Battleground St. Louis

There's a lot of history and 'lore' behind bourbon so discuss both here.

Moderators: Brewer, brendaj

Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:58 pm

I am working on a scrap book put together by E H Taylor, Jr. In this book there are a multitude of articles dealing with the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and the battle between the proponents of "straight" whiskey and the "rectifiers". It started with an exhibit to be put together to display the Bottled-in-Bond Act and the whiskey produced under that act as an educational tool explaining bonded whiskey to the world. Bonded whiskey was also pointed out as a successful legislation for "Pure Food and Drugs" and hailed as a precurser of the Pure Food and Drug act. The enthusiasm for this display caused the distillers in Kentucky to insist that a distinction be made between "straight" and "blended" whiskey in the Kentucky exhibit at the fair. Then the fireworks began!

The rectifiers formed their own organization, "The Wholesale Liquor Dealers Association" and many members quit the "Kentucky Distillers Association". The distillers got a 1 cent per gallon tax placed on rectified products in Kentucky and the rectifying businesses threatened to leave the state. The city of Cincinnati sent an open invitation for them to move to their city to do business. The rectifiers fought the tax in court to get it declared unconstitutional because the admendment creating the tax came from the Senate. The industry was dividing into camps.

The interesting thing is Samuel Grabfelder, a rectifier, was in charge of the Kentucky business exhibit at the Worlds Fair. The leaders of the Camps included Taylor and James Thompson on the distiller's side and George Garvin Brown, Bernard Bernheim and Grabfelder on the wholesale side. There did not seem to be a middle ground. I can hardly wait to find articles written from the fair to see the results.

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4068
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Sep 22, 2005 4:36 pm

Mike, any taste notes in that book would be of great interest to me. Maybe it covers some of the awards made and includes the judges' notes. Descriptive statements that mean anything are few and far between from that era; maybe this source offers more than one usually encounters (i.e., the "finest", "genuine", etc etc., all very well but tells nothing really).

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Sep 22, 2005 8:22 pm

Gary,
I am not sure these scrap books are going to have any such notes since they are mostly newspaper articles of the time. Because of Taylor's opposition to the rectifiers I am willing to bet there will not be anything in them favorable to a blended whiskey. If I do find any I will let you know. I doubt that I will be able to copy them for you because they are mostly 100 year old newspapers that are extremely brittle with acid damage, but I will be sure to let you see them the next time you visit the Filson.

I am curious to see how companies that did both straight and blends fall as far as the camps are concerned. Brown-Forman who had a bonded Old Forester and a blended King went with the Wholesale Group as did Bernheim Brothers. James Thompson and Bros. also had both - Kentucky Tavern bonded and Old Thompson blend seems to be siding with the Distillers.

Mike Veach
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4068
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Sep 23, 2005 7:40 am

Thanks, Mike. Even if it was only 4 lines or so from , say, an award made to Oscar Pepper that you could retype here: "A fine rich whiskey of moderate sweetness disclosing tangs from the high rye content and a flowery nose that satisfied all". Why does one never encounter such statements from the time? Yet I think some must have been made, and I thought the stories in that book might contain some!

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri May 23, 2008 11:40 am

It is interesting in the fact that distillers did not rely upon taste to sell there whiskey as much as the concept of "purity" of their product. There are many advertisements that discuss the chemical analysis of the product proving the whiskey is "pure" but very few that even mention taste. The one I do recall is from the 1913 Southern Prosperity edition of the Courier-Journal. The distiller advertises that his whiskey still has that "scorched corn" taste that so many people liked in older brands made by farmer distillers in their pot stills. i am not sure that was a good approach for long time sales, but what the hey, if it worked for him...

Anyway, the idea of "Purity" was a more important concept than taste. With the muck rakers writing about the unsanitary conditions of the meat packing industry and the unhealthy component of patent medicine, the consumer actually was more interested in finding products that were not going to maim or kill them than what it tasted like, assuming the product did taste good. In many ways this concept held true until the 1980's when the wine craze with its tasting notes were everywhere in magazines and people started to apply the same ideas to whiskey and offer them to the public.

In the 1950's bourbons were advertised as being pure, and with a certain amount of prestige indicating an upper class element to drinking bourbon. Slogans included "Always a Pleasure" with a tuxedo clad bowing man for I W Harper, 'The Keys to Success" with Old Fitzgerald, "The Aristocrat of Bourbons" with Kentucky Tavern and so on. What they actually tasted like and how the brands differed in taste were not a selling factor. This does change some in the 60's and 70's as words such as "mellow" and "smooth" become an important part of advertising, but still no real flavor discriptors.

