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     THE NEW AMERICAN REVOLUTION white logo
BY CHRIS POH

Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 as seen in American Public House Review
FAMOUS WHISKEY INSURRECTION IN PENNSYLVANIA AN ILLUSTRATION BY R.M. DEVENS 1882

In many ways the story of America has been defined by the history of distilled spirits. While the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 in western Pennsylvania was more a matter of bluster than bloodshed, it did bring about the largest call to arms since the end of hostilities with Great Britain—and it certainly helped to hasten the development of a nation defined by two political parties at odds over how best to govern.

In 1791 Alexander Hamilton, the founder of the Federalist Party, proposed an excise tax on all domestically produced whiskey as a means to pay off the bond holders of the nation’s debt. In response to Congress making the tax law, Thomas Jefferson, a strong advocate for state’s rights, who strongly opposed the federal imposition resigned his post as Secretary of State, and went off to help form the Democratic-Republican Party.

The election of 1800 would bring the man from Monticello back to Washington and an end to this unpopular tax. Once again the distillers on the Appalachian frontier could conduct their noble trade unfettered by Federal authority. And in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania that trade would prosper. For the next 120 years the masters of the craft like Asher Guckenheimer, Jonathan Large and Abraham Overholt would produce whiskey that would rival what was being made by their counterparts below the Mason-Dixon Line. But in 1920 it would all come to an end via the activities of the Anti-Saloon League’s Wayne Bidwell Wheeler—the man who conceived and drafted the legislation that would ultimately become the Volstead Act and the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.


Rudolph Bohenek's painting of Gentleman with an Old Overholt Bottle as seen in American Public House Review


Guckenheimer Rye advertisement as seen in American Piublic House Review


Today scattered throughout Pennsylvania are the stark reminders of America’s industrial past. The ruins of mortar, stone and steel speak of a nation that has not always lived up to the dreams and aspirations of its founders. And as the country grapples with our current economic hardships and political unrest, there are those that call for a new revolution against the perceived agents of tyranny. These voices condemn our government while venerating the virtues of the Founding Fathers. Their impassioned speech mirrors the words of those firebrands that took up arms on the western frontier in 1794. But those revolutionaries were rising up against some of the very names that today we hold so dear. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Adams and even George Washington became the villains in the insurrection that pitted the forces of big business and government against the interests of the common man.  

One can take a certain degree of comfort in knowing that the rhetoric of the Republic has been fairly consistent since the beginning; but on the other hand, a bit of honest revolution now and then is good for the soul of the nation—and that revolution is now taking place in America’s craft distilling industry. And once again the citizens of the Commonwealth are answering the call. The new Founding Fathers, as they affectionately refer to each other, are operating Pennsylvania’s first licensed craft distillery since the end of prohibition. Robert Cassell, Andrew Auwerda and Timothy Yarnall teamed up to establish Philadelphia Distilling in 2005.

Following in the footsteps of the original Founders, they bested the Brits at their own game. In 2007 their flagship product, Bluecoat American Dry Gin took top honors at the international tasting in London. Bluecoat again captured the gold in 2009 and 2010 at a similar competition in San Francisco. In 2008 the distillery released Vieux Carre their highly acclaimed absinthe after the ban on production of that storied elixir was lifted in the United States. At present their product line is rounded out by the Penn 1681 Rye Vodka, which is made exclusively from organically grown local grain.


Andrew Auwerda, Tinothy Yarnall, Robert Cassell of Philadelphia Distilling as seen in American Public House Review
THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF PHILADELPHIA DISTILLING
ANDREW AUWERDA - PRESIDENT (center)
TIMOTHY YARNALL - VICE PRESIDENT (left)
ROBERT CASSELL - MASTER DISTILLER (right)


During my recent visit to their facility in northeast Philadelphia, Robert Cassell, a gentleman with a rather impressive pedigree when it comes to the art of distillation, did his best to explain the science and sorcery of his craft. Unfortunately many of those particulars were beyond my understanding of the process. But anyway, it wasn’t my thirst for knowledge that had brought me here—it was my thirst for gin. And while I do not possess the ability to expound about those finer points as to what should or should not be considered as proper and pleasurable to the palate—let me just say that Bluecoat is the best damn gin I’ve ever had!

The story of Philadelphia Distilling though is not just about superior product; the liquor industry is teeming with such tales. The greater story is about three human beings bound by a common cause, a deep understanding of our nation’s history, and a commitment to honor that history through their labors. This is the true face of the next revolution—a revolution that will ensure the resurgence and rebirth of the American Dream.   



   Photograph by Chris Poh        
The copper still at Bluecoat Gin in Philadelphia, PA as seen in American Public House Review
COPPER STILL AT PHILADELPHIA DISTILLING.


  Photograph by Chris Poh      
Bluecoat Gin from Philadelphia Distilling as seen in American Public House Review
BLUECOAT GIN



Vieux Carre Absinthe from Philadelphia Distilling as seen in American Public House Review
VIEUX CARRE ABSINTHE



Photograph by Chris Poh    
Penn 1681 Rye Vodka from Philadelphia Distilling as seen in American Public House Review
PENN 1681 RYE VODKA












PHILADELPHIA DISTILLING


12285 McNULTY ROAD #105

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

215-671-0346


www.philadelphiadistilling.com










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