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Issue 51 - Fuelling affairs of the state

Whisky Magazine Issue 51
October 2005


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Fuelling affairs of the state

Whisky has often served as a lubricant driving the cogs of diplomacy and politics. But as Chris Hill reports,it has also been a hinderance as well as a help

The idea and image of the drunken politician is essentially a cliché, and like most clichés it is not without its basis in truth.

Politicians, like the leaders in any industry (business, entertainment etc), have been known to indulge and overindulge in alcohol. Unlike other industries, however, there is something almost natural about whisky being the power drink of choice among the political set.

As is also the case with cliches, there is a greater connection between politics and whisky than mere caricatures. Look back over the past 200 plus years of political history around the world and you will find whisky playing a key role in the lives of some of the most famous and influential politicians.

During George Washington's years as America's first president, one of his biggest challenges was the so-called ‘whiskey rebellion' of 1794.

Scottish and Irish settlers in America had brought their knowledge of distilling with them and set up stills for personal and business uses. Washington's hefty tax on whiskey sparked a revolt, causing the new president to lead 13,000 soldiers to quell the revolt.

Perhaps if he had known how he would spend his years in retirement, Washington would not have been so quick to tax whisky.

When he stepped down from the presidency in 1797, Washington had a distillery built on his estate in Virginia.

His plantation manager, a Scotsman, persuaded Washington selling whisky would be a profitable venture. On year later Washington produced 11...

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