Lecture 4 Tuesday, October 1, 2013
• **This is recorded from a past semester because the prof wasn’t there
• Last week: 16 century
• Protestant Reformation, shifts in drinking…shifts in consumption and the arrival of sherry
• Today: 16 and mainly 17 centuries, and DISTILLED SPIRITS!
• Up to this point: fermented alcohols (ale, beer, wine—we also mentioned there are other
kinds of wine, fruit wines like apple wine, pomegranate wine, date wine, strawberry wine.
Most of them not very palatable, but there’s a lot of it around.)
• We’re going to move to distilled beverages
o Distillation: start off with fermented beverage, distill it so that you remove the
water and leave the alcohol. This is done by heating.
• Distillate of wine: heat the wine.
o Wine: water and alcohol (anything from 2% to 18%)—remove the water and
leave the alcohol
o When you heat wine, the first thing to vaporize is the alcohol. It has a lower
boiling point than water (about 78 degrees…water boils at 100 degrees)
o Alcohol boils first, vaporizes. You catch the vapour in a catching system, it cools
down and liquefies, runs down a tube.
You can do an additional process with that left over wine—it’s called
You can rectify three or four times to get alcohol even more distilled, up to
The gins are typically about 40%.
o **This process was devised somewhere ein the Middle East, reached Europe in
11 and 12 centuries.
o Some distilling was taking place around 1300. We know it was being used for
medicinal purposes. But we don’t know when it was first introduced or first
devised as a technique.
o We know around 3 or 4 century, scientists in Arabia had learned process of
distillation for all kinds of other substances, not alcohol (boiling, getting the
vapour, distilled liquid).
o Some of the first practicioners of distillation were alchemists—they’d try to turn
base metal sinto gold. They couldn’t do that but they turned base liquid into
something more valuable because it had high alcohol content. • Early modern period: emergence of distilling as a practiced skill
o largely confined to monasteries and later to apothecaries
o Had medical associations from the very beginning
o We don’t know how it got these properties, probably because wine had medical
properties and it was associated with wine because it was made from it
• Distilled products:
o Lots were made from wine—because it was available, and the association with
o Because of the heat used and other reasons, the first distilled liquids were given
names that referred either to health properties (associations with wine) or
associations with heat
o Things from distilled wine:
BRANDY (the distillate of wine)
• They were first called names like “aqua vitae” (water of life—
health), “aqua ardens” (burning water—heating the wine/feeling of
alcohol burning at the back of the throat/you can set fire to spirits)
• This was the first of the distilled beverages
• Another name: brandewijn (Dutch for “burnt wine”)—gives us the
word BRANDY. The English began to call it brandy wine as the
Anglicization, eventually called it brandy.
• This became big in the 14 and 15 centuries
o Later, discovered that you can distill beer:
HUGE boost to distilling industry because grain was much more readily
available than grapes, beer more available than wine.
Depending on the part of Europe you lived in, you might prefer brandy in
grape-growing area, or you’d prefer grain-based distilled spirit (gin,
Northern part of Europe: grain-growing—tended to rally to beverages like
whisky, vodka, and gin (grain-based)
One of the reasons for its popularity in Northern Europe: it was colder up
there and these spirits gave feeling of warmth (unlike wine or beer), even
when consumed at room temperature. Godo for cool clilmates.
Also, whole parts of Europe (Northern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia)
could locally make beverages that have more alcohol than beer—and
because you could make it locally from the grain, you could have it cheaper (doesn’t have to be shipped like wine, more alcoholic than beer,
and it cheaper).
• Transformation in the beverages available as a result fo distilling
• Spirits, and the implications for society
o First: strong association with health
People who swear by a “nip” of whisky or brandy to keep them healthy
Called the water of life
Writings on brandy in the late 15 /16 century: stress the health benefits
A lot of literature on distilled spirits from the 1400s onwards. It’s the first
alcohol to benefit from the printing press at this time.
Handbooks and guides to distilling published in 1400s—many eidtions,
helped to boost the distilling industry and spread the practice.
An idea during the black plague that brandy could ward off and cure many
ailments including the plague.
Charles II of Navarre (Spain)—1380s—went down with terrible disease,
doctors couldn’t cure him, they turned to brandy to fix him. They decided
not only to administer brandy internally but also to soak his sheets in
brandy and wrap him up with them. The sheets actually got close to a
flame—he burst into flame and died. Not so much water of life for him…
but dramatic example of how brandy was considered to be something to
Book publishe din Germany, 1476—recommends a spoonful every day to
cure arthritis and bad breath.
Help sheadaches, heart disease, gout (associated with heavy drinking
and rich foods—swelling in the legs and feet)—but it was actually
probably a cuase for gout.
Brandy supposed to help with deafness, help you look better, improve
bustline in women, stop hair graying, banished melancholy (helps with
depression), helps with forgetfulness (dementia?).
When you look at al the ailments brandy was supposed to hep with, many
of them have to do with aging: forgetfulness, graying, deafness, etc. Idea
that it would prolong youth and life itself.