The idea of tasting notes before 1980 just did not seem to exist. The closest anyone might find to such notes witll probably be the recipes used by rectifiers to recreate aged whiskey without aging. Caramelized sugar, mint oil, strong tea and coloring are the components from the 1860's rectifying book in the Getz Museum. These ingredients indicate that the old bourbon he is trying to duplicate is similar to what is often found today.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4068
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby gillmang » Sat May 24, 2008 8:30 am

Mike, while I agree largely with what you state, I have to believe that distilleries had an in-house, modern-style tasting vocabularly since the later 1800's.

They would have needed this to ensure the different taste profiles of their products. How, for example, did Forester ensure the consistency of its mingled 90 proof whiskey? It had to be by a distillery taster deciding what was right. And how did he decide that...? I would think distillery records should survive containing such notes (maybe in lab records) but possibly none do.

As for the consumer end of things, it is interesting that the reference you found to the scorched taste in the early 1900's vaunts the product. Distillers and others in approximately the same era spoke of that taste in negative terms too as you know. But I agree that this is one element at least of a taste note modern-style.

However, that 1870 bourbon-rye shoot out you reported some time ago contained a taste note of 21 year old Crow whiskey albeit in more general terms than we often read today.

You make an excellent point about deductions to be made from 1800's rectifiers' recipes. Indeed the tastes of tea, mint and other flavorings found in such recipes do suggest that much of the whiskey tasted like whiskeys available today. That is inferential though.

Your own recent taste note on that Watterson whiskey is a kind of teleported taste note from the 1916 era. True, there might have been some changes in the bottle, but the intense fruitiness you described was probably contemporary. And that would have derived in my opinion from distinctive, estery top yeasts. Today top-fermented yeast is still used in the fermentation vessels but I believe the yeast types have been bred or have evolved to be much less fruity than in past times. Today, I think distillers want a more neutral-tasting bourbon so it will appeal to a broader range of people and work well in mixed drinks.

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat May 24, 2008 6:00 pm

Gary,
Welcome back by the way, but I agree with you about the Henry Watterson tasting. I think 19th century (and I consider the 19th century really only ending with prohibition) American whiskey was more fruity in flavor and I think that is because it was designed to be more cognac-like than anything else.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4068
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby gillmang » Sat May 24, 2008 6:38 pm

The wild yeast in Louisville might impart similar qualities to a modern ferment. Maybe BT will culture a yeast from airborne samples, ferment a mash and style the finished product Louisville Aero Bourbon. Even if you made (per your plan) a corn beer, Mike, you may be able to detect such flavors in that alone. While airborne yeasts may have been influenced by cultured yeasts used for decades by distilleries in the area, it may be possible to isolate a relatively pure wild strain. The lab people at the distilleries probably know how to do this. Even if this is not possible, I think of the wild mules and horses in Nevada which are now unquestionably feral after hundreds of years in the wild...

Thanks for your good wishes, MIke, I never really was away, but rather waited until revived and with something useful (I hope) to say.

Nice to be back and the new software is cool. Best wishes to all.

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby bourbonv » Sun May 25, 2008 11:11 am

Gary,
I have been thinking about what you said about "house notes" for the distillery or blending house. On the surface your argument makes a lot of sense and there should be some type of written taste profile. That would be logical to have. The problem is that 19th century (once again considering the 19th century ending with prohibition) logic is not the logic of today. I think the main reason they don't exist is because of the almost parnoid personality of the 19th century manufacturer. Their recipes were "secret" to keep the competition from finding them, so they would say, most likely they were secret so that they were an invaluable employee that could not be replaced on a whim. If they had written them down so that anyone could read them and use them, then the distiller or blender was not quite as important anymore and could be replaced. Job security played an important part in building the mystic of the profession and written material takes a lot of the mystery out of the process. Prohibition brought out the flaw of this attitude because much of what was known about distilling the old brands died out in that 15 year period (prohibition actually started in 1918 with wartime prohibition which was extended until the national laws were passed). If such documents had been around, They would have been very useful to the distillers starting up 1934. The distillers would also proudly show them as part of their heritage today.

I knew you were just taking a break, I for one, am just glad to have the rejuvinated you back. I hope you took a nice vacation and enjoyed some sunshine and warm water somewhere. My mother just returned from a week in your neck of the woods and said it was pretty cold up.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4068
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby gillmang » Sun May 25, 2008 11:45 am

Thanks Mike. We just had a few days of hot weather in Las Vegas but otherwise it is the same routine. Still, being away from the board allows one to collect some thoughts and retain or revise a sense of perspective.

