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1608

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1608

Postby Iain » Fri Mar 16, 2001 7:17 pm

In WM15, the article on Bushmills repeats the claim that the distillery was licensed in 1608. As Jim Murray has pointed out forcefully (in WM!) this is pure tosh.

To protect the whisky drinker from this sort of spurious "heritage" statement, often dreamed up in marketing depts in London, New York or (perhaps) Paris, could WM not adopt a more critical attitude to pr "hype", and refuse to print such misinformation?
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Postby lexkraai » Sat Mar 17, 2001 11:06 am

Hear, hear, Iain!

Whisky's history is SO rich already and so full of fascinating things that I don't see why it is necessary to 'invent heritage'. There's plenty around and companies just make themselves (and their products) not very believable by constantly sticking to these 'facts'.

Cheers, Lex
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Mar 17, 2001 5:53 pm

Iain,

I think it really doesn't matter at all, at least most of the people don't attached any value on it. I think dates when founded or having a license is usually a lose end. Some distilleries archived their records and some of them didn't archive their records, some of them are pretty close to that date and some them are accurate on their date, it seems strange but I think that the whisk(e)y is OK most people wouldn't badger at all.....So what's your point???
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Postby Iain » Sun Mar 18, 2001 10:51 am

My point is stated in the posting, Huurman, in the second paragraph.

I accept many people don't care about accuracy on labels and in whisky pr/marketing. And that it's hardly a hanging offence.

But others, including Jim Murray, believe it shows a disregard for the authentic heritage of the whisky industry and of individual distilleries, and a lack of respect for the intelligence of the customer.

The truth is, Bushmills was first made by Roman settlers in 34BC, from fermented yak's milk and boiled socks. Honestly - a pr man told me...
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Mar 18, 2001 9:38 pm

Iain,

You said it your self it's all in the PR section to be found. It's wrong to make a statement on the label if it's a 20Y old instead of a 18Y old. But Pr is what's it all about to make some things authentic or not.But I agree with you and Jim it shows some disregard towards the distillery

Do you really believe this PR man about the Bushmills was already in Ireland in 34 BC?? Have you checked it your self first??
You see "PR things" can change a lot of stories when it comes to the sales.

I personally think it's wrong but see it world wide: who gives a damn....

Slainte,

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Postby Hans » Sun Mar 18, 2001 11:06 pm

Please give me help as I am confused by this debate. And I do not drink Irish Whiskey.

I understand that history for the Single Malts is most important but do not have the information where to find the true facts. And so many experts seem to disagree although they say they know so much.

I know Mr Murray knows everything about Ardbeg as I have read him saying this - is he also the expert on the histories of all Single Malt whiskies ? If not who can be ?

Hans
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Postby lexkraai » Mon Mar 19, 2001 10:46 am

I think there's another side to this issue. The label is partly aimed at giving the customer information on the whisky. If I see a label that contains pr-statements that are made up and demonstrably false, why would I believe a statement on that same label made by the same company saying that, for the sake of argument, the whisky is partly matured in xxxx-casks?

I'm NOT saying that companies are lying about maturation, don't get me wrong, I'm just saying that by making false statements they make themselves less credible.

Cheers, Lex
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Postby Iain » Mon Mar 19, 2001 12:29 pm

I hate to agree all the time :-), but I agree with Lex on this.

The WM article tells us that Black Bush contains 80 per cent malts in the blend. This is very interesting - it suggests a far higher malts content than in a Scotch whisky.

But I know that the Bushmills spokesman has misled the WM reporter (intentionally or not) regarding the date Bushmills received its first licence. The claim is definitely untrue.

If he misleads the journalist on the relatively trivial matter of the date of the first licence, can we trust the accuracy of the statement that Black Bush contains 80 per cent malts?

This is just a plea for honesty and accuracy in product information.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Mar 20, 2001 5:54 pm

Hi Iain,

You see that we can easy misled by false labels, PR stuff and etc. Lex has a point on this. I know you are upset by this sort of things(I do too), but in the end: Who cares?
As long as the "figures" are correct. But yet there are some good distillery companies who meant very well. Let us stick to that and we are OK.

Regards,

Erik
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Postby Iain » Wed Mar 21, 2001 9:56 am

I don't understand your point - the figure 1608 (the specific case we are discussing here) is NOT correct!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Mar 21, 2001 10:29 am

Dear All,

I have been watching this debate with some interest as we at Whisky Magazine feel that Stuart Ramsey is one of our best and most reliable journalists.