“Precious drops…rectified three or four times…water of immortality. It
prolongs life, clears away ill humours, clears up the heart…”
Quacks selling brandy as cure for all kidns of ailments. **These were considered to be hot. Initially called “hot waters” or “burning
waters”. People thought of heat/cold, moisture/dryness. This was a hot,
moist commodity. Have to administer it carefully.
Could be used to counteract excessive cold—old people got colder
(cooling bodies), spirits were good antidote to cooling. But not suitable for
young people because they’re naturally hot (if you add heat, wuld
overheat and potentially combust)
19 century: lots of accounts of people bursting into flames as a result fo
drinking too much. Published in nespapers around the world. This is part
of the anti-alcohol campaign in 19 century—if you drink too much, will
burst into flame and disappear.
So this is a precedent, about to lead to that.
It became popular as a general tonic. Many people started the day with a
shot of distilled spirits, just like many people start the day with a shot of
coffee—gives the same kind of jolt. IN many parts of Europe (France,
Italy, Greece), they still do that shot of alcohol with the coffee.
So brandy was a good thing—healthy, warm.
o Problem: highly intoxicating
We have regulations to limit alcohol in our beverages (ABV—Alcohol By
Volume)—should say 14% alcohol by volume.
But there was none of that in early modern period.
We don’t know how much alcohol people were consuming, don’t know
how much was in the brandy (30% or 60%?)
But it was quite clear that these new spirits contained more of something
and people became intoxicated much more rapidly, didn’t need as much
of it to get that result.
Excessive drinking continued to be issue for authorities, church, moral
commentators of all kinds.
Posed an even greater threat to social order than the earlier fermented
beverages. They seemed to justify more rigorous restrictions on
production, sale, and consumption.
Brandy: first of many “psychotropic substances” (change your way of
thinking/acting) to be highly regulated.
By 1700, they were called to have it banned altogether. Gin Panic in
London, ignited debate on the dangers that alcohol posed to the social
order. o The advent of distilled spirits to mainstream alcohol consumption—the role of the
Dutch in this. They have reputation during 17 century of beinv very touch
business people and also hard drinkers.
16 century Dutch painting showing the effects of drinking. Earlier, we
talked about fears of women and sex. Here, you have a woman in a
tavern(?), clearly been drinking heavily, not acting in respectable way (lost
a shoe, lying in compromising position), notice a cat (sign of female
sexuality), she’s passed out. The men are gathering. This is a dire
warning about the effects of drinking.
Dutch: reputation for heavy drinking, heavily involved with alcohol in
commercial sense in 17 century. They were the great merchants—had
something like 10,000 ships. Responsible for carrying their goods (Dutch
East Indies—transported wines around from Spice Islands, the Cape),
also for other countries (third-party shippers).
Involved not only in shipping alcohol but also in development of key
regions for alcohol: Charente (Atlantic coast of France, a little up north
from Bordeaux)—thanks to the Dutch, this region with La Rochelle as one
of its big ports became major centre for brandy production—called aqua
vitae (water of life)
• Charente had big supply of two things (important for distilling):
wine and wood.
• This wine was inferior to Bordeaux wine, people didn’t want to buy
it from Charente. So they distilled it (which is great, you don’t need
great wine for distilling)
• The forests were substantial, it meant they had allt eh wood they
needed for burning in the distilleries
• Successful brandy producer
• **Also developed a core area in Charente called “Cognac”. It’s
superior brandy. This is an Appalachian that means the brandy
made there can be called “cognac”. Has a quality and prestige
o When you distill at the beginning and end, you have lots of
o If you get rid of those (throw them away), are left with pure
stuff in the middle. It’s more pure alcohol with fewer toxins,
but that means you’re spending a lot to make less of it.
• **Also produced their own distilled spirit called GIN. Abbreviated
form of “Geneva” or “Genievre”—alcohol that’s flavoured with
juniper berries. • The Dutch were key in fostering two of these distilled spirits: GIN
and BRANDY, also specialty in shipping wine.
• 17 century: movement of brandy production not only from
Charente but also down to south-west coast of France—major
shipping port for French brand yinto the Mediterranean.
• Funny: the Dutch were CALVINISTS! One of the most rigoroius
Churches when it comes to alcohol consumption. Paradox that a
Calvinist state became major motor for the spread of distilled
spirits in Europe.
• Distillation now is much more elaborate from what it used to be
o Engraving from 16 century: distillery.
Busy place, equipment involved
You can see why later, distilled alcohol was shownt ob e something
industrial. If you went to winery, you’d see that it looks agricultural (vines
out in the sun, people treading on the grapes, seems more primitive and
less commercial/industrial)—this looks more like a factory.
