What happened was, as Mike said, both the rectifiers' and traditional distillers' products could be termed (from 1910) whiskey provided they were distilled from grain. Thus, a product which mixed corn whisky or bourbon with spirit made from molasses could not be called whiskey, it had to be called, "a compound of whiskey and spirits derived from molasses", or use similar qualifying language. But this was a victory for the rectifiers. They had been under pressure from bourbon distillers to cease calling their product whiskey. The bourbon companies argued whiskey should only describe a spirit that was not just derived only from grain but was also distilled at the proof, and aged in the manner, traditional to bourbon manufacture. The Government did not go that far, however. The Government did require that mixtures of whiskey, of the same or different types, be so indicated. So, if you mixed bourbon of different origins, you had to say on the label something like, "Bourbon, a Blend". If you mixed bourbon and rye, you had to say something like, " a blend of straight whiskies". If you mixed GNS and bourbon, you could call your product a whiskey but had to indicate it was a combination of straight whiskey and GNS (as still to this day, look at the neck label of 7 Crown, for example). This was before the later Federal rules that described mashbill and specific aging requirements but one can see that this 1910 scheme has influenced whiskey regulation and labelling to this day.
From what I have read, the 1910 rules stopped people from putting out as whiskey distillates made from potatos or molasses, but the blending of straight and high proof whiskey (both made from grain) continued and, as before, could be sold as "whiskey". This did not help the traditional whiskey makers.
So I think in the end Kentucky interests were not advanced, or not as far as President Taft perhaps suggested in his letter. The same thing happened in Scotland, where the courts and an inquiry decided in the first decade of the 20th century that grain whisky (high proof distillate made in a column still) could be called whiskey. I wonder if the fact that bourbon makers were using column stills at the time in Kentucky may have weakened their argument that GNS was not 'whiskey'. Of course, the stills were (and are) operated in a way to reduce their fractionating efficiency. This meant they produce genuine whiskey because it is under the proof where this characterisation can be challenged (thereby containing, e.g., furfural, a compound not seen in GNS) but such production arcana may have eluded the authorities trying to figure out whether GNS was whiskey. There was also the factor of aging: since both high proof grain distillate and whiskey were aged in wood (e.g., Canadian Club was and is aged in wood), that lent authenticity to the newer, blended type whiskey. The idea of new charred wood being a special form of wood aging likewise may have eluded the authorities. Perhaps in the end though the Government's decision reflected political considerations: the rectifiers were large and well-established and maybe the Government felt it had to decide the issue in a way that would not offend them significantly.
Last edited by gillmang
on Mon Feb 07, 2005 4:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.