I am in the process of obtaining a copy of the 1608 (well what is written on it) to try and shed some light on the matter.

What I can say is neither Stuart nor David Quinn were misleading. David states in the article that the license was given to Sir Thomas Phillips in 1608 but the company became incorporated in 1784. Nowhere does David make claim to Bushmills being the oldest distillery in the world.

Therefore Stuart has not been misled. Even in the Fact File we quite clearly state that the license was given in 1608 and the company registered in 1784.

I feel that Stuart has presented the facts in a proper and non-pr driven manner and neither Stuart or David has said anything misleading.

I would also argue that until you can prove that Bushmills isn't the oldest distillery in the world (which I reckon you can't) you aren't able to rubbish their claim.

So until new material comes to light Bushmills has every justification in calling themselves the oldest distillery in the world.

Anyone feel otherwise?

Regards

David Stirk
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Postby lexkraai » Wed Mar 21, 2001 11:28 am

Hi David

First of all, you can never prove a negative. So just because you can't prove that distillery X isn't the oldest, that doesn't make it true. Besides that, there are distilleries that make claims to have been established before 1784 (which is the oldest date Bushmills can back up with evidence), so there's still a debate there!

The whole thing about the 1608 claim, as Jim Murray has also pointed out quite strongly, is that the 1608 licence was given for distilling in THAT AREA (I've got the text if you want it), along with a number of other similar licences given out earlier that same year for Co. Galway and for Leinster and Munster. There is absolutely no evidence that a direct predecessor of the current Bushmills distillery/company was operating then. So, in other words, if I would start building a distillery nearby today, I could claim to have been established in 1608 with just as much right, even though the paint is still wet. The New Midleton distillery, built in the 1970s, could make the claim of being the oldest and beating Bushmills by a few months, as the Munster licence was given out on January 10 and the Bushmills one on April 20 ...

I must say that I WAS very glad to see the distinction made in Stuart's article between the 1608 general licence and the 1784 date. This and the previous postings are aimed at the general company pr around '1608', not at the article or Stuart.

Cheers, Lex
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Mar 21, 2001 6:24 pm

Hi david,

I'm curious what light you will bring on this matter. One thing is for sure journalists always write what them had been told by people of the company.

Regards,

Erik
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Postby Iain » Wed Mar 21, 2001 7:26 pm

There's no attempt to rubbish anyone David - I have been happily reading Stuart's stuff since the now-defunct www.scotch.com. This is just a friendly debate to establish the facts.

According to the article in WM 15, Dave Quinn says "The 1608 licence relates to this site..."

Jim Murray says in The Complete Book of Whisky (p118)goes over the story, with details of what (and where) the "licence" was granted for. He concludes "The simple fact is that Bushmills Distillery did not begin life until 1784; it is the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland, but not the world."

And adds "there is nothing quite so frustrating or irritating as seeing a marketing wheeze over time become carved on a tablet of stone as false "history"."


(See also his comment about 1608 in WM3, in "Out with the Rubbish"!)

So who are we to believe? I'm certainly with JM on this one.
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Postby Iain » Sat Mar 24, 2001 1:21 am

C'mon now - one more post,and this thread will get the first wee burning red box ever on this site... :-)
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Postby Iain » Sat Mar 24, 2001 1:29 am

Oh well - I'll do it.

The ad on p31 of Whisky Mag says "There, in a distillery licensed since 1608..."

That's pants - the distillery was not licensed in 1608.

Funnily enough, Bushmills may well have a cliam to being the oldest existing licensed distillery (1784) - so why are the advertisers telling porkies?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Mar 26, 2001 7:21 pm

Hi Iain,

It depends how you look at it. In Scotland you have the Glenturret that claims to be the oldest distillery 1775, but records where found dated back from 1715/17, so what's in a date??

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Postby Iain » Mon Mar 26, 2001 11:23 pm

Huurman, you seem quite willing to accept any old tosh in a whisky pr release as fact!

The Glenturret story is also a pr myth - misleading statements about the origins of whisky brands are certainly not confined to Ireland.

There was once a nonsensical story about Littlemill's foundation date, which (a couple of years ago) the new owners honorably admitted was pants.

