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Whiskey History

How did we get to Labor Day Weekend 2013?

drinking whiskey

Who knows but it's scorching hot outside L.A.

And since my last posts seem to have been about desire/dating, I thought this would be the perfect time to write about my other true love...


But first...

Happy Birthday MJ!!!

What a Superbowl show this was:

Have you recovered from your dance off?


Moving on...


Let's face it, whiskey is cool.

It gives the drinker a certain image, a certain well as wonderful euphoric benefits.

I mean if Greta Garbo had walked into the saloon in "Anna Christie" saying she wanted a glass of Bubbly Pink Moscato or a Strawberry Daiquiri with neon straws and some flowery cocktail umbrella...we would have viewed her character a little differently, don't you think?

Instead she slumps down on her chair and harps:

"Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale in the side. And don't be stingy, baby!"

And so started Greta Garbo's career in talkies -- which was off to great start (unlike many of the other wonderful silent actors).

Yes, audiences fell in love with the melancholic Swede all over again...cause she drank whiskey.

So aside from movie-history-making scenes, what's the deal with this drink?

Here's a quick history:

The first real confirmed account of whiskey was in Ireland in 1405 when it's cited as the cause of death of a chieftain, who drank too much of it at Christmas.

greta garbo

Haha, well that's one way to make a dark historical entrance!

In the 1500s the Scottish king ordered friars in the monasteries to manufacture 500 bottles of the grand liquid because he was such a big fan.

But then party spoiler Henry VIII came around and got rid of all the monasteries (hello Protestantism!) and now the newly independent monks had to earn money... they went along and continued producing it privately in their homes.

Yes, the Catholics may have had their "mortal sins" and made people feel guilty about indulging in many of life's wonderful pleasures.

But when it came to booze...they were willful and open lushes!!

So even though monks were making whiskey, it tasted pretty different from what you or I might order in your local dive bar nowadays:

Distillation was at its infancy and the whiskey was still pretty "raw and brutal." (Which is why that Irish chieftain died I guess...though, knowing the Irish, he just partied WAY too hard.)

But people still drank it!


1725 when (after England and Scotland merged) those bossy Brits had to go put a silly tax on the drink, which was so astronomical that most of Scotland's distillation was either shut down or forced underground.

Yes, in a behavioral pattern that doesn't seem too far off from America's Prohibition in the early 20th century, people started hiding the stuff under alters and even in coffins (classy stuff, eh?!)...

...anything to escape the nasty taxman.

The Scots also started distilling whiskey at night, so as not to get caught by authorities. And that's where the term "moonshine" originally comes from (again, re-cycled term used during Prohibition.)

And soon over half of Scotland's whiskey production was illegal. (I feel like this could make a good movie...screw "Braveheart," I want "Boozeheart").

Across the pond -- in good ol' Amurika -- whiskey became a currency during the revolution. Yup, wars make people want to drink...even more!!

There was also...

...The Whiskey Rebellion of 1791.

Which was an R-rated version of the Boston Tea Party (well, it involved alcohol so...duh!)

Meanwhile, back across the pond...again...the U.K. stopped their puritanical ways and legalized whiskey distillation in 1823, effectively ending the the sketchy Scottish moonshine biz.

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And from there on -- on both sides of the Atlantic -- whiskey distillation got more efficient and progressed into blended whiskies, and different strains, and smoother versions etc. etc. and...

...aside from the extraordinary Prohibition Era hiccup in the United States...

...whiskey lived happily ever after.

So that's the history of it.

But what's going on with whiskey today??

Well, interestingly enough, although the origins are obviously firmly rooted in the Scots and Irish, the top selling brands right now are dominated by...



That's right.

Scottish Johnnie Walker may still be the best selling whiskey of the world but the Celts have stiff competition now amongst the top 30 best sellers....

...the Indians dominate the list.

In fact, the only Irish whiskey in the top 30 is...


(Don't worry America- you still make an appearance with Jack Daniels (my fave!) at # 8.)

Hmmm, that said, guess it's time to take a "cultural" trip to India!! (That actually sounds pretty awesome.)

jack daniels

Other than the history, whiskey has kind of been an iconic drink (not just in the movies) but with the real life icons that drink it.

It was Mark Twain's sip of choice -- "whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over" (well said) -- and of course, Winston Churchill was famous for indulging in his signature high ball.

In fact this is how he came to like the drinker's "W."

Churchill travelled to Africa in his youth and found the water so unbearable that he had to mix it with whiskey.

This was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Probably a love affair.

Back to movie stars...

Clark Gable was a big fan of Jim Beam (one of the early instances of celebrity endorsement in fact) and liked to play on-set pranks where he substituted non-alcoholic liquid with the real thing...

...much to the surprise of his fellow actors.

Oh, yeah, and the ladies were and still (me included) really into the beverage too.

And, moreover, it seems quite popular with women of power. (God, I hope that rubs off.)

Hillary Clinton has often been photographed doing her whiskey shot and Margaret Thatcher had a whiskey every night.

She believed it kept her alert and even told her personal assistant:

"Dear, you cannot drink gin and tonic in the middle of the night. You must have whiskey to give you energy."

Obvious Iron Lady alky.

Oh and Lady Gaga -- big fan too! She writes her music to it.

Anyhow, believe it or not but whiskey has become one of the fastest growing categories of alcoholic beverages today.

Yes, some distilleries, are literally having a hard time keeping up.

Well, of course, it's the bomb! (Sorry, can't come up with a better explanation than that.)

And even if you're one of those girls who doesn't like your whiskey on the rocks like me, you cangirl it up and make these....

Looks pretty good.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed my whiskey ramblings!!

thesy surface

And hope you enjoy the last moments of scorching workday heat.

Have a safe but fun (!!) Labor Day Weekend everyone.

And here's some John Lee Hooker, to get you in the mood.

Thesy Surface
Brit Chick Ramblings From Hollywoodland