Just about every civilization that was socially, culturally, or financially inclined to produce alcohol (and most were) eventually embraced it in some way or another. The fermented grape or grain mixture found itself refined – and later distilled – for maximum effect and smoothness. And soon religious, ceremonial, or medicinal concoctions found themselves enjoyed recreationally. Modern whiskey as we know it was essentially invented by Scotch-Irish hillfolk who loved family and hard work almost as much as they loved hating authority and getting drunk.
Whether you drink or abstain for health, wealth, or other reasons, there is no denying the rich legacy of the farmer-distiller that’s all around us here in West Virginia. For a time, this was the Western Frontier of the newly formed United States and it was in this region and north into Pennsylvania specifically, where the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 took place. It was common then for farmers to distill their surplus grains. Alcohol was immune to pests, was a commodity that could easily be traded as currency, and warmed the belly and the soul. But when Alexander Hamilton introduced the very first tax in the U.S. (a levy NOT on bulk grain, but on any liquormade from it) these farmers understandably went nuts. Keep in mind, many of these men were veterans of the American Revolution which was fought in part due to (remember your history classes) “taxation without representation” and so they took up arms.The Whiskey Rebellion was swiftly suppressed (another first for the US: utilizing federal troops to end a domestic skirmish) but it turned out that American hillfolk didn’t much like authority either. Last I checked they still don’t.
Something else hasn’t changed: Here in West Virginia there is an additional sales tax on distilled spirits. That’s right. When you go to your favorite liquor store you pay 11% total tax: 6% regular sales tax and an additional 5% tax on distilled liquor. In one form or another, despite uprising, political posturing, public outcry, and a little bloodshed, the overall notion of Alexander Hamilton’s tax has lasted for more than 200 years.
Almost makes you wanna buy Aaron Burr a drink.
– Artful Drinker, LBSPY #47 (Dec 2-16, 2013) www.theartfuldrinker.com