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SPIRITS

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Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 695 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SPIRITS.' The original meaning of the word spirit (Lat. spirilus, from spirare) was wind in motion, breath, the soul, and hence it came to denote that which gives life or vigour to the human body and other objects, and it is, therefore, synonymous with everything eminently pure, ethereal, refined or distilled. In popular chemical nomenclature the term " spirit " in its former sense is still occasionally encountered, for instance, " spirits of salts " for hydrochloric acid. The spirits of the British Pharmacopoeia (e.g. sp. aetheris nitrosi; sp. chloroformi; sp. camphorae) are solutions of various substances obtained either by distilling these with, or dissolving them in, the rectified spirit of the Pharmacopoeia, which latter is pure alcohol with 16% by weight of water. In the modern sense, spirits may be broadly defined as the pro-ducts resulting from the distillation of saccharine liquids which have undergone alcoholic fermentation. Spirits of wine means rectified spirit of a strength of 43 degrees over proof and upwards. By rectified spirit is meant spirit rectified at a licensed rectifier's premises. Proof spirit, which is the standard spirit of the United Kingdom, is legally defined (58 Geo. III. c. 28) as a spirit which at 51° F. weighs exactly twelve-thirteenths of the weight of an equal volume of distilled water. The strength of proof spirit at 6o° F.—the temperature now generally employed for official calculations—is now officially regarded as being equal to a spirit containing 57'06% by volume, or 49'24% by weight, of absolute alcohol. Spirit which possesses a greater or smaller alcoholic strength than proof is described as being so many degrees over or under proof, as the case may be. The strength is legally estimated by Sykes's hydrometer, which was legalized in 1816 by 56 Geo. III. c. 40. The degrees " over " or " under " proof as ascertained by Sykes's hydrometer are arbitrary percentages by volume of a standard spirit contained in the spirit under examination. This standard spirit is proof spirit. For example, by a spirit of strength 75.25 degrees over proof (absolute alcohol) is meant a spirit of such a strength that too volumes of the same contain an amount of spirit equal to 175•25 volumes of the standard (proof) spirit. A spirit of 25 degrees under proof is one of which too volumes contain only as much alcohol as do 75 (i.e. too— 25) volumes of proof spirit. According to Nettleton, " proof spirit " would appear to be the outcome of an attempt to pro-duce a mixture of pure alcohol and water, containing equal weights of the constituents. The term " proof " probably originated from a rough test for spirituous strength formerly employed, which consisted in moistening gunpowder with the spirit and applying a light. If the gunpowder did not ignite, but the spirit merely burned away, the spirit was regarded as being under proof, i.e. it contained so much water that the gunpowder became moist and refused to deflagrate. The basis of the standard of other countries is almost invariably the unit volume of absolute alcohol, the hydrometers; or rather " alcoholometers "—such as those of Gay-Lussac and of J. G. Trallesemployed indicating the exact quantity of alcohol in a mixture at a standard temperature, in percentages by volume. In the United States the term " proof " is also employed, American proof spirit being a spirit which contains 50% of alcohol by volume at 6o° F. American " proof " spirit is, therefore, considerably weaker than British " proof." Allowing for this difference and also for the fact that the American standard ' For the sense of disembodied persons, see SPIRITUALISM.gallon (which is really the old English wine-gallon) is equal to 0.833 of an imperial gallon, the American " proof " gallon roughly equals 0.73 of a British proof gallon. Historical.—The art of distillation, more particularly the preparation of distilled alcoholic fluids for beverage and medicinal purposes, is of very ancient origin. It is probable that the art of making spirits was well known many centuries before used in China. used in Central India. the advent of the Christian era. According to T. Fairley, the Chinese distilled liquor " sautchoo " was known long before the Christian era, and " arrack " was made in India at a date as remote as 800 B.C. Aristotle in his Meteorology (lib. ii. ch. ii.) says " Sea-water can be rendered potable by distillation: wine and other liquids can be submitted to the same process. After they have been converted into humid vapours they return to liquids. " There is, on the whole, little doubt that spirits were manufactured in Egypt, India, China, and the Far East generally, as far back as 2000 B.C. Figs. 1—4 (from More-wood's Inebriating Liquors, published in 1838) show very ancient forms of stills in use in China, India, Tibet and Tahiti. As far as can be ascertained the oldest reference to the preparation of a distilled spirituous liquor in the British Isles is contained in the " Mead Song " written by the Welsh bard, Taliesin, in the 6th century. He said " Mead distilled I praise, its eulogy is everywhere," &c. (Fairley, The Analyst, 1905, p.300). The same authority points out that the knowledge of distillation in the FIG. 4.—Ancient form of Still, used British Isles was inde- in Tahiti. pendent of the art of distillation from wine, seeing that distillation from grain was known in Ireland before the art of making wine came to Europe. An Irish legend states, that St Patrick first taught the Irish the art of distillation; but, however that may be, it is certain that at the time of the first English invasion of Ireland (117o—72) the manufacture of a spirit distilled from grain (i.e. whisky) was known to the inhabitants of that country. It is probable that grain spirit was first prepared in the Far East, inasmuch as a spirit distilled from rice and other grains was made in India before the Christian era. The establishment of regular distilleries in England appears to date back to the reign of Henry VIII., and they are said to have been founded by Irish settlers who came over at that time. It is difficult to obtain exact data used in Tibet. regarding the origin of the distilling industry in Scotland, but, as Fairley says, it is probable that distilling was carried on there almost as early as in Ireland. At the time of the