From The Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 1, Number 24, December 8, 1832.
To some of our readers at least, we believe "Whiskey" will be an article to which they will make no objection. We have already supplied them with a taste in some of our former numbers, and we now present them with another which we believe will not be found inferior in quality, and which has been distilled by a genuine Irishman--Mr Donovan the Chemist. In less ambiguous language--it is extracted from his admirable and useful book "Domestic Economy," which constitutes the 3d. volume of Dr. Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia.
At what period the art of distillation was introduced into Britain is not certainly known: it is commonly believed to have taken place during the reign of Henry II. It would appear that in Ireland the practice of obtaining a spirit from malt was better understood, even at the earliest period of the invention, than elsewhere. In the Irish language the spirit was called Uisge-beatha or Usquebah. Moryson, who was secretary to Lord Mountjoy, during the rebellion in Ireland of the Earl of Tyrone, wrote a history of Ireland, including the period between 1599 and 1603, which in many respects is one of the grossest libels that ever defiled the page of history; in this he nevertheless gives the following account.--"At Dublin, and in some other cities (of Ireland,) they have taverns, wherein Spanish and French wines are sold; but more commonly the merchants sell them by pints, and quarts in their own cellars. The Irish aqua vitae, vulgarly called usquebagh, is held the best in the world of that kind, which is made also in England, but nothing so good as that which is brought out of Ireland. And the usquebagh is preferred before our aqua vitae, because the mingling of raisins, fennel-seed, and other things, mitigating the heat, and making the taste pleasant, makes it less inflame, and yet refresh the weak stomach with moderate heat and good relish. These drinks the English-Irish drink largely, and in many families (especially at feasts) both men and women use excess therein:"--"neither have they any beer made of malt and hops, nor yet any ale; no, not the chief lords, except it be very rarely."--"But when they come to any market town to sell a car or horse, they never return home until they have drunk the price in Spanish wine (which they call the King of Spain's daughter,) or in Irish Usquebagh, and until they have outslept two or three days' drunkenness." The latter passages prove how little this writer was disposed to praise any thing Irish, had praise been undeserved.
Sir James Ware supposes that ardent spirit was distilled in Ireland earlier than in England. He says, "the English aqua vitae, it is thought is the invention of more modern times.
Yet we find the virtues of usquebagh and a receipt for making it, both simple and compound, in the red book of Ossory, compiled nearly two hundred years ago; and another receipt for making a liquor, then called nectar, made of a mixture of honey and wine, to which are added ginger, pepper, cinnamon, and other ingredients." Dr. Ledwich observes, that the early French poets speak of this nectar with rapture, as being most delicious. The Irish distilled spirits from malt in 1590, and imitated foreign liqueurs, by adding aromatic seeds and spices, as was practised in France, so early, according to le Grand, in 1313. The Irish bulcaan, Rutty tells us, was made from black oats. Buille, madness, and ceann, the head, intimate the effects of this fiery spirit.
Having now sketched an account of the introduction and use of intoxicating liquors, as far as the few annals preserved have furnished materials for it, as a proper sequel we may notice the consequences of indulgence in these insidious poisons. Fortunate, indeed, were it for mankind, if the history could truly terminate with an account of their introduction, and if there were nothing to be added to complete the subject. But a dismal picture remains to be exhibited of the effects of excessive indulgence. It is the more to be lamented that the power which these stimuli possess over the intellectual economy should be turned to such bad account, when, under proper restrictions, they might have been made conducive to real benefits. From them, rightly administered, the afflicted in mind or body might receive comfort, the desponding might be inspired with hope, and the melancholy elevated into joy. But the limits of moderation are easily surpassed. He who experiences these advantages does not always rest satisfied with their reasonable enjoyment: the cup of bliss continues to be quaffed, but the infused poison throws round him its magic spell. Innocent hilarity gives place to mischievous mirth: good humour and benevolence are converted into causeless quarrel and vindictive rage: the faculties of the man are only recognisable by their perversion: and fortunate for him is it if the progress of crime is arrested by the deathlike profundity of apoplectic sleep. How unenviable are his awaking moments!--memory confused with obscure recollections of insult received and outrage committed; the body exhausted and oppressed: and the mind harassed with the terrors of a remorse-stricken conscience. Amidst the repetition of those practices, the springs of health are dried up; an appalling train of diseases derange the functions of the body; the withered frame wastes down into sepulchral tenuity; the grave closes on the victim, and he is remembered only with the contemptuous pity of mankind.