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The wrong impression of alcohol history

Guys and gals - I know, I know - I haven't posted for a long time. My job is just taking for the moment a lot of attention - it is busy in the operations. But I haven't forgotten you - and I haven't forgotten about the opinionated-alchemist.com!

First of all, the goody, an amazing video of the reserve channel of youtube:


It amazes me, how good youtube videos in the last couple of month have become [even, if they are not uploaded tv shows].

You cannot really complain about anything said or done in this video [maybe except of the short shaking times and the use of egg white as flavor softener].

But it strikes me, that the overall idea of alcohol in history is deeply flawed.
Why? Let me explain: In the video, there were two spirits discussed, which were quite in controversy in their times: gin and absinthe. But obviously there are many more instances, you could apply this theory on.
The flaw is, that most bartenders and drink historians are perceiving the history of a spirit as a snapshot.
E.g. gin as cheap alcoholic beverage was consumed by the working class and was made out of poor ingredients. But in reality it was more of a evolution. The Brits brought the concept of gin [or genever] from the Dutch over to England. It was such a hit, that more and more people distilled it - hence more and more people tried to produce a cheap [hence inferior] product. This led to the gin act.
Thing is, that even the original gin was not that bad - it bad thing was only, what people made out of it.

Absinthe had its own story. Nowadays we know, that it was never the poison thujone which made it "dangerous". Originally absinthe was a beverage, which lifted of, when the French wine industry failed  to meet public demand, due to their phylloxera adversity. It was quite decent first of all, however due to the crazy demand, a lot of people started to distill an inferior product. Which led to accidents. The rest is history.

But it is not only that. I believe our understanding of beverages like Old Tom Gin are also deeply flawed.
Samples, which were sampled [and I personally be owner of a bit "old" old tom gin myself] are usually the last iterations of old tom gin. These are not the styles, which showcase the character of the spirit, which was used of Jerry Thomas and other 19th century bartenders.
It is easy to explain: the decrease of Old Tom and the raise of London dry gin comes down to the invention of the patent [or Coffey] still. Old tom was always about softening the flavors and aromas of a pot distilled [but unaged] spirit with some sugar. However the invention of grain neutral spirit in the first quarter of the 19th century [and the continued improvement of the same], made the addition of sugar obsolete. However it was not only the sugar and the more floral botanicals which had a huge impact of the style of the gin. It was especially the maltier and headier base alcohol, which was the defining point.

And this is the main flaw of todays old tom gins: made with neutral spirits, they are definitely more refined than the classic ones - however definitely don't have a lot of resemblance to them.


It is important, not to prejudice spirits, if you are analyzing a couple of historic samples. One have to incorporate the whole concept of the spirit, the whole history, to make get a proper picture. 

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