In 1964, the US government acknowledged that bourbon whiskey was a distinctive product of the United States, and laid out specific ways to produce and label the brown elixir. And though this resolution made it official, bourbon has always had a place in American history, and in the pride we have for the nation.
Stretching back to the first days of the country, Western Pennsylvanians took on the might of the far off American government. In what we now call the Whiskey Rebellion, these frontier farmers living near Pittsburgh saw a tax placed on their stills and whiskey as the overreaching hand of a government many miles away. This tax could be paid in two forms, a flat fee on the still or per gallon. Large east coast distillers could pay the flat fee, as they produced large batches of whiskey, while smaller farmers did not see the benefit of this, and paid per gallon. As the rebellion emerged, many of the fighters believed they were assuming the mantle of the patriots that fought in the American Revolution a generation earlier- no taxation without representation. Whiskey became a symbol of the resistance to the advances of the far off government.
As the country moved westward and began trading more regularly on the Mississippi River, access to bourbon from the middle of the country became much easier. Where wines and rum remained the tipple of the upper classes, the drink of choice for the common man was whiskey. Particularly for the farmers on the interior of the country, where wine and brandy were difficult to purchase, corn based whiskey was easily found. The Eastern elites sipped fine European beverages, while the working class farmers drank rough whiskey.
During the American Civil War, which tore the nation apart from 1861 to 1865, bourbon was provided to soldiers in their rations. While supply lines and larger supply of grains kept the booze flowing to Northern troops, the South had a hard time providing whiskey to their men. Whiskey helped soldiers relax from the stresses of the battlefield, forget the experiences of war and bond with their brothers in arms. One soldier who allegedly never had difficulty finding his drink was General Ulysess S. Grant. After a string of ineffective generals, Grant helped lead the North to decisive victories that turned the tide of the war. In the fall of 1863, President Lincoln overheard one of Grant’s critics complaining that the General was a drunk. Lincoln quipped back that if he knew the whiskey Grant drank, he would send a barrel to each of his generals.
In the heat of the Second World War, the whiskey industry once again played a prominent role. Whiskey was rationed to the public during the conflict, but distilleries sent alcohol to the government to make wartime material. High-proof alcohol is used in a variety of products: 23 gallons of alcohol are needed to build a jeep, nearly 20 gallons for a naval shell and 1 gallon for 64 hand grenades. The spent grains from the distiller’s beer helped feed cattle and pigs to provide for the military rations. As the end of the war came into sight, the government permitted the distilleries to have “distillation holidays,” to produce liquor for public consumption.
Throughout the history of the United States, whiskey has been a rallying cry for liberty, a restorative from the fight and an ally in toppling enemy regimes. Jeptha Creed’s Red, White and Blue Bourbon pays homage to the patriotism and nationalism wrapped up in the unique history of America’s distinctive product.
The new release of Red, White, & Blue Kentucky Straight Bourbon from Jeptha Creed brings the great flavor and profile the distillery is known for. Although there is less Bloody Butcher Corn in this mash bill, than the 4-grain (25% compared to 70%), the earthy flavor it imparts provides a familiar background. The introduction of Heirloom White and Bruce’s Blue Corn, at 25% each, sweetens out the profile with vanilla and apple on the palate. The heavy rye presence adds a baking spice and citrus character as well. The nose is sweet with a hint of spice. This is a perfect holiday dram. Grab a bottle, raise a glass, and salute those who serve.
Written By: Steve Haller | @whiskey_of_life