that would have been available for a price.

However, the show tends to give us what appears to be a bottled product, with a paper label on it, in almost every instance, which probably is not accurate. Ceramic jugs probably would have been more common in reality than they are on the show. A character like Jane, for example, who is drinking the cheapest thing she can find, probably should be shown drinking from a jug, not a glass bottle.

The mention of Basil Hayden is either a product placement or a homage by the film maker. Likewise anything that looks like Bulliet, which is based on old apothecary bottles, not old whiskey bottles.

The problem is not so much that they are showing bottles but that the bottles appear to have paper labels on them. Whiskey was served from bottles but they were "house" bottles that were used like decanters. The Bella Union might have had fancy crystal ones while the Gem would have had what appeared to be plain bottles, but they would not have had any kind of label on them.
I am sure Chuck is right about the Label bussiness as They did not label till the early 1930's after Proibition I think, I collect old Whiskey bottles and the early bottled Whiskeys were embossed bottles. After the bottle in bond act is when they started thinking Labels I would guess! The whole label stuff started way later and then they started to put all the dates and seals and aging dates stuff then. I saw a old 1892 Kinsey bottle at a history place about a week ago and it was as the ones I have collected Embossed
Dave Z

Rughi
01-03-2007, 18:26
Verisimilitude: The quality of appearing to be true or real.

Is that similar to truthiness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthiness)? ;)

ILLfarmboy
01-03-2007, 20:02
The link I provided earlier details some of the historical inaccuracies and describes some of the characters as being composites of several real people. As for the whiskey bottles Mr. Cowdery confirmed what I long suspected "about many westerns". This inaccuracy I can forgive. But with regard to whiskey on Deadwood as well as many other movies and TV programs I find the portrayal of many drinking feats to be absurd. Shot after shot after shot.....sometimes literally chugging right from the bottle.
Anytime I have ever witnessed such things in real life, usually the result of youthful stupidity, the person ends up yacking or past out on the floor!

Having said that I think Deadwood paints a more realistic picture of life in the old west than just about any western from the golden age of Hollywood. Contrast the portrayal of the prostitutes of Deadwood to those of say The Cheyenne Social Club (one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart westerns). I'm sad to see it go. I know it wasn't as popular with many of the older generation because of all the cussing. But until Deadwood came along there hadn't been a honest to God real western on TV since Bonanza.

TnSquire
01-14-2007, 10:38
http://store.hbo.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2540187&cp=1885651

It appears they even display watered down whiskey! :-)