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Monday, May 29, 2023

For Medicinal Purposes Only

Alcohol is a tricky subject to write about.  There’s always that elephant in the room, alcohol’s dark past and soon-to-be dark future.  To say alcohol has caused more harm than good is irrefutable.  If you’ll indulge me, let’s take a quick look at the life of an average American female in the 19th century.  She couldn’t own property or vote.  Career prospects were limited and paid next to nothing.  Her life most likely revolved around cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her often many children.  Now let’s add alcohol into the mix.  A husband spending too much time and money at the saloon, coming home in a drunken stupor, and acting less-than-reputably.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why temperance groups grew in popularity over the course of the century.  The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16th, 1919.  In exactly one year’s time, the production, movement, and sale of intoxicating liquors would no longer be legal.

The Volstead Act (Prohibition) was filled with exemptions.  For starters, all liquor purchased before January 16, 1920 could legally be consumed.  The Yale Club in New York stockpiled enough liquor to last them a mind-boggling 14 years.  It’s important to remember, drinking was legal during Prohibition, you just couldn’t buy, sell, transport, or make what you drank.  When it came to whiskey, it had to be prescribed, and used for medicinal purposes only.  I own a Prohibition-era liquor prescription stub.  It was issued on December 31st, 1932.  Poor guy.  New Year’s Eve colds are the worst!  Medicinal whiskies had to be dispensed in government-approved, pint-sized bottles.  “Sick” individuals were allowed one pint every 10 days.  6 American companies were given the green light to sell medicinal whiskey.  The rest, numbering in the hundreds, were left with few options.  They could sell their stock to one of the 6 (assuming they wanted it), have one of the 6 sell their stuff (for a fee of course), or sit tight and hope for repeal (Prohibition lasted 13 years).  The vast majority went out of business.

Scotch did surprisingly well during Prohibition.  Overall numbers went down, but only slightly.  How’s that possible you may ask?  Well, the industry sent an avalanche of whisky to pretty much every country surrounding the US, and let their “agents” take care of the rest.  In the Bahamas, scotch imports rose by 40,000 percent.  Some of you may be familiar with the term “the real McCoy.”  Bill McCoy was a highly respected purveyor or “agent” of illicit spirits.  Scotch whisky outfits (like Berry Bros.) liked McCoy because they knew their product (Cutty Sark) wouldn’t be altered before reaching its final destination.  Ships filled with scotch (and other intoxicants) would park just outside US territorial waters.  Like a farmers’ market, bootleggers would go from ship to ship comparing prices.  Getting back to shore was easier than you might think.  Most of the boats were equipped with airplane engines left over from World War One.  The Coast Guard didn’t stand a chance.  Laphroaig didn’t have to resort to bootlegging.  Their product was deemed “medicinal” due to its heavy iodine (coastal) character.  Many were shocked to hear people actually drank Laphroaig for non-medicinal reasons.

Laphroaig Lore is a NAS or non-age statement whisky.  If you want to go the age statement route in Scotland, you must put the age of the youngest whisky used on the label.  Lore is a blend of malts that range in age from 7 to 21.  Making Lore an age statement product would’ve been a “less-than-smart” idea.  There’s no way John Q. Newtowhiskey is going to buy a $200 7-year-old Lore when there’s an $85 Laphroaig 10 right beside it.  A long time ago, people would watch shows on very large smartphones.  They called these devices televisions or TVs for short.  Programming on these “televisions” was scheduled and not on-demand.  Occasionally, a movie would be shown that wasn’t suitable for all ages.  It’d be edited so young eyes and ears wouldn’t be exposed to material that’d drive them into a life of crime.  Lore is an edited for TV version of Laphroaig.  Allow me to elaborate.  Before the Lore, there was the 18.  I loved the 18.  It was edgy yet elegant.  Nice mouthfeel, beautifully balanced, non-chill filtered, 48%.  The Lore, on the other hand, is safe, rounded, and drinks as though it was made not to offend.  It’s good, but I wish they would’ve kept the naughty parts.

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...