Whiskey (Gaelic Uisgue Water, Whence Usquebaugh, Water Of Life), a spirituous liquor distilled from grain, potatoes, or roots (as turnips or beets). Scotch and Irish whiskey is made from malt, and it is sometimes made from the same material in the United States, though more often from rye, corn, wheat, and potatoes. It is also made from oats, rice, and buckwheat. Whiskey is almost entirely produced in the countries above named. Its manufacture is described in the article Distillation. Whiskey is made of various degrees of strength; when of pretty high percentage, 60 per cent, or upward, it is called highwines, or simply spirit; when purified by redistillation and of about 70 per cent, or more, it is often called Cologne spirit, and when stronger alcohol. The term whiskey is usually restricted to the first distillation, which contains more or less fusel oil, although whiskey is often made by reducing alcohol and Cologne spirit and adding flavoring extracts. Its flavor varies with the kind of grain or other material from which it is manufactured, and depends upon some of the natural principles contained in them, as well as upon products which are the result of fermentation, the principal among which is fusel oil. - In the United States and in Great Britain the tax on distilled spirits constitutes the most important source of internal revenue from manufactures.
In the former country this tax was laid as early as 1791, and led to the "whiskey rebellion" in Pennsylvania. It was afterward abolished, but was renewed during the war of 1812-15, and again during the civil war. On July 1,1862, congress fixed the rate at 20 cts. on each gallon of distilled spirits manufactured; March 7, 1864, it was changed to 60 cts.; June 30,1864, $1 50; Dec. 22,1864, $2; July 20, 1868, 50 cts.; June 6, 1872, 70 cts.; March 3, 1875, 90 cts. The act of July 20, 1868, also levied a special tax of $4 a barrel, and $2 a day for every 20 bushels of grain used, and charged the distiller with the cost of gauging. The wages of storekeepers were also required by the act of March 29, 1869, to be paid by distillers. These various taxes and charges aggregated nearly 70 cts. per gallon. The special and per diem taxes were abolished by the act of 1872, and thereafter the storekeepers' wages and gangers' fees were paid by the government. The number of gallons produced during the year ending June 30, 1875, was reported at 60,930,425; but the amount manufactured was doubtless much greater.
According to the commissioner of internal revenue, the fluctuation in the actual annual production has been comparatively small, but the amount reported has varied greatly with the change of the rate of tax. Thus in 1868, when the rate was $2 a gallon, the tax collected amounted to less than $19,000,000; while in 1869, when the rate had been reduced to 50 cts., the income increased to $45,071,230, and in the following year to $55,606,094. In 1875 it was $52,081,991. The above figures embrace all distilled spirits, whether from grain or fruit, of which whiskey constitutes much the largest part, though there is no means of determining the exact proportion. The states producing the largest amounts of spirits are Illinois, the production of which in 1875 was returned at $14,111,398; Ohio, $9,958,116; Kentucky, $7,002,786; Indiana, $3,954,340;. New York, $3,237,570; and Pennsylvania, $1,894,282. In the same year the exports of spirits distilled from grain amounted to 130,460 gallons, valued at $140,519.