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Old 12-14-2010, 09:39 PM   #1
Ruminsky Van Drunkenberg
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Default A Matter of Proof

One of the downsides of knowing even a smidgen more about rums than others is that I get a lot of questions: one of the most common is what "proof" means; and so I finally wrote a small essay on it. The opening paragraph is here:

"It seems simple to say that an 80-proof rum is actually just 40% alcohol by volume based on a straightforward mathematical operation, but strictly speaking, it is not true. Actually, using the historical British method in force until 1980, a 40% ABV drink is 70 proof

It has long been a problem to decide exactly how strong a given drink was (or is). From the ancient times, Archimedes’s principle was used to determine specific gravities (i.e., density) by use of hydrometers, but I can trace no records that show the consistent, state-mandated application of the principle to establishing the alcohol content of spirits. In any event, for most of history, brewing and distilling were primarily cottage industries in an overwhelmingly agricultural world, and while rudimentary regulations existed regarding quality control, it was not until the era of industrial mass production around the 18th century and the usual attendant evil of taxation, that consistency and proof of strength became something to be sought after."

For those who want to know more, the full essay is here, and I hope you find it informative:

Last edited by Ruminsky Van Drunkenberg; 12-14-2010 at 09:48 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 12-15-2010, 06:44 AM   #2
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Thanks for posting this, it was entertaining and informative.
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Old 12-15-2010, 09:15 AM   #3
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Today, almost every country has adopted % alcohol by volume as the standard measurement but it is interesting to me that some states in the US continue to tax alcohol on a % alcohol by weight measurement.
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When I dream up a better job, I'm going to take it. In the meantime, the research continues.
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