William Hogeland's THE WHISKEY REBELLION

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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jun 02, 2006 4:50 pm

Great Link John. I guess that since the house is haunted, Bradock remained in the spirits industry.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jun 02, 2006 5:05 pm

The Shawns are an old Kentucky bourbon family name and they came from Pennsylvania. Surely that is not a Germanic name (I don't know for sure but I suspect the name is Scottish or Scots-Irish).

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Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jun 02, 2006 5:19 pm

One other idea to consider: groups can come from different places but (especially in America) they acculturate fairly quickly. After the first generation those Fousts, Schenks, etc. would have spoken English. I have read studies (and I'll try to document this) of that acculturation: it happened quickly and when people conversed in English they were adapting to English cultural ways which in this area were (I believe) influenced greatly by the Ulster and Scottish immigrants. To take a trite example, neither I nor my parents nor theirs drank "old country" drinks (slivovits, vodka, brandy) such as my great-grandparents drank (if they consumed alcohol at all, I am not sure they did): the Canadian generations would take whisky, Canadian whisky. Or gin, which was from England. They used what was available here and soon any memory of the old country practices were lost. The same (I know) would have affected the Scots-influenced groups but someone had to start a tradition and I think these groups started it in the States. The English didn't do it I think (or mostly didn't): New England was not cereal whisky country and still isn't. In the plantation country, the English cavaliers dranks lots of things and not least brandy and Madeira because they could afford it. But the people who lived in more remote areas of the mountains and other frontier lands and were largely Scots in origin were the 'shiners and they became many of the larger-scale distillers and implanted the taste for whiskey in America - this I believe. For my authority that a majority of the people who settled the Appalaichan and adjacent areas and into the southwest were Scots-Irish, see Albion's Seed, written about 15 years ago, a major study of American immigration patterns from England and other parts of what are now Britain.

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Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jun 02, 2006 5:25 pm

Hi Gary,
Your postings are a perfect example of what I mean. I may not agree with everything you bring to the conversation,
Hell, I might not even be able to count all the different things you're likely to bring :) to a conversation.
But no one will ever get away with accusing you of unquestioning acceptance in my presence!
Even when you DO take the "everyone knows..." position, it's only after such a view has passed your "internal logic" criteria.
gillmang wrote:... all kinds of alternative explanations appeared for the name yet the traditional explanation still makes the most sense to me...

I like to think I do the same.
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Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jun 02, 2006 5:29 pm

Oh sure John, and each will take the view one does and is fully entitled to do so. I was simply addressing the limited question of whether a received view should be considered more or less suspect and I would give it more credence (at first blush) than some others, that's all. You may be completely right in how you have thought this through, and I said I cannot offer an authoritative opinion (since I have not studied these questions enough) - but still having a certain amount of general (and some specific) knowledge I feel I can state my belief and some of the reasons.

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Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jun 02, 2006 5:57 pm

Well please don't bite my head off for praising you. :think:
Exploring the merits of non-standard ideas and re-examining standard ones are traits I appreciate and consider a valuable feature of your contributions. Mine too, I hope. The purpose of my post was to emphasize the value of asking one's self, "does this really make sense to me?", with your use of those very words as an example of a desirable approach.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jun 02, 2006 6:59 pm

This is what I like about having a place with both John and Gary contributing to the issue - they both are very articulate writers with slightly different approaches. I agree to some extent with Gary about the Scots-Irish influence being more important than their actual contributions to the early whiskey industry in America. At the same time I would like to find out more about Germanic distilling traditions in the 18th century. Since the whiskey of America was mostly white dog likker it would be very similar to rye based schnapps in the German speaking areas of Europe (there would not be a nation of Germany for another 100 years after all). I think they might have brought as much to the table as the Scots-Irish as far as distilling practices are concerned. I think it could very well be said that it is a combination of these two cultures with a pinch of pure American necessity that created the whiskey we think of today as American whiskey.

If it was mostly Scots-Irish influences then what happened to their product. Their whiskey would be smokey in flavor. There is peat in America but even if that was not available, then a substitute could be found (they hickory smoke their hams, why not their malt?). The Scottish and Irish traditions both are a barley based whiskey product. American whiskey is unique in many ways and one of them is the small amount of barley that goes into making American whiskeys.

German distillers from what I understand, made their schnapps mostly from rye, but would use other grains when available. They did not flavor their malt with smoke thus they were a much grainier tasting product.

It seems a combination of these two cultures took place in America but I am unsure as to who contributed the most to creating bourbon, rye and corn whiskey as we know it.

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Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jun 02, 2006 7:17 pm

Thanks gents!

John, sorry if my intent was unclear, I did appreciate the plaudits you sent my way and did not intend any biting of heads.