Tudors Scotch whisky was held in great repute in England. The production of a spirit from wine (i.e. brandy) appears to have been known in the 9th century; but, according to Morewood, the first attempt at the distillation of wine in France is attributed to Arnaldus de Villa Nova, in the 13th century. As a manufacturing industry the distillation of brandy in France began in the 14th century. The history of the spirit industry in the United Kingdom is, as Nettleton has well pointed out, inseparably connected with questions of taxation. According to one writer, it was not until 166o that an excise duty was first imposed on the consumption of spirit (" aqua vitae ") in the United Kingdom, but it appears probable that the industry generally was taxed in one form or another in the reign of Elizabeth, when it first began to assume considerable importance. No record, however, of the quantity of spirit on which duty was charged was kept until 1684. In that year duty was paid on 527,492 gallons. At the end of the century the consumption reached 1,000,000 gallons, and in 1745 it had risen to a quantity equivalent to about 5,000,000 gallons at proof. Cromwell imposed a tax of 8d. per gallon, but this was soon lowered to 2d. In 1751 a tax equivalent to Is. per proof gallon was imposed, and in 1766 this was further increased to 2s. After this various changes and complex methods of assessing the duty were introduced (see Nettleton, The Manufacture of Spirit, Marcus Ward, 1893) until, in more modern times, a more rational and uniform system was introduced. Conditions of Manufacture.—The principal act now governing and regulating the manufacture of spirits and the working of distilleries in Great Britain is the Spirits Act of 1880. The provisions of this and of the other acts bearing on the subject are exceedingly numerous and complicated, and, therefore, only a few of the chief points can be set forth here, so that an adequate appreciation may be gained of the arduous and rigid conditions under which the spirit manufacturer is, in order to ensure the safeguarding of the revenue, constrained to carry out his operations. A distillery must not, without permission, be carried on at a greater distance than half a mile from a market town, nor may it be situated within a quarter of a mile from a rectifying establishment. A distiller must give notice of the erection of new plant or apparatus, of the time of brewing, of the removing of sugar from store or of yeast from wort or wash, of the making of " buts," of the locking of the spirit receiver supply pipe, &c. He may use any material he pleases, provided that the gravity of the wort can be ascertained by the saccharometer, but he may not brew beer nor make cider, wine nor sweet wines. When the worts are collected in the wash-back (fermenting vessel) a declaration must be made at once, specifying the original gravity and the number of dry inches remaining in the back. At the end of every distilling period a return must be delivered showing (a) the quantity of brewing materials used, (b) the quantity of wort or wash attenuated and distilled,out of store, the number and size of vessels, the locking of the latter, and the painting of the pipes carrying various liquids in certain colours. The methods of assessing the duty are three-fold, and whichever of these methods gives the highest return is the one adopted. The first is the " attenuation charge." This consists of levying the charge due on one gallon of proof spirit for every hundred gallons of worts collected and for every five degrees of attenuation observed, the latter being calculated by taking the difference between the highest specific gravity of the worts and the lowest gravity of the wash after complete fermentation. Secondly, there is the " low-wines charge," calculated upon the bulk-quantity at proof-strength of the low wines produced by the distillation of the wash; and lastly, the " feints and spirits charge." This is the method usually adopted, as it generally gives the highest results; it is assessed on the number of bulk gallons at proof of the feints and spirits produced by the final distilling operations. The duty, which was fixed at Ios. per proof gallon in 186o, remained at that rate until 1890, when an addition of 6d. was made, but a further increase to the like amount made in 1894 was remitted in the next year owing to the unsatisfactory results obtained. The rate remained at Ios. 6d. until 1900 when it was raised to I Is., a further increase being made in 1909-1910. Legally, the word " spirit " implies spirit of any description, and all liquors, mixtures and compounds made with the same. In the same way plain spirit is any British spirit which has not been artificially flavoured, and to which no ingredient has been added subsequent to distillation. The extremely severe and inelastic provisions of the acts governing the manufacture of spirit in the United Kingdom have proved to be a very serious impediment to the development of the spirit industry on modern lines, and have placed the British manufacturer at a considerable disadvantage as compared with his foreign competitors. There is little doubt that the enormous revenue derived from the spirit industry could be adequately safeguarded in a manner more consistent with the development of the industry on sound commercial and technological lines than it is at present. Production and Consumption.—The production of spirit in the United Kingdom amounted in 1907 to roughly 50,000,000 proof gallons, the consumption to a gallon per head of population. In the decade 188o-1890 the quantity of spirits distilled remained practically stationary at about 40,000,000 gallons, but during the ten years 1890-1900 there was a rapid increase, the maximum being attained in 1898, when nearly 64,000,000 gallons were produced. A point had then been reached at which the production had considerably outstripped the consumption, due in part to the desire of the spirit trade to meet the increased demand for " matured " spirits, and in part to the fact that an excessive amount of capital had, owing to the increased popularity of Scotch whisky, been attracted to the distilling industry. This over-production led to a vast increase in the quantity of spirit remaining in warehouse. In 1906 production and consumption were about equal, and the quantity of spirit in warehouse represented roughly a five years' supply. The following figures regarding production, consumption, duty, &c., need no explanation:
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