Lewis & Clark Expedition: 120 Gallons of Whiskey

Do you know what happened on May 21, 1804? Probably not. And that’s okay, because most Americans are not familiar with the fact that it was the day that Lewis and Clark set out for their famous world-defying expedition.

Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark set out with a select few army officers and traveled on their high risk journey for 2 years, discovering much of what is now modern America.canteen-29121_1280 (1)

As a fan of U.S. history and knowledgeable in the realm of alcoholic beverages, I could only think of one thing: the obvious need for a flask on the perilous journey that Lewis and Clark embarked on.

Imagine having to traverse an unknown continent, encountering rocky terrain, long rivers, and Indian tribes. A suitable hip flask is the perfect complement for any journey such as this. Because the journey was so long and perilous, I gather that the flasks they used back then were either made of leather, or may have been in the shape of a canteen.

The real question is, what alcoholic beverages did Lewis and Clark take on their journey? Legend holds that they carried 120 gallons of whiskey on their expedition. If I had to hazard a guess, which I will, I would say 3 of the following:

  • Bourbon Whiskey: One of the most popular American whiskeys, barred aged distilled spirit made mostly from corn. Bourbon has been distilled since the 1700s, and became known as Bourbon in the early 1800’s. This whiskey became associated with Kentucky, and carries a reddish shade and is considered to more full bodied than other spirits. Lewis and Clark may have also used Bourbon for cooking and medicinal purposes.
  • Tennessee Whiskey: Made only in Tennessee, and known to bejack-daniels-551052_1280 distinctly anti-Bourbon. It is the only Whiskey that is put through a charcoal process. This whiskey likely served Lewis and Clark well as a sipping whiskey, and perhaps as a suitable gift to break bread with Indians they encountered in the form of a gift.
  • Rye Whiskey was big in the late 1700’s in states such as Pennsylvania and Maryland. American rye whiskey must be distilled from at least 51% rye, and is also sometimes known as Canadian whiskey. Because it comes from rye grain, it offers up a slightly fruity and spicy flavor. As Lewis and Clark traveled across the sun drenched Midwest with dry mouths and hot air in their midst, there is no doubt that they enjoyed and benefited from the kick that Rye whiskey offered. In a long and strenuous journey, rye whiskey is just the beverage one needs to cap off a tough day of hiking and exploring.

 

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