Sadly, Glenturret continues to offer misleading information to customers regarding the date of the (quite modern) distillery's foundation date.

Distillery foundation dates are not "lost in the mists of time", as is sometimes said. Distilleries are subject to Excise duty and other government regulations and taxes, and therefore they appear in government records in the UK. No distillery on the Glenturret site is mentioned in any records (government or otherwise) prior to early 19th century. The current distillery was built on the site in late 1950s or early 1960s, by James Fairlie.

Obviously, most people have neither the time nor the opportunity to check UK government or other archives - but they have been consulted in the research undertaken for respected published histories such as Moss & Hume's The Making of Scotch Whisky, and Charles Craig's Scotch Whisky Industry Record (both of which were sponsored by the Scotch whisky industry to establish and record the true stories of the leading distilleries and companies!). And checked and updated by subsequent historical researchers.
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Postby Frederick C. Lindgren » Sat Apr 21, 2001 5:29 am

Dear Iain,

I agree with your historical records. I agree that most if not all of the Whisky companies especially in Ireland and Scotland use false information as they market their products. Fermented alcohol beverages go back to Scandinavia. Whisky as we know it was most likely discovered there by accident when vodka and mead were stored in wooden barrels up around Uppsala during the long winter months. Brandy is the same, and goes back to Denmark where wine was stored in wooden barrels and turned out to be extra strong wine. So what's all the fuss about! Go the Swedish way, and avoid the fray! I've been enjoying this Highland Park 12 year old, not to mention Glenmorangie 10 year old for a long time now and am not concerned about the truth of their advertizing. Enjoy!

Fred
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Postby Iain » Sat Apr 21, 2001 9:59 am

Interesting theories, Frederick. So wine turned into brandy if it was stored in wood in Denmark for a while...

Scandinavia must have been a miraculous place indeed!
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Postby Frederick C. Lindgren » Sun Apr 22, 2001 2:28 am

Dear Iain,

Actually the question is where did the distilling process begin? Celtic peoples, if you believe Dr. Anne Ross, included Germanic tribes. Where were the first distilleries made? There was an abundance of copper in the Roman province of Britannia, this might lead one to speculate that it was there during the Hallstatt era of Celtic civilization, roughly between 800 - 500 BC., long before the Roman invasions, that the first distilleries were made. Please note that this culture included the geographical areas of what are today Sweden, Norway and Denmark. I am inclined to believe that it was probably the monks in Ireland who preserved and spread the idea of the distillery between A.D. 500-1200. As for my previous suggestion, I believe that distilleries were probably not an independent discovery such as Watt's steam engine for example. It is quite possible that Celtic peoples received the notion from their southern neebors. I don't know. At any rate if you can recommend some reading for me on the history of distilling I would greatly appreciate it. By the way, I can't stand bourbon, it gives me a "hair-pain" like you wouldn't believe. But the barley whiskies of Scotland are the best. I haven't had a taste of Bushmill's for years. I don't believe all the stuff about finishes either, if you want Port or Sherry go by a bottle of Port or Sherry or some such. I try only to find regular Scot's whisky here in America - not blended either. Believe me it is like finding a needle in a haystack at times. Thanks in advance for your reply.
Fred.
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Postby Peter » Mon Apr 23, 2001 7:17 am

Excuse me if I'm a bit late in joining this interesting thread. Facts do matter, and some of us do care if PR people make wrong statements, or ask misleading questions. Take the question posed by the Glenlivet Vintage Collection Competition (Whisky Mag issues 14 & 15. The question was "In which year did The Glenlivet become the first legal distillery?", and some lucky person won some good whisky with the answer "1824". But the fact is that The Glenlivet never was the first legal distillery - there were many more legal distilleries in action long before 1824. But does anyone really care what or when was the first legal distillery? TG obviously do - with a product that sells on age and maturity, making claim to be the oldest is good for the image.
P.
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Postby lexkraai » Mon Apr 23, 2001 10:11 am

Hi Frederick and all

Interesting theories but are you aware of any evidence to back them up? If so, please let me know! The myth that the Irish monks distilled in the 6th - 12th century is repeated in virtually every whisky book, but I still have to see the first shred of evidence for it. A while ago I got in contact with a leading authority on Ireland in the 6th - 10th century and he told me that he has never ever come across any reference to distilling in the monasteries in those days. And he assured me that is not due to a lack of records, because there is a mass of them!

