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Old 04-25-2005, 12:01 PM
McDeath_the_Mad McDeath_the_Mad is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Kamloops, BC
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What did Whiskey taste like in the 1800's?

Watching "Deadwood" last night I got to thinking, what did Whiskey taste like in the 1800's?

I'm from Canada and love Canadian Whiskey (Crown Royal, Alberta Springs, etc.). Can you buy Whiskey today that would taste like the Whiskey they sold back then?

Was it as strong? Stronger? More or less harsh?

Just curious...

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Old 04-25-2005, 12:10 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 52,446
I have been told that Johnny Walker Blue Label is blended to replicate the taste of their 19th Century whisky. Of course, I don't know anyone who can confirm that.

I bought two bottles of JW Blue for my mom and her husband as Christmas gifts. I've never tasted it myself, though I'll be getting the unopened bottle back next time I visit my sister.

As for Deadwood, I can only guess. Some towns had access to 'the finer things' such as fresh oysters (which were very popular) and tinned peaches. I'd guess that many saloons would have 'the good stuff' for people who could afford it and that it might have tasted similar to some modern blends. I'd also guess that 'rot-gut' was widely available. No idea how that would taste.
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Old 04-25-2005, 12:51 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Well, they definately have canned peaches in Deadwood.
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Old 04-25-2005, 12:53 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
I suspect that most whiskey sold on the frontier was probably cheap, short-aged moonshine. It would probably have given most people a massive headache ("skull pop" whiskey). Ageing whiskey is require to remove the harsh fusel oils and contaminats. in addition, frontier whiskey was probably made in stills with lead-soldered joints-so a lot of it might have been lethal, as well.
Now, the question I'VE always had: those old west movies show a guy going into a saloon, sitting down at the bar, and ordering whiskey. the bartender drops of the bottle and a glass-did you really get to pour your own? How was the final bill reconed? And, was the local saloon usually (also) the local cathouse? I can't imagine anything worse than winding up in bed with a screeching whore, with a pounding heachache from that skullpop whiskey!
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Old 04-25-2005, 01:46 PM
slortar slortar is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Originally Posted by ralph124c
I can't imagine anything worse than winding up in bed with a screeching whore, with a pounding heachache from that skullpop whiskey!
Welcome to my life.
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Old 04-25-2005, 02:02 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
Join Date: Jan 2003
As other posters have mentioned, rot gut whiskey on the frontier was poorly aged, and was "flavored" with everything from sherry to plug tobacco.
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Old 04-25-2005, 04:37 PM
Helix Helix is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
My guess is that most frontier whisky was rougher than present day offerings but that better grades were available in some areas.

It's the same way today. Moonshine can be very rough but some is better quality - the product of generations of experience they tell me.

One of the more famous whiskies in the old days in the southwest was Taos Lightning. Some say it was brewed from wheat or corn and then flavorings were added (gunpowder was one of them according to legend).

They shipped the stuff all over the place.

A former mountain man named Turley made the brew and his neighbors killed him in a rebellion against the US government in 1847. I'm not sure if whiskey quality influenced their decision or not.
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Old 04-25-2005, 07:52 PM
Doug Bowe Doug Bowe is offline
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Location: El Paso, TX, USA
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How many bars in Deadwood? The town could have been big enough to attract the regional sales agents of the day. Every big distiller of the time had agents on the road.

That means the least the first contents...of the bottle could have been decent stuff. What the bartender or manager put in that bottle next might be questionable.

Is there stuff out there that tastes like stuff made in the 19th century? Well, was the whiskey served in Deadwood American whiskey--Bourbon? Yeast culture used in fermentation is critical. I'm going to bet that a lot of those secret, guarded cultures got lost when American distillers were forced to shut down during Prohibition.
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