I don't think though that my reaction of unorthodoxy so to speak proves your point because, I'm not being unorthodox! I am accepting (conditionally anyway) the received view; you however I believe are challenging the received view (and may be right, but that is a separate matter).

That is all I meant.

Mike: don't forget one thing: the Scots-Irish and their commercial progeny (of the same or different ethnicity) DID (arguably) duplicate the smoky taste of peat-kilned malt scotch. They devised the heavily charred barrel which imparts a smoky, rather Islay-like taste to whiskey.

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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jun 02, 2006 7:26 pm

Gary,
Charred barrels is a whole different subject here. I don't think that Charred Barrels were used for another 20 or so years after the whiskey rebellion and its origin is probably French. This earliest distilling was white whiskey and by most accounts I have seen there is an absence of smoke in the whiskey.

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Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:28 pm

But Mike I think one can argue your first statement is begging the question. Scotch malt would have been smoky tasting whether barrel-aged or not: the smoke was in the malt. In the U.S., the smoky taste would (the argument goes - my argument) have been missed and distillers (farm and commercial) would have puzzled over how to achieve the "auld reek". The American "cretur" (Scots dialectical term used as you know by Crow and his friends in the mid-1800's) didn't taste the same, or close enough anyway, to the Scots original until they hit on methodical charred barrel aging. Cognac may have been the spur but the deep charring of the wood was seen (I surmise) not only to lend purifying notes to the whiskey but the cherished smoky notes of the old Scotland. Crow would have rejoiced to find and further refine (as it were) that taste in America. Only in Scotland was peated malt rigorously used in whiskey making. Only in America, to which which Scots and Scots-Irish came in massive numbers in the 1700's, was a noticeably non-peated smoke-tinged whiskey developed.

This isn't a coincidence (in my view).

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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:42 pm

Gary,
I like your arguement here and it is food for thought, but I am not sure that I agree with it. For one thing I would have to say that 1) not aged whiskey has that smokey flavor. 2) Smoke is not common in the younger whiskey and most whiskey would have been sold at younger ages back then. 3) The smoke from the barrel is a completely different flavor than peat smoked barley malt.

Then again in favor of your arguement is the Lincoln County Process which does give a smokey flavor to the whiskey. This flavor is more in line with the smoke qualities of the Scotch whiskies.

This indeed food for thought. Maybe the Lincoln County process was not so much a jump start for aging as John has suggested in the past, but an attempt to put some smoke back into the process. Still though, would it not have been easier to simply use a hickory wood fire to make smokey malt if that was what they were trying to do with the whiskey?

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Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:49 pm

And then we have McKendricks...

(heh heh)

And Gary, the people I have issues with don't see things the way you do.
I am accepting (conditionally anyway) the received view
- it's that "conditionally" or "makes the most sense to me" part that's the key. for many people there's not enough of that "conditionally" element; one reads what so-and-so, a recognized authority says and then accepts that as definitive. It's how we all learned things in elementary school and it has its merits. But the more I learn about whiskey (as a metaphor for learning to understand America), the more I find that attitude to be a hinderance. Again, your polite protests notwithstanding, I still look to you as a great example of independent, box-free, thinking.
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Unread postby cowdery » Sat Jun 03, 2006 12:32 am

The History Channel's "Modern Marvels--Distilleries" is a perfect example of what happens. That program was just replayed a night or two ago. They actually say that the making of bourbon began when Western Pennsylvanians fled to Kentucky following the Whiskey Rebellion.

This is the sort of thing that comes from adding two and two together and coming up with five.

That many Western Pennsylvanians left the region after the Rebellion was suppressed is correct. People on the frontier were notoriously restless and many decamped after much less provocation.

That Kentucky was more lawless and therefore a logical haven is not correct. Kentucky, after all, became a state in 1792, two years before the Rebellion came to a head. It is sheer coincidence that the emergence of Kentucky's nascent whiskey industry also dates from the mid-1790s.

As for the Scots-Irish, they were significant to the development of distilling to an extent disproportionate to their overall presence in the population, which some people overstate, thereby neglecting the contributions of Germans, English, and just plain Irish and Scots. No single group "started" the Kentucky distilling industry.

Back when I was skiing, I one day reported proudly to my skiing mentor that I had not fallen all day. Her reply: "If you're not falling, you're not skiing."

