Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby gillmang » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:32 pm

Hello again gents, as Mike knows I am always up for a historical discussion! I'll see what I can dig up on taffia including any recipes.

Gary
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby gillmang » Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:46 pm

Okay I dug around a bit, in online dictionaries and google books. To summarize: taffia is a term for a distillate of sugar cane. It appears to have been a rough form of rum, consumed without any or much oak aging. It sounds to me similar to the modern rhum agricole of the French Caribbean, at least the unaged version, or broadly what in the English Islands was and still is called overproof rum. The term from what I read is ascribed to French Creole peoples, which does suggest possibly an African or fused African-European linguistic origin. One can't rule out that it might have an indigenous peoples' origin, Arawak possibly, although I did not read this. It sounds African to me but that is just an impression. The term has some relationship to ratafia, and either inspired the latter or perhaps is derived from it. Ratafia in the glossary of drinks terminology has a precise meaning: it is an liqueur based on a sweetened eau-de-vie (hard spirit) in which almond essence is added and often citrus fruits and other flavourings. Perhaps ratafia was originally based on taffia and I think that is likely because one of the 1700's French sources on google states it was mixed often with lemonade to form a punch. When the almonds came in though, a key-note of the drink, is hard to say. Some commentary seeks to link the term "araq" (arrack, a term around the Mediterranean for an anise-flavoured drink) to ratafia, suggesting the latter is a compound of araq and taffia, which is possible I guess. I don't think tot-fait is the origin although I can't quite rule it out either.

Gary
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:49 pm

Gary,
As always, thanks for the very good research. My question for Darren (as the historian of the period) and Gary (as an excellent researcher) is do you think that the Taffia being sold to the native Americans in the 1780s-90s was really made with rum or sweetened corn whiskey? From Gary's excellent research, it is looks to me that sweetened corn (or rye) whiskey could have been passed of as the original rum based spirit.
Mike Veach
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby gillmang » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:05 pm

Mike, thanks, and I am sure in everyday commerce, with Indians and others, the terms were used loosely. Remember way back that early cite I gave from a mid-1800's source discussing Monongahela whiskey sold in barrels in New York? It went something along the lines that , "if they ask for gin I give them the white whiskey, if they ask for brandy I give them the red barrel [of whiskey]". That is a similar example to what you are suggesting and it happened much later. In the French Islands and adjoining or sea-connected (trade route) areas, it seems taffia meant new sugar cane spirit, but I am sure more widely the term was used broadly to describe grain spirits too. Indeed in a time when spirits were unaged largely, their fermentation source would have been less important. It's probably like the fact that (still in Kentucky?) at one time in the South people asked "what's for Cokes" when they meant any soft drink. In my own youth in Montreal, we called any soda (soft drink) "ginger ale". So I agree largely with you both, but just wanted to suggest that taffia strictly speaking meant a sugar cane spirit.

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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby Whiskey-galore » Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:59 am

Bourbon HQ wrote:By the way Darren, our Bourbon Society here in Louisville uses tasting glasses from Scotland (Glencairn).


Glad to hear it! ;)

Gary, that's some excellent research you've done there - I now know more about rum than I ever did before! Mike, the impression I get is that the alcohol sold or traded in Ohio in the 1780/90s could very well have been a corn based whiskey. I have a number of reasons for thinking this, chief among which is the (im)practicality of transporting rum west of the Appalachians - it could be a struggle to get enough gun powder (far more important, at least for practical purposes) into the region along with other essential imports let alone something which could be considered a luxury of sorts. Of course, we also need to take into account trade from Canada as we dastardly British did everything we could to keep the Indians at war with the settlers and very often alcohol was used to grease the wheels of native-anglo diplomacy. The issue by the 1780s and 90s is that most trade with the Indians occurs between the British and the Indians, not the Americans and the Indians. That said by the 1780s many Indian tribes were begining to splinter away from the war with the Americans and, again, American traders came to be ever more important in securing the neutrality of these tribes - after the Treaty of Greenville which essentially brought the frontier war to an end the American government set up new trading outposts in order to lure the Indians away from the British sphere of influence and I have no doubt alcohol sales would have been very important. If they did not sell alcohol many Indians, particuarly young men (i.e. warriors) would have continued to trade with the British. Of course, many did this anyway - at least until the end of the War of 1812 when the native-anglo axis finally broke down.

The way I see it is that the Indians had two potential sources of alcohol - the Americans in border regions such as Kentucky and Western Pennsylvannia, and the British in Canada. I believe that the importance of locally produced alcohol would have been paramount west of the Appalachians - indeed, this was played out in the Whiskey Rebellion. Problematically, trade between the Americans and Indians was limited - but it was there and I believe they more than likely would have sold a corn based whiskey en lieu of rum. Other than the difficulties in shipping rum I dare say the cost of that shipping would have made it impractical compared to the sale of locally produced whiskey. Another example of Indians and settlers drinking together may have occured during treaty negotiations - for example in 1780 George Clark held negotiations at the Fall of the Ohio (Louisville) with at least eight Shawnee chiefs - the the treaty ultimately amounted to little more than a scrap of paper but such occassions often resulted in drinking and it seems likely it was locally produced alcohol that was employed. It seem to me that the 1780s and 90s may have seen a change in the alcohol available to the Indians as the influence of America grew and that of Britain began to shrink. I think this change may have been very slow to start with and gradually gathered steam, before really accelerating into the 19th century.