Anyway, it’s fairly rudimentary. Basic wine being brurne,d fire going, tubes
that pull out the condensed vapour into little containers.
o There are different techniques of distilling that could give different results
Grappa distillery (Northern Italy)—owner had developed new way of
distilling. New tank/pipe/whatever. Nothing particularly notable about it,
but he swore that it gave higher level of grappa than anything else in the
• Made from the leftover skins and pulp from wine-making
• They moisten it (there are enough leftover sugars), ferment it and
produce alcohol with it
• Anyway, Dutch involved with new kinds of alcohol
• Distilled alcohols began to produce in themselves a new range of drinks: LIQUEURS
o Liqueurs: alcohol that has herbs or other flavourings added to it
o Jagermeister is a liqueur.
o A whole lot came out in 1600s/1700s from monasteries:
Benedictine (from Benedictine monks)—with herbs and flavourings
Chartreuse (from Carthusian monks) **monasteries/religious orders got into business of making new alcohols
By 1600s, we have a whole sweep of alcohols that we have now. There
are even cocktails, mixing various alcohols with juices.
• Rum became mixed with lime juice for purpsoes of long-distance
travelling/sailors—lime juice prevents against scurvy (ascorbic
acid). You have lime juice, rum, sugar, water. Prevents also
against dehydration. The rum added flavor but also a preservative.
• That was a kind of cocktail.
• Back to the consumption of these new alcohols: problem was controlling consumption
o Brandy had to be available for medicinal purposes, but difficult to prescribe the
amount of alcohol that should be consumed
o Prescribed for specific ailments but also for general consumption (as a general
tonic)—like wine, thought to be good for digestion. Brand yhad that kind of
function as a general tonic, something that could be consumed in small quantities
daily in order to maintain physical/emotional wellbeing.
o But with general tonic, you place medication in the hands of the patients—the
patient decides how much he/she should drink. Moderate consumption hard to
o Brandy has same issue as the other alcoholic beverages, but easier to
overconsume because it has higher alcohol level.
o Began to slip from medical profession in 1500s. Initially, limited to monasteries
and apothecaries, but began to slip out of their hand sin 1500s. The guilds got
their hands on it in 1530s (had distilling privleges), the line between monasteries
and distilling broke after the Reformation.
o Interesting that the Reformation took place in distilling regions (Scandinavia,
Scotland, England, Netherlands, northern Germany, Switzerland, Russia,
o Monks continued to be distillers but they became secular commercial distillers
after the Reformation.
o Consumptionof spirits begant o increase in 1500s (presumably). More and more
expressions of concerna bout excessive drinking.
o We don’t know whether that means that volume of consumption has gone up or
whether there were one or two worrying instances, or shift in moral climate. Hard
o John Calvin (Switzerland) introduced laws against toasting, getting alcohol on
credit, etc. o Other kinds of regulations
o These affected all kinds of alchol, but spirits were considered more dangerous to
health and social order (higher level of alcohol)
o The term “alcohol” was only just beginning to be used in this time. Although
spiritsw ere considered to be alcoholic, beer and wine were not considered to be
alcoholic. Thoguht to have similar effects, but not for the same reason.
o Throughout Europe, authorities tried to restrict production, sale, and consumption
o 1472: Augsburg (northern Germany) began to enact laws to control the sale and
consumption of brandy. Began to tax brandy production. It and other cities in
Germany begant o ban the sale of breandy on Sundays and during church
o Nuremberg followed—couldn’t be sold on Sundays, only from marketplace. In
Augsburg, it could be sold by grocers/craftsmen at their shops or form the homes
of the distillers.
o But there was restriction on distilled psirits that didn’t apply to wine/beer. People
not allowed to sit and drink brand yin public. They had to stand (less comfortable,
wouldn’t stay as long, would drink less…could only consume one penny’s worth)
or go home.
o Some limited brandy sales to workday mornings because some lked it to start
their days. Unlike wine/beer, which could be sold any time of day or evening.
o **Brandy had peculiar status in the eyes of authorities.
o Constant reminders that brandy was not simply ofr drinking for pleasure.
o Wine/beer sold in volume, hydrated you, safe way of consuming water. But
brandy consumed in small quantities—was not going to hydrate you.
o Distillers and brandy retialers in cities: said they had unfair competition form beer
and wine. Also argued they faced competition from countryside—illicit producers
(of moonshine) who escaped taxation and regulation.
o There was price revolution in the 1500s—inflation of prices. One penny bought
less and less brandy. IN Augsburg, city raised limit to 2 pennies, later 4 penies in
1614. Later allowed people to sit while drinking brandy, but didn’t allow people to
eat food. 1614, the law in Augsburg highlights special status of brandy: “not to be
taken immoderately, only for health and medicinal purposes”
o Losing battle for authorities in Germany in attempts ot stop excessive alcohol
o Distilling industry: one of the first beneficiaries of printing press. Books on
distilling were very popular, publishe din many languages. 1525: French, Dutch, Italian, etc. Distributed throughout Europe, particularly nortern Europe. Began to
produce more and more of this alcohol for the market.
• By 17 century, spirits were entrenched in European drinking cultures.
o By mid-1600s, the policies and regulations on manufacture and sales of spirits
had been normalized. In about 150 years, authorities had gotten over their fear of
spirits—they had been normalized.
o The concerns about spirits became much more similar to those governing wine
o But they were concerned about impurities in distilling, also many distillers tended
to add ingredients considered to be dangerous.
o Made al