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Unread postby gillmang » Sat Jun 03, 2006 4:03 am

I believe the Scots-Irish and Scots played a predominant, and what might be called didactic, role in whiskey distilling in America in general, not just in Kentucky. This is why e.g., George Washington brought in a Scot to distill at his estate. Scots-Irish and (in particular, Lowlands) Scots people are, from this and many other standpoints, much the same thing. See the well-known study Albion's Seed, by a professor called Fischer from Brandeis University, on the close cultural and historical connections of these groups. E.g., the author points out the Protestant, Anglo-Saxon-derived Ulstermen almost never interrmarried with the Catholic (Celtic) Irish. He explains that trading and population movements between Ulster and the Lowlands in Scotland and far north (Borders) of England were numberless and ceaseless. Some southern Irish did clearly participate in Kentucky distilling - which is different from influencing its main form - but that came later. While there was some immigration from southern Ireland to America in the 1700's most of it did not start until the later 1800's. A good example I believe is the first Cummins who distilled around Bardstown, probably also McBrayer. If these gentlemen in fact hailed from what is now Northern Ireland, there can be no question a number of Irish from what is now the Republic came to America and some to Kentucky and some to distill but this was not before the mid-1800's, generally.

Unquestionably, they and other groups contributed to what bourbon and rye are today in America but I believe the predominant cultural influence which created whiskey there (as in Canada by the way) was Scots-Irish and Lowlands Scots. Some Highlanders, culturally different from the latter but distillers by tradition as well, may have added their shadings to the American distilling picture. There are I know a couple or more colonies of ex-Highlanders in North Carolina; it would be interesting to plumb their distilling traditions if any.

Good point, Mike, about the Lincoln County Process. I did not think consciously of it but it is in line with my idea about charred barrel aging since one is a version of the other. Jack Daniel had Scots-Irish roots, so did Dan Call his mentor. The Scots-Irish background here and its import in whiskey distilling is mentioned in a recent biography of Jack Daniels, I need to find its title but we have discussed this book here before. Not all Tennessee distillers were from this background, but what was the ethnic composition (predominantly) of Tennessee when the process started? Albion's Seed gives statistics and as I recall concludes the Scots-Irish were predominant. (I'll check it, there are also, by the way, a number of references to whiskey in this book).

There would have been no reason to use hardwood to prepare smoked malt in America because barley was used in a much smaller amount in American whiskey than Scots'. And, once you have some barley, the corn and rye and wheat can be used unmalted. Maybe they did try to use smoked barley malt to prepare the 10-15% of the mash that was (and is) barley but found the smoke taste too weak. I think barley would have been preferred as the grain for whisky in America as in Scotland and Ulster but corn and rye were cheaper to produce and more available and so were substituted early on for barley (or "bere", a more primitive form of barley used at the time in Scotland and probably Ulster. A Scots distillery has just recreated a bere whisky, as a historical experiment).

Another thought: we often speak of ethnic influence in this area as meaning that the ethnicity itself had to distill. Yes and no. Yes for the farmer-distillers because originally they distilled for themselves. Their taste for the product, which is culturally driven, would have spurred that process. Some farmers probably distilled just to make money, but most I think would have used the product. Later certain groups were by dint of their social and cultural history more likely to sample whiskey than others. To provide for this demand, both members of that group and non-members might enter the distilling trade. It became a trade early. M'Harry's book, written not longer after the turn of the 18th century, is addressed to the small businessman, the small-scale craft producer (there was no other then!). Of course, Americans, issuing from all kinds of sources, bought his product. But whiskey became the main domestic spirit as the 1800's wore on and I believe what kept it going was not the city trade who wanted expensive aged whiskey (which was only one form of whiskey) but the traditional rural- and frontier-based market which used common whiskey or bourbon aged a year or two at most (and we know the "red cretuur" can take good color even after only a few months in cask). Those areas of America were opened up mainly (i.e., in majority as I understand Albion's Seed) by the Scots-Irish and allied groups. The allied groups were the culturally connected Scottish Lowlanders and the Borders people in England. At the time in these latter areas in Britain distilling was legion.

In Cincinnati, say, with its early-implanted strong German and Polish populations (the Polish festival is starting soon in Cinnci by the way), beer was always a staple. In consequence, there were many producers (of whatever ethnic background) who catered to this demand. Those communities and some non-members around them became devotees of this drink and the same occurred in Milwaukee, St. Louis and other places. Whiskey did not become their main drink, it didn't have the cultural background and associations it did in the areas of America opened up by the Scots-Irish and allied groups. The reverse is true, of whiskey (IMO).

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Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Jun 03, 2006 4:31 pm

Gary,
I would not deny that the Scots-Irish had an impact upon the making of whiskey in early America. I just don't think it is as great as the legends have made it seem. I think that the Germanic influence was definitely important as well. I am also curious as to the French distilling influences. In Kentucky there is definitely an important group of distillers that were early leaders in the industry. Yes there was McBrayer, but there was also Spiers, Beam and Weller. Evan Williams made whiskey but he is Welch and his reputation was that you bought bricks from him, not whiskey. His family stayed in the brick industry when died, but not the distilling business. That influence was minimal on other distillers.

It would seem to me that there was a little of all of these people's original distilling tradition mixed with what was simply pure American ability to deal with the circumstances that created American whiskeys.

Mike Veach
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