Same thing for the story that English soldiers under Henry II found established distilleries in Ireland in the 1170s. I could trace it back to Morewood (19th century), but no further back. McGuire, in his book on the history of whiskey in Ireland, also mentions the myth but makes very clear that none of the sources connected to Henry II make any mention of distilleries.

Of course, absence of proof isn't proof of absence, but still ....

Slainte, Lex
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Postby Frederick C. Lindgren » Tue Apr 24, 2001 4:23 am

Thanks to Lexkraai,
Obviously, Iain has written me off as just another yankee oaf! I am most appreciative of your information. Distillation of grain into spirits must have had a beginning somewhere. If what you say is true, and I'm certainly in no position to dispute it, then Scot's Whiskies must have been first developed in the early 18th century. Since most current distilleries there market their respective brands in what one might call a "romantic image", i.e., Islay malts using Celtic art-works and lettering on there products, Glenmorangie showing an emblem saying The Immortal Sir Walter Scott, etc.; it does seem rather spurious, even if you aren't as large a sceptic as philosopher David Hume, that Scot's whiskies developed much before the Restoration of Charles II. I suppose we will just have to put up with the idea that Whisky was a development during the Age of the Enlightenment in Europe. Alas, we will also have to give up the possibility that General Alexander Leslie actually smuggled a few casks of the nectar to Gustavus Adolphus in the mid-17th century from, let's say, County Antrim. And that after his first dram, he swore off his frothy mead horn, and became a "modern merchantilist" ruler. Oh well, so much for the lore and love of whisky!

Skol,

Fred
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Postby Iain » Tue Apr 24, 2001 8:21 am

Not so Frederick - I am trying to find a useful source on the history of ancient Greek and Arabic distillers.

Not a Yankee oaf, I'm sure - but not a very patient Yankee, perhaps!
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Postby CheekyMonkey » Tue Apr 24, 2001 5:27 pm

To be honest, who really cares whether Bushmills was granted license in 1608 or 1784? No one in the debate has been hooked in by this marketing line and no one is likely to. So why should it cause so much fuss? It is unlikely to make any difference to any of our lives is it? Just let it go...please! Lets talk about the product and let the marketing monkeys get on with the marketing crap that no one listens to anyway.
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Postby Peter » Tue Apr 24, 2001 11:18 pm

Sorry CheekyMonkey, but the whole point about marketing PR "crap" is that too many people ARE taken in by it. That is why the PR people do it. That is why they use weasel words and are careless with facts, history and language. Their job is to create images and impressions that sell their product. Age and maturity, experience and tradition are factors that count for a lot in the marketing of whisk(e)y, and if a distillery can be made to appear the oldest or the first or the most traditional, then up goes the image and up go the sales. Who cares if facts are distorted to achieve that image? I do, and so should you. There is nothing the PR people love more than to hear more someone say "never mind the PR crap, let's just drink the whisky". When they hear that, they know they have your cerebellum right where they want it - in their virtual hands, pliantly submissive to their gentle manipulations. Ever seen those films of chimpanzees pulling a colobus monkey limb from limb for lunch? Sounds like the chimpanzees of the whisky marketing world have you in their hands already CheekyMonkey - take care now.
Peter
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Postby Frederick C. Lindgren » Wed Apr 25, 2001 4:04 am

Thanks Iain, for your reply. I am impatient, but I shall find out the truth about whisky. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I don't care for our whiskey - Beam, Old Crow, Old Fitzgerald, Wild Turkey, etc. - to much corn for me. Why no one over here makes a barley mash whiskey is a question I have yet to have answered. You are on the right track, as the word "alcohol" comes from the Arabian language. Like so many other technological advances the Islamic incursions into Europe most likely brought the process of distilling grain into Spain, Italy and France. I will be in contact with sources here at Marquette University in Milwaukee and DePaul University in Chicago, as time permits, to put me into the appropriate readings. I do have a question for you that might be abit off the subject, but nevertheless, does peak my curiousity. Back in the 1960's, blends like Black&White, Johnnie Walker, Dewar's, and Chevis Regal were all 86 proof; I believe that is, "across the pond", 43% by volume. Now these blends, including Justerini & Brooks are all only 80 proof and don't have near the peaty, licorice, and almond like flavor that they used to have. I also recall, there was a big flap in our press concerning how Scot's Whisky caused cancer and that we had better watch out. Now, during the last decade or so, we are able to purchase these big peaty malts from Islay and delicious nectars from Kirkwall. The Speyside distilleries, and Highland distilleries all indicate that they use Bourbon casks from over here in which to age their whiskies. What is going on? What happens if they put the whisky in a cask that has not previously stored American bourbon? Also, do you think these whiskies, which the manufacturers say are aged in sherry, port and other wine casks, are really aged this way, or are artificial flavorings added? I recall that Knockando wrote, in one of its marketing ploys, that they never flavored or added anything to their whisky prior to bottling it. What is the customer to believe? Since you are over there, you are in a better position then I am to know the truth. I will patiently wait for any reply you might have.

