Touring the American Whiskey Trail Tour, Day 2

A nearly-completed Vendome still. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar

We all have heard the story: manufacturing is dying in America. All the good blue collar jobs are moving to Mexico and China. America’s middle-class employment has been hollowed out — the few get lucrative white collar jobs, and pretty much everyone else is stuck doing low-pay hourly work.

There is some truth to this glum picture. U.S. manufacturing employment is down since 2001. But all is not awful. Indeed, in at least one line of business we are seeing a resurgence in American manufacturing: drinks-making. The casual news reader might intuit this much, what with the reports of American liquor production and exports booming.

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Touring the American Whiskey Trail, Day 1

Worker about to grind grain at George Washington’s Mount Vernon distillery. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar

Where better to start a tour of the American Whiskey Trail than at Mount Vernon? George Washington often has been called the father of our grand nation — the prototype of this new man, the American.

Appropriately, he owned a distillery that made whiskey. Washington got into the business at the end of his presidency. In 1797 he gave the thumbs-up to Scotsman James Anderson to build a distillery at his beloved Virginia home to produce high-quality hooch.

And what a distilling operation it was. The mill powdered grain with millstones imported from Europe and marvelous wooden machinery that marvels the eye today. The distillery was 75 feet long by 30 feet wide, with five stills. Within a couple years, George’s booze barn was belching 10,500 gallons of rye whiskey and other spirits, and it was profitable.

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The American Spectator Interviews Kevin Kosar About Moonshine: A Global History

….Kevin’s book is a trove of new information. Turns out, Hollywood portrays a limited view of the spirit that is a symbol of freedom worldwide. I spoke with Kevin about the book and here’s some of what we talked about.

I used to have a fantasy of setting up a moonshine still just to have my own source of booze, but the process is so complicated it seems like I need to be a chemist to do it. Why do people take the time to make Moonshine when it’s easier to make other forms of alcohol?

Kevin Kosar: Good question. Well, I guess I’d ask in response, why do folks bother to learn to fly fish and spend boku bucks on rods and equipment when they can go to a good market and buy perfectly good trout and salmon? It’s just the way people are — they like to mix their hands with nature’s bounty and produce something, whether it is knitting a scarf or wood-working one’s own furniture. Making spirits is challenging, but the rewards of getting it right are great. Seeing clean, fragrant liquor coming off the still after days of fermenting and toil is a joy.”



Forbes Speaks Well of Moonshine: A Global History

Wayne Winegarden writes:

“Perhaps, the futility of the government’s efforts to regulate consumer choice is best illustrated by its constant failure to control what types of alcohol people are permitted to drink, or even whether they can drink alcohol at all. This penchant for government to exert control over our alcohol consumption is neither confined to the U.S., nor even a modern creation. As Kevin Kosar documents in his excellent book, Moonshine: A Global History, governments from Ancient China to Ancient Mesopotamia have been defining which types of alcoholic drinks are legal, and therefore acceptable for people to drink, and which types of alcoholic drinks are illegal, and therefore unacceptable for people to drink. Kosar’s book has much to offer to spirit enthusiasts….”



Irish Times Praises Moonshine: A Global History

The April 15, 2017 copy of the Irish Times reads:

“[T]his vibrant and and entertaining new study of the drink’s 600-year history…. Kosar, an authority on booze and a director of alcohol policy at the R Street Institute in Washington, DC, discusses this aspect of his subject with pace, learning, insight and good sense. He is convincing when he argues that “the more a government’s policies reduce access to affordable, safe, licit alcoholic drinks, the more it encourages the production of cheap, dangerous, illicit booze”. And he is arresting when he links the production of moonshine to moments of political resistance….”