How the Federalist No. 12 Essay Spawned a Rebellion and a Whiskey

Federalist 12

In the 1780’s the United States was a young country, just years removed from independence from England. The Articles of Confederation were doing little to keep the dream envisioned by the revolutionaries moving forward and a new Constitution was being proposed. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay were writing a collection of 85 articles and essays in support of this new Constitution. These would be compiled into a collection known as The Federalist Papers.

These essays discussed everything from preventing rule by majority faction to laying the foundation for judicial review to proposing a one-man chief executive. While all these essays were integral in creating the United States we have today, it’s the 12th essay that’s of the most interest to those that enjoy a fine whiskey on a cold winter’s night.

“Federalist No. 12” set out to propose a way to raise revenue to fund the new republic. Hamilton argued that the new unified country would lead to greater wealth for the individual states. He described how one unified currency would encourage industry and benefit all Americans. Finally, he suggested that the federal government should levy taxes and collect revenue, in particular on alcohol. He wrote that a tax on alcohol “should tend to diminish the consumption of it”, and that “such an effect would be equally favorable to the agriculture, to the economy, to the morals, and to the health of the society.” We think that if Hamilton had a chance to try our whiskey, he’d change his mind.

Hamilton’s points were used as the basis for the first tax imposed on a domestic product by the new federal government. The so-called “whiskey tax” was passed in 1791 and almost immediately led to outrage. In particular, farmers in the western regions of the country, long accustomed to distilling surplus grain into whiskey, were among the most upset by the new tax. The importance of whiskey in early America should not be discounted. For many it served as a legitimate medium of exchange, often traded for products in lieu of money.

All this resentment came to a head in the summer of 1794, when 500 armed men attacked the home of tax inspector General John Neville. President Washington raised an army of 13,000 militiamen to suppress what would later become known as the Whiskey Rebellion, but prior to the army’s arrival, the armed men had departed and further confrontation was avoided. Still, tax collectors found it nearly impossible to continue collecting taxes and many were tarred, whipped and feathered when they tried. In 1801 the “whiskey tax” was repealed when Thomas Jefferson and the Republican Party came to power.

Two centuries later this essay and the rebellion it incited would inspire a new whiskey. Crafted as a way to celebrate Presidents Day every February, our Federalist 12 Whiskey is based on George Washington’s original rye recipe. Corn makes up a large percentage of the mash bill, tamping down the spiciness of the rye and resulting in a smooth, easy-drinking rye whiskey.

The name, of course, comes from Hamilton’s essay. The tarring, whipping and feathering of tax collectors that resulted from Hamilton’s proposals ties in nicely with the distillery’s own heritage. The building that houses the distillery once produced corsets using turkey bones and buggy whips, two thirds of the tax collectors’ nightmare trifecta.

Only a few mashes of Federalist 12 Whiskey are distilled each year, making this limited edition whiskey one of our most sought-after products. Previously a distillery-only release, we were able to make a bit more this year which has allowed us to send a very limited amount into distribution for the first time. If you’re lucky enough to snag a bottle, pour yourself a few fingers and a take a moment to read through “The Federalist No. 12” and enjoy the journey from revolutionary essay to revolutionary whiskey.

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One Comment

  1. Simon
    Posted November 5, 2017 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    I was trying to find out the difference/name change for the Federalist 12 to Not a King. Even on your site it shows the Federalist 12 label, as it did on the webstore I ordered from, however on your site the link goes no where and while the Not a King isn\’t listed under spirits you can find it by searching and says it replaces the old Fed 12. Under the Fed 12 info (if searched) mentions being high corn, though the Not a King is labeled as a rye. I am not familiar with Journeyman, came across it from a friend\’s referral who knows good whiskey, and now trying to track down and understand what\’s going on and if I can get the Federalist 12?? Thanks for the help!

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