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.