Of course, I value your views and know that you are "on the ground" in the sense of having reviewed the surviving records of many distilleries.

It may be too as you say that the taste notes existed only in the heads of the distillers or blenders. Maybe a person with this job said to himself and his boss, for this 8 year old bourbon we want something nutty and dry on the lines of an older brandy; for this 4 year old whiskey we want something a little fatter and sweeter with a flowery note; and so forth.

Still, I hold hopes that such detailed notes will emerge (contemporary, written notes) one day. Maybe some were lodged with the ATF, records that are quite voluminous and lengthy that have not seen light of day by researchers I understand. (Sam Cecil tried, without success).

Recall too that short article by Charles B. Thomason from November 11, 1963, reproduced in the KBF's Spirit of Kentucky published for the 2002 KBF, in which Thomason offered the following: "Some say it should be like a ripe, mellow apple or like other ripe fruits". He went on to say that the bouquet of a whiskey however has a character of its own. Still, his familiarity with this kind of simile shows me that some people in the business used such terminology. Thomason started in 1907 at the age of 12, so clearly the use of the descriptive wording mentioned would have had a pre-Prohibition origin. He did finally write down some of it, some 60 years later! Elsewhere in the article he states whiskey should not be "bitter" and should not have excess tannic acid. Also, he states whiskey should never be musty.

Gary

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon May 26, 2008 4:24 pm

Gary,
I appreciate your optimism, but I don't see it happening. The ATF archive would not have tasting notes, mash bills or any other document that was not a government record. Those types of documents would have staid at the distillery. I have searched through the distillery papers for OFC/George T. Stagg/Ancient Age at the United Distillers Archive and the Taylor Family papers at the Filson. If such a document existed, it would have been at one of the two locations. The only other option would be for it to still be at the distillery and if it was I would think they would have it or a copy of it on display. I don't think documents of that sort exist and the reason is that tasting notes were not as important to them. The distiller knew what it was suppose to taste like and he passed this knowledge on to his assistant, but they never wrote it down.

With that said, don't think I won't keep looking. I would love to proove myself wrong here. If I find 19th century tasting notes, You will be the first person I send a copy to. In the meantime, I guess we will just have to taste old whiskey and do our own notes.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4068
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby gillmang » Mon May 26, 2008 5:00 pm

Thanks Mike! I think you will find something one day..

Gary
User avatar
gillmang
Vatman
 
Posts: 2137
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby Kinsey Worker » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:08 am

Mike as far as solgons go one of the Most Famous and well know ones was for Old Hickory Bourbon.
It was "Old Hickory America's Most Magnificent Bourbon"
I am wondering did any distillers down there use America in a solgon for their Product? Publicker even had a Old Hickory Bourbon They called "Old Hickory Kentucky straight Bourbon" in the late 1970's. Another Solgon they used was "It Seems only The Nicest People Drink Old Hickory"
BE WELL Mike
Dave
Kinsey The Unhurried Whiskey
-------------------------------------
User avatar
Kinsey Worker
Registered User
 
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Jun 17, 2008 8:49 am

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby cowdery » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:16 pm

Veach wrote: In the 1950's bourbons were advertised as being pure, and with a certain amount of prestige indicating an upper class element to drinking bourbon. Slogans included "Always a Pleasure" with a tuxedo clad bowing man for I W Harper, 'The Keys to Success" with Old Fitzgerald, "The Aristocrat of Bourbons" with Kentucky Tavern and so on.


My reading of those ads from that era has always been that the "prestige" positioning was mostly wishful thinking on their part, although it certainly was true that in Kentucky and throughout the South, all classes drank bourbon. My point is that the white glove treatment was more aspirational than actual.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Battleground St. Louis

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:39 pm

Chuck,
I agree the upper class image was stronger in the south and more likely to be a reality in the south, but at the same time it was not ompletely unknown elsewhere. I am thinking New York in particular. That has always been a strong market for Kentucky Bourbon and I know E H Taylor, Jr. played his tunes for the upper class market when advertising his bourbon in the 1870's. I am sure Pennsylvania and Maryland ryes as well as blended whiskey, Canadian Blends in particular, were also strong in this market as well. I would be interested to see how Taylor would have broken down the demographics of who drank what in New York.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4068
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.


Return to Bourbon Lore

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests