The Cultural Significance Of Distilling Spirits



Since the dawn of time, alcohol has entertained, nourished, and even sustained animal life, even before we “animals” walked upright. Our experience with and manipulation of alcohol has helped to shape our physical and cultural developments in ways that we are just starting to understand and appreciate.


Looking at both ancient and modern worlds, we see that people have shown a great deal of ingenuity in being able to ferment and distill beverages. This ancient practice may have begun as far back as 200,000 years ago, when the evolution of the human race spread outward from the depths of Africa. Thousands of distinct and different cultures in Africa today are soaked with ancient recipes for sorghum and millet beers, honey mead, and wines derived from banana and palm leaves. Almost every aspect of life---celebrations, births, deaths, rituals---they all call for a marking of the occasion using some sort of fermented beverage.


Grape wines became customary in Western cultures, while fermented rice and grain beverages the preferred liquid in China and Eastern culture. Cacao-infused beverages have even been discovered in use by indigenous peoples in the pre-Columbian Americas. Regardless of how it began, we remain eternally grateful for the ingenuity shown by our ancient brothers and sisters, who were pioneers in fermentation and distillation practices.


A double-edged sword

With every alcoholic beverage that is conceptualized and “discovered,” there is a dangerous element to its use. Wine in biblical times was reported to gladden hearts and cause wars. Emperors of the Sheng Dynasty in China were said to have “gone crazy with drink,” causing many to commit horrendous acts of destruction and devastation. Prohibition movements have arisen far and wide in an attempt to control and regulate and temper its use so as not to wreak havoc on societies.


The allure of alcoholic beverages

With all of this polarization taking place around alcohol and its use, just what is the allure? The substance is not unique to our planet---chemical compounds akin to ethanol can be found throughout the Milky Way in cloud formations. Animals have long sustained their young with fermented liquid and food. Some of the earliest primates on the planet were thought to have nourished themselves solely on fermented palm nectar. When given the opportunity, most life gravitates toward opportunities to consumed fermented food and drink, for better or for worse. You might say that this craving for celebratory nourishment is in our genes!


The role of fermentation in food preservation

Given its lengthy history in both the human and animal kingdoms, fermentation and the introduction of yeast might have become a standard way to increase the shelf life of food and drink. We likely continued to gravitate toward this process, tweaking and refining as needed, because of the pleasurable aspects and effects that its consumption had on us. Alcohol became a medium of exchange, a form of payment, and a way to ease the physical, mental, and emotional difficulties that life threw at us.


Palmetto Distillery: Quality through continued evolution

As the role of fermented food and drink continued to evolve and the process of distillation was developed, it became clear that alcohol was more than just something to be consumed. Finding uses of sterilization, purification, and other applications helped cement its place in our society, both as something to be enjoyed and to be used for our benefit.


While its place in society has, and probably always will, be a subject of hot debate, one cannot argue that its role in our culture and development is significant. At Palmetto Distillery, we carry on the proud traditions of our ancestors, bringing in centuries-old recipes and time-tested distillation methods, to bring you the highest quality spirits that money can buy. We continue to evolve and grow so that we can bring you a truly superior whiskey and moonshine experience. Come and see what all the “buzz” is about---contact us for a tour, a tasting, and to order products today. Visit https://www.palmettodistillery.com for more information.