JAMESON, POWER, & ROE – Truths About Whisky.
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Second edition revised. Illustrated with four coloured lithographs. London: Printed by Sutton Sharpe and Co., for John Jameson, William Jameson, John Power, and George Roe., 1879. Demy octavo. pp. vi, , 1032, , 4 (folding plates). Original green blind-stamped cloth. Title in gilt on upper cover. Wear to extremities, toning to titlepage. A very good copy of a very scarce book.
The Dublin whiskey industry of the nineteenth century recognised the disruptive technology that was the Coffey, or column, still. Patented by Aeneas Coffey in 1831, this still could produce almost pure alcohol faster and more cheaply than the huge copper pots used up to that point. This alcohol hardly resembled whiskey, but it could be “blended” with traditionally made whiskey to create a cheaper, lighter tasting drink that immediately found favour with the public. The great Irish distilling houses railed against this innovation, refusing to accept that the resulting concoction was worthy of being called whiskey. They spent decades trying to get the law bent to their way of thinking. In this, as we know, they failed: most Irish whiskey sold today is just such a blend. Unfortunately the industry waited too long to embrace the inevitable; its principled stand contributed to the long decline of the Irish whiskey business that has only in recent years been reversed. In 1878, however, the fight was still on. The four great Dublin whiskey houses - John Jameson, William Jameson, George Roe and John Power - had joined forces to campaign for a strict legal definition of whiskey. They got nowhere in the London parliament so they decided to appeal to the public directly. The result was this book, ‘Truths About Whisky.’
The grievances listed in Truths About Whisky were not finally settled, one way or the other, until the Royal Commission on Whisky report in 1909. But the book is an important historical record of an industry undergoing painful change. It is almost impossible to find a copy.
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