The Book

At some point, you’ve likely heard of “the whiskey rebellion.”  You are probably vaguely familiar with the fact that Americans got angry over an excise tax on whiskey and decided to raise a ruckus about it.  If you’re interested in learning all of the details on this important event in American history, I highly suggest you check out “The Whiskey Rebellion” by William Hogeland.  Hogeland takes you through all of the history and makings of the Whiskey Rebellion.

The bulk of the book focuses on the military conflicts and negotiations at every step.  However, how did we get to that point?  Hogeland details how we got from a massive debt owed from the states during the American Revolution to the national government assuming those debts.  You’ll learn how the Federal government did not assume those debts owned by the states to be benevolent, but rather how a few scheming characters did so with a plan to achieve great wealth at the expense of the common people.  From there, the schemers dreamed up the national debt being paid by imposing a tax on whiskey.

Hogeland does a good job of explaining the economy system in 1791 America.  At this time, much of America existed on barter economy, especially the more rural western parts of America.  When a tax was imposed on whiskey distillers, payment was expected to be in cash. Coming up with hard currency was not a major stress for larger distillers in the east, but was a major problem for small cottage distillers in the west. 

The Dram

Bower Hill is a sourced Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.  The brand name pays homage to the estate of Federal tax collector John Neville. Bower Hill was the site of the first armed conflict in the Whiskey Rebellion of western Pennsylvania.  The whiskey inside the bottle is sourced from an undisclosed Kentucky distillery.  The mashbill is also undisclosed, but is a legitimate high-rye bill.


The brand gives the following notes in the barrel strength expression:

Aroma: creme brûlée, Pecans 

Taste: Sweet vanilla, hint of nuts

Proof: 118.8

Alexander Hamilton, the chief plotter of the whiskey tax, was also in favor of large industry vs cottage industry.  Hamilton’s preference of large scale industry was taken into consideration as he implemented the whiskey tax that would benefit large distillers and disadvantage the small distillers in the west. 


Hogeland details how large distillers were given the option to pay a lower percentage flat tax, while small distillers had to pay based on potential output of their stills, even though most small distillers didn’t actually produce all that their stills were capable of producing.

In 1791, small distillers in western Pennsylvania decided they were not going to pay the tax, seeing as how America had just fought a war for independence over unjust taxation.  The resistance began with the Mingo Creek Boys or Mingo Creek Association in western Pennsylvania.  From here, Hogeland discusses how rebels were roused and initiated violence against tax collectors.  The resistance plotted for secession and war against the United States government.  As the rebels carried on for many month, Alexander Hamilton eventually convinced President Washington to enforce the tax and put down the resistance with Federal troops.   Washington mustered a Federal army of at least 13,000 troops, bigger than any single campaign ever assembled against the British in the war of independence.  This was the first major test of Federal authority in a relatively new nation.  The end result is that the rebels decided to back down and flee without much military conflict.  Washington and the Federal government adequately displayed authority.

If you’re fan of early American and military history, this book is for you.  The whiskey rebellion history has given us a few brand names for American whiskey.  Perhaps you’ve seen bottles of Bower Hill, but don’t know the origin of the name.  Bower Hill was the name of the estate of tax collector John Neville.  Bower Hill was the site of the first rebel military action in the Rebellion.  The Mingo Creek Boys who began the rebellion have led to the naming of Liberty Pole Spirits by Mingo Creek Craft Distillers in Pennsylvania.  Hogeland’s book runs 320 pages, but also exists in audio form.

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