Spirits, a general name given to ardent liquors, obtained by distillation.
Spirits are divided into two classes, namely, foreign, and British ; the former includes arrack, brandy, and rum: the latter comprehends gin, and the various species of mutt-spirits, known under the name of British brandy, etc. But, previously to their being consumed, or even offered for sale, they are reified, or repeatedly distilled with the addition of alkaline salts, so as to bring them to the requisite degree of proof; in which state 100 parts of pure spirit ought to consist of 55 parts of alkohol, or spirit of wine, and 45 of distilled water. As, however, such salts deprive, the liquor of its natural vinous flavour, the latter is generally mixed with dulcified spirit of nitre, till it acquire a degree of vinosity that renders it little inferior to French brandy.
Spirituous liquors have, in every nation, been justly considered as objects of taxation. Hence it is provided by the statute 5 Geo. III. C. 43, that, if they be not imported in vessels of more than 100 tons, both the spirits and ships are forfeited ; excepting, however, those spirits which are brought from the British sugar-plantations, and which, by the 6 Geo. III. c. 46, are importable in vessels of 70 tons. - Farther, no AQUA-VITAE, or brandy-wine, may be brought to England, but in British-built ships, or in such as belong to, and are navigated by, the subjects of Britain, by the. 12 Car. II. c. 18, and the 27 Geo. III. c. 73.
With respect to the various duties and penalties imposed on British spirits, it deserves notice, that all fermented wash or wort, brewed for the purpose of extracting spirituous liquors from malt, corn, or other grain, is subject to the charge of 10d. per gallon, payable to the Excise. And, if any cyder, perry, or other wash (not brewed from grain, etc.) be prepared from British materials, for obtaining spirits for home consumption, they are chargeable with the sum of 9d. per gallon.
The Excise duty of 1s. 8d. per gallon is likewise payable on all wash, made from the refuse of foreign wine or cyder, with the design of distilling spirituous liquors for home consumption. - Farther, if any British spirits, manufactured in Scotland, and which do not exceed from 1 to 10, over proof, be imported into England, they are subject to the duty of 3s. 4 1/2d. per gallon ; and, if they exceed the degree of strength above mentioned only 3 per cent, to the farther sum of 2s. per gallon. - A bounty of 3l. 12s. is allowed on every ton of British spirit that is exported.
Surprizing as it may appear to many of our readers, who are unacquainted with vegetable nature, we may positively affirm, that a sufficient quantity of wild neglected fruit annually grows in this country, to produce an adequate supply of spirituous liquor, without using any bread-corn, for such wasteful purpose. Of this description, in particular, are the berries of the Dog-rose, Quicken-tree, and numerous other native shrubs, that have been mentioned in the progress of the present work; and a recapitulation of which, will appear at the conclusion, in the General Index of Reference.
Good, pure spirits, ought to be perfectly clear, of a pleasant and strong, though not pungent odour, and of a somewhat vinous taste: when taken in small quantities, (and properly diluted), alter violent exertions, they are preferable to strong beer; but they should never be used by way of custom, after rating heavy food, such as pork, ham, goose, duck, fish, etc.; for, instead of promoting, they greatly impede, and at length totally impair, digestion. Their in-rating qualities render them highly improper during the summer, especially if they have been distilled over strong spices; being thus rendered more ardent, and pernicious to health ; so that they frequently occasion laid heads, and premature old age.p>