Skol,
Fred.
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Postby Frederick C. Lindgren » Wed Apr 25, 2001 4:52 am

Hey Cheekmonkey,
Can you taste the difference between a Miller Lite Beer from Milwaukee and Haacker/Pschor Weis Beir from Munich. I sure as hell can. Same goes for whisky. Jim Beam can't hold a candle to Glenmorangie 10 year old. It's not only a matter of taste it must have something to do with ingredients and the process of making the product itself. The truth in advertizing is important as well. Ask 90% of Americans about whisky and they will tell you it started in Ireland or Scotland. Iain and I will eventually find out! I must say that at least in Tain they admit the stills were once used as gin stills in England and brought up north there toward the mid-19th century.

Skol,

Fred.
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Postby Iain » Wed Apr 25, 2001 7:56 am

You ask who cares, CheekyMonkey (nice moniker!).

Quite a few people, if this thread is anything to go by - no other thread on the W-W Bulletin Board has had so many posts.

And since you were moved to write yourself, if only to repeat the view (already expressed by a couple of other contributors) that you don't give a monkey's, and to demonstrate that you have picked up on the spurious foundation dates offered by Bushmills' marketeers, then I assume you care too!

Good to hear from you. The more personal views the better.
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Postby Iain » Wed Apr 25, 2001 1:58 pm

It is only fair to say that there are marketeers go out of their way to tell the truth about the history of their product. For example...

Most whisky history books say Aberlour was founded in 1826, closed some time around 1837 and was then rebuilt in 1879-80 by James Fleming.

But Aberlour's staff knew that the "old" distillery was at Aberlour House, some distance from the "new" one, and actually had no connection.

So, rather than claim a foundation date of 1826, and the colourful "Laird of Aberlour" as their founder, Aberlour's pr and marketing material claims the later date for it's foundation, and correctly identifies Fleming as the founder of the business.

Now there's an example of integrity in marketing, pr and advertising.

And sales of Aberlour are soaring, so clearly it is not necessary to tell wee white lies (or great big whoppers) about the past in order to win over customers.

Now, if only the Aberlour marketeers could have a quiet word with their colleagues at Bushmills...
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Postby Frederick C. Lindgren » Thu Apr 26, 2001 4:11 am

The more I read, the more frightened I become. Are you trying to tell me in a round about way that whisky is an American invention!!! I refer everyone to L. D. Baldwin's "Whiskey Rebels, the Story of a Frontier Uprising" (1939). Here you'll read how our entire war effort was financed by taxes on the nectar. Documented proof that whisky was made here on or before 1791 abounds. I just can't believe that it wasn't being produced somewhere across the pond prior to that date.

To your health,
Fred.
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Postby Iain » Thu Apr 26, 2001 8:09 am

The earliest written record referring to whisky-making in Scotland is from 1494.

Whiskey-making is believed to have been introduced to USA by Scots and Scotch-Irish settlers, afaik, in 18th century.
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Postby Marcin Miller » Thu Apr 26, 2001 4:10 pm

Clearly, the debate over history and heritage continues. To my knowledge there has never been a satisfactory and authoritative history of distillation published. Presumably because there is much speculation about the origins.

Does anybody know of one?
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Postby lexkraai » Fri Apr 27, 2001 8:12 am

Hi Marcin

The Forbes book mentioned earlier in this debate is the one that comes closest to that, but is vague about the earliest days. The work by Needham fills in some gaps, but not all.

What is certain is that there are a lot of unsubstantiated claims around!

The Forbes book is out of print, by the way, but you can certainly find copies via the usual out-of-print book sites.

Cheers, Lex
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