Forget everything you know about whiskey, Prohibition, and the modern liquor industry. The real story is wild ride full of little known tales, plot twists, and unexpected connections that shaped the drink we call aqua vitae - the water of life.
We're not kidding about the "crammed" part. We explore the connections between:
* Mesopotamian perfume makers & Alexandrian alchemists
* The Jewish female alchemist who invented the still
* Baptism by fire in Gnostic traditions
* Monastic infirmaries and the origin of gin
* Walla Walla onions and champagne
* The real story behind anti-Catholic stereotypes of drunken priests
* The anti-union, anti-immigrant, and anti-black agenda of the Temperance Movement
* Myths about alcohol consumption in the 1800s
* Why Prohibition caused a spike in rabbinical school enrollments and church attendance
* Why the average bootlegger was a woman -- not a mobster - who exploited cultural norms to outsell her male competitors 5 to 1!
* How Walgreens became the largest drug store chain in the United States (SPOILER: Despite their official story, it has nothing to do with milkshakes)
* That time the US government knowingly poisoned thousands of people
* How the myth that women don't drink whiskey originated after World War II
* How a Scottish woman became the Mother of Japanese Whisky
* and much more!
Really. This may be the most information-dense show we've ever done.
And Mer geeks out a lot (but that was kind of a given, right?)
Additional Links & Resources:
Janet Patton interviewed author Fred Minnick about his book Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey. Read the article "Women and Whiskey Go Together, Always Have" for some fascinating insights into the her-story of whiskey. Here's a taste:
"I truly believe that women are more important than men when it comes to the history of whiskey," Minnick told an August gathering of Bourbon Women at the Kentucky Governor's Mansion in Frankfort. "Sumerian women invented beer. Mesopotamian women invented distillation for perfume. An Egyptian woman created the alembic still and you can still find prototypes of this in Kentucky and Tennessee for moonshining."
Some images are less than appealing, such as the madams operating riverboat brothels or the Temperance crusaders who hatcheted saloons and fought for Prohibition.
But, Minnick writes, it is thanks largely to women that American whiskey survived the era.
And then check out Fred Minnick's book:
For more information on women and whiskey, read "Women Making Whiskey: An 800-year History" from The Atlantic by Lyndsey Gilpin. Here's an excerpt:
Women are credited with the invention of beer around 4,000 B.C., when they fermented barley to make the beverage. Egyptian women, Peruvian women, Dutch women—they were all brewmasters with their own particular, popular recipes. Maria Hebraea, an alchemist who was first written about in the fourth century, has been credited with building an early distilling apparatus. That device, the alembic still, is still used in some parts of Europe for making brandy or whiskey, and is a model for stills used today in the foothills of Appalachia, where people continue to make moonshine.
By the medieval era, women were distilling spirits in Western Europe, but soon they were stripped of basic rights,