“The British are watering our whiskey,” warned American diplomat in 1973

Quartz

This is where Paul Revere’s midnight ride and the recent Maker’s Mark dilution row meet: In June 1973, without Twitter or Facebook to fuel grassroots outrage, a US mission to the European Communities in Brussels sent a cable to Washington titled simply, “THE BRITISH ARE WATERING OUR WHISKEY.”

According to the correspondence, London’s Red Lion Blending Co. was buying US bourbon, distilled to 55% alcohol by volume, watering it down to 43%, and then exporting it to Germany. A source with European Communities, the precursor to the European Union, was apparently concerned this was fraudulent activity, even though customs documents certified by British authorities made no secret of the dilution. (And, frankly, 55% alcohol is a bit strong for most tastes.)

The cable surfaced as part of an American diplomatic archive published this weekend by Wikileaks. (However, the document has been declassified since June 30, 2005, and is also available on the US National Archives website.) The cable was attributed to Joseph Greenwald, then the US ambassador to the European Common Market.

See the cable on Wikileaks, at the National Archives, or read the full text below.

 PAGE 01 EC BRU 02505 081005 Z
15
ACTION EUR-25
INFO OCT-01 IO-12 ADP-00 AID-20 CEA-02 CIAE-00 COME-00
EB-11 FRB-02 INR-10 NSAE-00 RSC-01 CIEP-02 STR-08
TRSE-00 LAB-06 SIL-01 OMB-01 AGR-20 RSR-01 /123 W
--------------------- 002611
R 080935 Z MAY 73
FM USMISSION EC BRUSSELS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5165
INFO AMEMBASSY BONN
AMEMBASSY LONDON
USMISSION GENEVA
LIMITED OFFICIAL USE EC BRUSSELS 2505
E. O. 11652 NA
TAGS: ETRD, EEC, US, UK
SUB: THE BRITISH ARE WATERING OUR WHISKEY

1. EC CUSTOMS OFFICIALS HAVE INFORMED THE MISSION
PRIVATELY THAT THEY HAVE JUST LEARNED THATTHE BRITISH
ARE WATERING OUR WHISKEY AND SELLING IT TO THE GERMANS.

2. GERMAN CUSTOMS HAVE NOTIFIED EC CUSTOMS OFFICIALS
THAT THEY HAVE JUST RECEIVED A SHIPMENT OF QUOTE
FINEST FOUR YEAR OLD BOURBON WHISKEY UNQUOTE FROM THE
RED LION BLENDING CO., LTD., 1 ST THE VILLAGE, NORTH
END WAY, LONDON N. W. 3, ACCOMPANIED BY A CERTIFICATED
ISSUED BY H. M CUSTOMS GLASGOW. THE CERTIFICATE
STATES THAT THE PRODUCT CONSISTS OF 15756 LITERS OF
BOURBON WHISKEY PRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES TO WHICH
935 GALLONS OF WATER HAVE BEEN ADDED PRODUCING A TOTAL
QUANTITY OF 20352.4 LITERS OF QUOTE FINEST FOUR YEAR
OLD UNQUOTE. THE ORIGINAL US PRODUCT HAD AN ALCOHOLIC
CONTENT OF 55.1 DEGREES GAY LUSSAC, BUT THE ADDITIONAL
WATER HAS REDUCED THE FINAL PRODUCTS TO 43.3 DEGREES
GAY LUSSAC.
LIMITED OFFICIAL USE

LIMITED OFFICIAL USE

PAGE 02 EC BRU 02505 081005 Z

3. THE COMMISSION OFFICIAL STATED THAT HE WISHED TO
BRING THIS TO OUR ATTENTION IN CASE THERE IS FRAUD
INVOLVED. THE MISSION OFFICER THANKED HIM AND STATED
THAT HE WOULD SEND THE INFORMATION TO THE OFFICIALS IN
CHARGE OF MAINTAINING THE GOOD NAME AND HIGH ALCOHOLIC
CONTENT OF US BOURBON WHISKEY.
GREENWALD

LIMITED OFFICIAL USE
NMAFVVZCZ


More from Quartz

Rates

View Comments (0)