MGP Ingredients- The Distillery Prohibition Did Not Destroy

MGP Ingredients- The Distillery Prohibition Did Not Destroy

If you’re tasting a lot of whiskeys and considering where they come from, you’ll have already become familiar with MGP (Midwest Grain Products) Ingredients.  In most cases, you’ll have read an article about how hundreds of whiskeys on the market today are, in fact, distilled at MGP and that many of those companies are not honest about their whiskeys’ provenance.  In some cases, people cannot believe that a company that sells extracted starches, textured plant proteins and cleaning products could also make such great whiskey. I’m here to tell you, this is as American as apple pie. (Apple pie is originally European, too, by the way…We imported its recipe the same way we imported our distilling traditions.) To be clear, MGP Ingredients (also referred to by...

The Cost of Prohibition for Pennsylvania

The Cost of Prohibition for Pennsylvania

While it is slowly becoming common knowledge that Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American whiskey, I’m often asked, ”Why is Pennsylvania only now showing signs of distilling life again?” The truth lies in the duration and aftermath of Prohibition. In 1899, there were close to 965 distilleries in the country with about 400 of them located in Pa. By 1914, that number had been reduced to 434, and by Prohibition, there were only 27-33 left. (ref.- http://www.bottlebooks.com/american%20medicinal%20spirits%20company/american_medicinal_spirits_compa.htm) Consolidation and the shuttering of so many distilleries left the distilling industry on the brink of collapse. The reality was that the political will and capital that remained in support of distilling would begin...

Learning From History

Learning From History

I strongly believe that those of us that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That goes for ourselves and our nation. The only amendment to the Constitution of the United States that diminished our freedom was the 18th Amendment. It took almost 100 years to fan the flames of temperance into the fire of alcohol prohibition in our country. The road to Prohibition, it seems, may have been paved with good intentions, but a very vocal few, ultimately, determined the fate of America in the early twentieth century. Many things factored into our country adopting Prohibition as the law of the land. Right up until the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, drinking water was still not widely available. Digging deep, freshwater wells would need the...

Is Beer More Varied Than Whiskey?

Is Beer More Varied Than Whiskey?

Last night I found myself in defense of whiskey!  A conversation arose about how much variety exists in whiskey and someone said, ”Beer is much more varied than whiskey…”  I found myself arguing how that was not true, but then had a take a moment to realize that most people do not have as much experience with whiskey as they do with beer.  This is due, in part, to the fact that the beer revolution has become a part of the mainstream for bar culture nowadays.  Beer drinkers in metropolitan areas are much more likely to order a foreign beer or a micro-brew than the “standard domestics” like Coors or Bud.  Some will even look down their noses at you if you choose to drink “corporate beer.” The same cannot necessarily be said for whiskey drinkers (except for the...

Whiskey and Nascar

Whiskey and Nascar

I’m from the northeast and was not really aware of Nascar until my teenage years because it just wasn’t really watched by anyone I knew.  I couldn’t understand what made it such a big deal until I learned to drive and realized very quickly that going fast wasn’t easy. I remember reading in high school that Prohibition and moonshining were big influences on racecar driving.  Of course, I also learned that the first car race was in 1895 in Chicago…so basically the minute that an engine was mounted to a carriage, racing them was the obvious next step.  The every man’s car, Ford’s model T, rolled off the lines a little over a decade later.  It was the first time that normal folks could afford to own a car, and they began to tinker with them and figure out how every...

Happy Repeal Day!

Happy Repeal Day!

Happy Repeal Day! On December 5th, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed and the “Great Experiment” of Prohibition was brought to an end. (The Amendment was passed by the Senate on February 16th and by the House of Representatives on Feb 20th. The law went into effect on December 5th.) Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions...

Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle

Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle

  Everyone knows how hard it is to get their hands on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, but not many know who the man was on the label. “Pappy” Van Winkle (Julian Van Winkle, Sr.) began his whiskey career in 1893 when he became a salesman at W.L. Weller and Son.  He sold brand names such as Old W.L.Weller, Mammoth Cave, Hollis Rye, Cabin Still, Harlem Club, Silas B. Johnson and Stone Root Gin.  His time there was very educational and he soon became a very influential figure in the company.  In 1908, he and fellow salesman Alex Farnsley bought the Weller wholesale business after William Lerue Weller’s death.  W.L.Weller did not have a distillery of its own, but he was able to secure a contract with the Stitzel Distillery in Louisville.  Once Prohibition...

Hip Flasks

Hip Flasks

I bought myself a porcelain hip flask and it got me to thinking about the history of these ingenious devices. The flask is the descendant of the canteen and, even older, the pilgrim bottle of medieval times (associated with the pilgrimages to the holy land, it was flat on one side and round on the other with loops around the neck to allow for a strap). European travelers in the middle ages once carried hollow gourds, leather bags or animal bladders that would serve as a canteen. It’s believed that the first flasks were used by Norwegian nomads that needed to keep warm on long journeys. The hip flask, as we would recognize it today, was most likely designed in the early 1800s. In the early 19th century, glass blowing techniques were being used to create individual...