Condensed from an article by Steve Ury.
WHY IS THIS BOTTLE OF WHISKEY SO IMPORTANT?
This Baker’s bottle is from an entirely different era than even the historic whiskeys we know today. Most of the histories of whiskey that I’ve read trace brands back to the late nineteenth century, when industrial distilleries began to spring up, making larger quantities of whiskey and, eventually, bottling their own whiskey.
The world of pre-Civil War whiskey was much different and much less is known about it. It was a world of farmer/distillers who grew grain and then distilled some of it to sell or barter. Virtually all whiskey was sold through third party merchants (NDPs in today’s lingo) who sold barrels to hotels, saloons or even private individuals. There was almost no regulation – no rules about what had to be in bourbon or rye or what made it “straight.” Congress wouldn’t being regulating whiskey (by passing the Bottled in Bond act) for another half century.
Monongahela rye from the late nineteenth century was usually composed only of unmalted and malted rye, or unmalted rye and a small amount of malted barley. But lab tests revealed the whiskey in this bottle is likely composed of rye and corn, with maybe barley as well. So is it possible that earlier Monongahela rye was more similar to today’s Kentucky ryes, with corn added to the mashbill? That appears to be the case for this bottle – which is a significant addition to our collective whiskey knowledge about nineteenth century rye.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR WHISKEY?
For whiskey geeks (or whiskey history geeks), this is a huge find. Having a bottle from the pre-Civil War era is a window into an age of whiskey history that we only have documentation from, and not much else. Historians have reviewed the advertisements, bills of sale and other records, but now we have a legitimate bottle of whiskey from 160 years ago. Were the things they were drinking then similar to what we drink now?
This bottle could help answer some of those questions. Will it be analyzed, tasted, or even replicated? Perhaps we can hope for all of the above.Next Page: Frequently Asked Questions >>