Whiskey tastings are in; wine tastings so yesterday

on 18/03/12 at 5:05 pm

Booze News

You’ve probably heard of wine tastings. Now, whiskey tastings are legal in Pennsylvania too.

A new state law allows small distilleries to give samples to visitors and sell bottles of their spirits directly to the public.

That’s big news for Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh, which opened to the public in early March. The distillery is named after Philip Wigle, who burned down the home of a federal tax collector in the 1790s and helped lead the Whiskey Rebellion, a major test of George Washington’s presidency.

The rebels objected to one of the first federal taxes — on distilled spirits. Revenue from the taxes was meant to provide the poor and weak national government with funds to pay off debts from the Revolutionary War.

“This guy, Philip Wigle, was almost hung here 200 years ago because he wanted to make a little whiskey,” said Eric Meyer, one of an extended clan that’s trying to bring back what was once a flourishing Pennsylvania tradition. Wigle is one of just five active distilleries in the state, according to federal data and Meyer.

“We were Kentucky before Kentucky,” said Meyer, 31, who notes that the famed Jim Beam family was originally from Pennsylvania. After Washington raised an army to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, part of the peacemaking process was Kentucky’s offer of 60 acres of free land for any family willing to move west, and grow corn. Meyer said many small distillers took the offer, and started brewing with the new crop.

Washington eventually gave an official pardon to Wigle, who had been charged with treason.

Mary Ellen Meyer said the idea for a distillery came after the family visited a winery in Canada.

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