CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 17 Made in America: Part II - Page 118

W W W. C R A F T BY U M H . C O M tion ended with a thunderclap at 5:32 pm, eastern standard time, on December 5th, 1933; and the federal government instituted the first ever farm subsidy with the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 in an effort to lessen the effects of the Great Depression on farmers. It was already noted that the stock of well- aged American whiskey was very low when prohibition ended. Congress could have acknowledged that The Noble Experiment was a failure and declared a distillation holiday in advance of repeal in order to allow American distilleries to replenish their stock, however, they chose not to do so. As a result, Ameri- can distillers were put at a massive competitive disadvantage to imported aged spirits. In late 1933, there were advertisements for bourbon that contained as little as 17-percent aged whiskey and the rest was unaged spirit. Boatloads of well-aged Scotch were waiting offshore in the northeast, truckloads of aged Canadian Whiskey were waiting to cross the border from Canada and ships full of mature rum were waiting in the Caribbean. The astute American distill- er quickly realized that when getting back into the business, they would not be able to compete on quality, and they would have to resort to competing on price. The bourbon distilleries in Kentucky were better situated to build large facilities to garner economy of scale. There was plenty of land and a very well-developed rail system (many of the bourbon distilleries moved to rail-side locations in the 1840’s). Conversely, most of the rye distilleries in the east were on small farm plots with poor infrastructure and were not well funded. Additionally, the first farm subsidy bill supported corn but not rye. Rye was not added to the subsidy list for several years. As a result, it was cheaper to make bourbon than it was to make rye. Sadly, almost none of the Monongahela rye distilleries were able to come back when prohibition ended. It is more difficult to process high per- cent rye than high corn, so the decision to focus heavily on bourbon was easy to make. From the end of Prohibition until 2006, rye whiskey was in steady decline. With few exceptions, the independent rye whiskey brands either died off complete- ly or were bought up by the larger bourbon distilleries. The bourbon distiller- ies would switch to rye whiskey distilling for one or two days per year as they continued to meet the ever-declining demand. No marketing money was being spent in support of the rye whiskey brands, and it appeared that they were col- lectively headed toward a long downward spiral until they died off completely. When someone was asked, “Who drinks rye whiskey?” The answer was either, “Nobody I know,” or “Maybe my Grandfather.” By 2006, there were only about 150,000 total 9-liter cases of rye whiskey sold in the United States, compared with 14.7 million cases of bourbon. In 2001, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers’ Association (WSWA), and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association partnered to begin a campaign to publicize the fact that George