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  1. #1
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    Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    Prior to Prohibition there was a thriving brewing industry throughout the United States. The needs of the brewers, both large and small, created a substantial flow of malted barley from the grain maltsters.

    During the same period in history the distillers, in additional to Rye and Bourbon, also produced malt whisky, sometimes labeled pure malt whisky. I've forgotten the distinction as to whether pure malt meant 100% malted barley or if it also applied to a mixture of malted and unmalted but the grain was barley none the less and it was unpeated.

    Scots whisky as we know it today didn't come into prominence until later in the 19th century so the American malt whiskys were not simply Scottish influenced copies but their own thing run off column stills. Certainly not a widely popular style yet it was a presence on the American whisky scene.

    When the question was posed earlier today over what mashbill we would like to see made pure malt occurred to me. I have purchased malts made by micros but they are not the same thing as they trace their roots to Scotland rather than American distilling tradition.

  2. #2
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    Well, there were two traditions, the Scots one which used peated malt in the straight or single malts, and the Irish one which - by the mid-1800's - had mostly eschewed peated malt and rather went in the direction of unpeated malt combined with raw (unmalted) barley.

    The American malt whiskey as far as I know, followed the Irish model, hence such well-known brands as Duffy's (although the latter was, I believe, a blend in fact, using therefore some grain whisky at least).

    I don't think there is an American distilling tradition in malt whiskey except for one area now current: aging malt whiskey in new charred casks. The Scots and Irish didn't, and don't, do that. It's not really a tradition though since only a very small number (comparatively) of distillers have tried this technique recently. Stranahan's is perhaps the best known example.

    Gary

  3. #3
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    It sounds like American malt whiskey should taste more like Irish than Scottish whiskey, from what Gillman has written.
    He made himself another drink and thought how much better the Perrier was than anything else you could put in whisky... Hemingway

  4. #4
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    Well, traditional American malt whiskey, i.e., as made before Prohibition, yes (IMO).

    Here you may read, at pp. 96 et seq, a late-1800's, contemporary description of the American manufacture of malt whiskey. It was written by F.X. Byrn, in a book devoted to distilling published in Philadelphia.

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=4pgr...whisky&f=false

    As one sees, the mash was barley malt, a much larger proportion of raw barley, and some (raw) oats. This was exactly the Irish method of the day and still is for pure pot still whiskey (e.g. Green Spot, Redbreast 12) except that after Midleton was set up back in the 80's I believe, it was decided oats could be dispensed with. Sometimes the Irish (pre-Midleton) used rye, too, or wheat. It is still discussed why they used very small amounts of such small grains, but that is another story.

    Gary

  5. #5
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    Thanks Gary, I figured you would be adding to the thread. I thought Byrne would be one of the sources but couldn't recall how to spell his name or his initials.

    My introduction to the subject was less precise than I wished but my knowledge is limited to vague recollections of some things I've read and some pictures of old labels or ads I've come across. My overall impression is of an Irish rather than Scottish style but my my primary reason for calling it Traditional American is the use of column stills that were also used in the production of Bourbon and Ryes by the same distillery.

  6. #6
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    To that extent yes, surely. The spirit would have been distilled at a low proof in either place, thus supplying the essential characteristic, but still the use of column stills can furnish a basis for comparison, or that is how I would put it.

    Gary

  7. #7
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    If I started drinking bourbon in 2008, is there anything out there I may have had that tastes somewhat like the pure malts? Just curious what type of spirits these might be and if I'd like them.

  8. #8
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    I wonder if this old Irish whiskey was similar to the old American pure malts

    Sunday, 17 March 2013
    whisky review 349 - Dunvilles VR Irish Whisky (circa 1930)

  9. #9
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    The old U.S. Duffy's Pure Malt whiskey - if it was pure malt, there seems some dispute about it - would have been Scottish in style, despite the Irish-sounding name. Irish pot still whiskey since the early 1800's has used a proportion of raw (unmalted) barley in the grist. Nor was it in any case a pure barley spirit since small amounts of oats, rice and/or wheat were used in the grist. Duffy's would not have been peated though, so it probably resembled a Scots lowland malt like Glenkinchie, say.

    I couldn't see a link to a Dunville whisky but I know the name, it is one of the old time Irish pure pot stills. Its like is still available today, e.g. Redbreast 12, Green Spot, Yellow Spot.

    Gary

  10. #10
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    Re: Traditional American Pure Malt Whisky

    This discussion brings out a point that I have uncovered in the limited amount of research I have done into these sorts of things. I'm not disagreeing with Gary's points as they apply to malt whiskey in the 19th century and later, but in terms of the origins of the American distilling tradition, people tend to mistakenly think of American whiskeys as derivitive of Scotch and Irish whiskeys assuming they were the same thing back then as they are today.

    In fact Scotch and Irish whiskey in the 18th century were very very different than they are today. They were never intentially aged and were almost always flavored and even sweetened. Yes, Scotch and Irish settlers brought their distilling traditions and equipment with them, but it was a tradition of distilling whatever was available (grain, fruit, etc) on a very basic level to provide cashflow for farmers selling it for medicinal and recreational purposes. They were not craft distillers. It wasn't just Scots and Irish either, it was also Germans, like Jacob Beam (Boehm) who brought their own traditions of distilling. It wasn't until the 19th century that Scotch and Irish whiskey began to take a familiar shape. By that time the American distilling tradition was well underway.

    That said, once the two industries were established there was natural exchange of ideas and personnel (Dr. Crow comes to mind) across the Atlantic, so influence may have come at that point.
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