The city of Limerick found itself indirectly entangled in the recent debate surrounding the authenticity and quality of “Scotch whisky” during a session of the House of Commons. As an Irish member raised questions and expressed concerns about the spirit consumed by the British public, the focus turned towards the whiskey trade, igniting a discourse that extended beyond the borders of Scotland. While the concerns did not directly pertain to Limerick’s own whiskey production, the city’s reputation as a hub of Irish culture and its rich history in the distilling industry lend it an indirect connection to the ongoing discussion. The debate unfolded with passionate exchanges and spirited assertions, highlighting the complexity of the issues surrounding alcohol consumption and trade.
In a recent session of the House of Commons, an Irish member raised concerns regarding the purity of the spirit consumed by the British public. However, it should be noted that the focus of the inquiry was not on the whiskey produced in the Emerald Isle but rather on the product sold as “Scotch” whisky. This distinction raises suspicions about the motivations behind the member’s inquiry, as it appears to be driven by interests that may not be entirely disinterested.
The Irish gentleman’s questioning took a more alarming turn as he provided information about the origin of a specific type of spirit sold in certain establishments. This additional information raised further doubts about the true intentions behind his concerns. Mr J. McVeigh, the new Nationalist member for South Down, assumed the role of a censor of the renowned stimulant celebrated by Burns as the drink of honest men.
While it remains uncertain whether whiskey-consuming Englishmen have become more honest in recent years, it is undeniable that the demand for “Scotch” whisky has risen, corresponding to a decrease in the consumption of Irish whiskey. Mr McVeigh expressed his protest in a decisive manner, exhibiting unwavering confidence in his assertions.
Specifically, he requested the Chancellor of the Exchequer to instruct excise officials to prevent the use of inferior and harmful substances, such as beet molasses, decayed maize, and refinery waste, in the production of patent still spirit for consumption. He also questioned whether the Chancellor was aware that the spirit used in English distilleries was predominantly sold as “Scotch” whisky in tied houses owned by brewers. Furthermore, he inquired about the cost of “Scotch” whisky sold in these tied houses, emphasizing the importance of the issue.
In response, the Chancellor of the Exchequer clarified that the Board of Inland Revenue lacked the authority to intervene in the choice of materials used by distillers. However, he firmly rejected the belief that distillers employed substances detrimental to health. Moreover, he expressed satisfaction that the allegations made by the honorable member regarding tied houses owned by brewers were unfounded and unjustifiably reflected negatively on an industry that, with few exceptions, conducted itself honorably and honestly.
The reference made by Mr Joyce, another Nationalist member from Limerick, to the “ninepence gallon” article, which appeared to be well known to Mr McVeigh, was described as “warranted to kill at forty rods.” This statement carries a humorous tone, likely intertwined with trade rivalry, and can be characterized as a manifestation of “national blend” rhetoric in the given circumstances.
Manchester Courier – Tuesday 14 July 1903