On a related note I think that the settlers in Kentucky may have had some difficulties in producing enough corn to distill whiskey around the period 1777-1780 - for a number of reasons ranging from the burning of crops by the Indians to a particuarly harsh winter in 79/80 it appears that corn production in Kentucky was difficult at best. It even seems that there was a repression in the natural birthrate in 1779 until corn production could successfully be restored in 1780 - according to one settler whose account you may have read, after this time "the women began to breed pretty fast." I can't help but wonder whether whiskey was produced in KY in sizable quantities before this? In 1783 with the official end of the Revolution there was also a lull in the war with the Indians that could well have opened the door for trade as well.
Darren R. Reid, Author/Editor of Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontier: Autobiographies and Narratives, 1769-1795
"Curiosity is natural to the soul of man" - John Filson/Daniel Boone
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:23 am

All very interesting.. Mike, only after I wrote what I did about Cokes did I see that you said the same thing: I started in the middle of the thread when I wrote the first post. Clearly we see things in a similar way.

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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby Whiskey-galore » Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:13 am

Just doing a bit of research and I came across this in one of the sources - it is a letter blasting the conduct of Daniel Brodhead who at this time, (March, 1781) was maintaining peaceful relations wherever he could with the Indians, particuarly the Moravian Delawares (who would be massacred by irate settlers the following year):

An Indian trade is carried out on in this department on principles hitherto unknown to even our enemies in their lost and corrupt state. Under the auspices of our Commandant his harlot purchases furs and peltires from the savages which are paid for with liquor, salt &c from the commissaries store and sold for cash: and though this trade must be allowed to be snug, safe and profitable yet it is degrading, is unworthy of imitation and ought to be reprobated.

Alexander Fowler to President Joseph Reed

Thought this might be of interest as it demosntrates there was a (US) government sanctioned trade with the Indians of Ohio going on in 1781 between Fort Pitt and the Indians - most likely the Delaware and possibly the Wyandot whom Brodhead was still courting for neutrality at this time.
Darren R. Reid, Author/Editor of Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontier: Autobiographies and Narratives, 1769-1795
"Curiosity is natural to the soul of man" - John Filson/Daniel Boone
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby cowdery » Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:36 pm

You see a lot of instances of people using specific terms with a general intent, e.g., 'rum' to mean any distilled spirit, much as in the American South, every soft drink is a Coke. in old texts, 'wine' is often used to refer to any alcohol.

Attached is a picture of the Col. Crawford monument at Crawford, Wyandot County, Ohio.
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Sun Feb 28, 2010 7:36 pm

ratafia


According to Le Petit Robert (a fancy French dictionary) this term originated about 1675 probably from creole as a derivation from rectifier or the latin rata fiat. It refers to liqueurs made through infusion with additional sugar. Many historical French "distiller's manuals" list recipes for these ratafias as infusions of fruits in alcohol, which is then drawn off, to which is added neutral spirit, sugar and water. Note that these recipes are from a time of the mass production of sugar from the sugar beet which was accomplished by Dubrunfaut and others beginning the Napoleonic era until the mid-1820's. See Church's 1837 translation of Dubrunfaut's Notice on the Beet Sugar.

Sorry for the distraction.
Cheryl Lins - Proprietor and distiller, Delaware Phoenix Distillery, Walton, NY
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby Whiskey-galore » Fri Apr 23, 2010 4:17 pm

Hi All

I recieved an email the other week from Darrell Meadows, head of research at the Kentucky Historical Society which contained a contribution to our discussion which he's asked me to post:

In the French West Indies, “taffia” was an inferior form of rum -- along the lines of the current discussion, I would say, easily made, cheap. In colonial Saint-Domingue, taffia was a local drink -- but also a form of rum imported by big merchants like Stephen Girard of Philadelphia. I have encountered documents for colonial Saint-Domingue in which the words “gildive,” “guildive,” or “gildiverie” refer to distilleries. So, a planter from Saint-Domingue might have a “gildive” (distillerie) on his “sucrerie” (sugar plantation). Elsewhere “propriétaire d’une guildive” was an owner of a taffia distillery. On the other hand, just found a citation to an eighteenth-century document discussing the production of “taffia ou gildive” -- in which both terms refer to what we are calling a form of distilled molasses, or “taffia.” In yet other 18th C. French Caribbean documents “taffia” or “guildive” are terms referring to sugarcane brandy.


Many thanks to Darrell for contributing to the discussion :)
Darren R. Reid, Author/Editor of Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontier: Autobiographies and Narratives, 1769-1795
"Curiosity is natural to the soul of man" - John Filson/Daniel Boone
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby Whiskey-galore » Fri Apr 23, 2010 4:19 pm

Oh - Chuck and Delaware Pheonix - thanks for your posts. That is a great pic of the Crawford monument - when I was last in Kentucky I spent lots of time taking pictures of historical makers and things like that - the inscription on the monument was very...interesting :)
Darren R. Reid, Author/Editor of Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontier: Autobiographies and Narratives, 1769-1795
"Curiosity is natural to the soul of man" - John Filson/Daniel Boone
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Re: Book Review: Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontie

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:30 am

Congratulations Dr. Reid! I can not wait to see the book form of the thesis.
Mike Veach
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