The Whiskey Rebellion and the Rebirth of Rye

American whiskey can be traced back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Whiskey Rebellion and the Rebirth of Rye chronicles the story of rye whiskey’s revolutionary inception, the emergence of craft distilling and its origin in the Rust Belt town of Pittsburgh. In this fascinating tale replete with history and culture, the spirit of craft whiskey has been served straight up by authors Mark Meyer and Meredith Meyer Grelli.

Putting words to their passion

The duo Mark Meyer and Meredith Meyer Grelli, co-founders of Wigle Whiskey, a family owned and operated craft distillery based in Pittsburgh’s Strip district know their craft and are adept at telling their tale too. The brand named after an early Pennsylvania distiller, Phillip Wigle, has won numerous accolades since 2012, including several Best in Category awards from the American Craft Spirits Association. When it comes to rye whiskey, the journey is as interesting as the story. The book throws up catchy illustrations on how to make rye whiskey, as well as recipes for cocktails such as “Whiskey Sour” or “War of Conquests.”

The backdrop

Pittsburgh has a distinct old world charm that is hard to miss even to this day. Rail lines, old factories, and other evidence of bygone era dominate the landscape. However it is one of the prosperous cities, which have managed to withstand the economic crash. The natural gas and medical industries generate employment.  Google, Uber, and other world-class companies are headquartered here. The city is a self-driving-car test ground, a farm-to-fork giant, a craft beer haven, and a foodie paradise, all encompassed together. This dichotomy exists, sometimes cordially, sometimes not and that’s what gives this place its unique character and flavour.

A fascinating read

“The Whiskey Rebellion and the Rebirth of Rye” takes readers on a guided tour of the spirit’s growth story. The authors trace the conception of rye whiskey in Western Pennsylvania, the role of Gilded Age robber barons in developing the rye industry and the evolution of craft distilling in the twenty-first century.

Wigle Whiskey was created as a family enterprise in 2011. Wigle took recourse to Pittsburgh’s deep distilling roots (the city being the rye whiskey capital of the country, before rye was taken over by Kentucky bourbon) while embodying the city’s future (the craft spirits revolution is quite similar to the craft beer revolution a few decades ago). The name also traces Pittsburgh’s origin, named after an actor in the Whiskey Rebellion, where local distillers protested violently on a federal tax placed on whiskey stills.

The book is a love story about the city of Pittsburgh and the craft of making spirits.  It begins with a brief overview of The Whiskey Rebellion, then gradually transcends into the history of the Overholt family (Old Overholt Whiskey being one of the oldest whiskeys continuously distilled in the United States). It then gives us an insight into the present state of craft brewing, the highs and lows that make distilling both difficult and rewarding. The book ends with a number of drink recipes for the dedicated liquor connoisseur.

Special mention needs to be made about Meredith Meyer whose enthusiastic love about her work and her home city shines throughout. She is a dedicated speaker at the distillery tours and the same level of commitment is carried to the written word. If you are interested in a quick, readable history of the Pittsburgh region and craft distilling, you should find this book interesting and informative without getting overboard with details. The rich history of this city deserves to be celebrated in a lucid read like this. It’s definitely a collector’s item.