Have you ever examined a bottle of an alcoholic beverage and read something that you do not quite understand? Well, some people have and most of the time, the questions that arise are related to the terms proof or alcohol proof. What is it exactly?
Alcohol proof is an indication of the alcohol or ethanol content in alcoholic drinks such as beer, brandy, rum, or whiskey. To regulate the law and avoid alcoholic beverages from having too much alcohol content, many countries have standardized control on the allowed measurement and content in the said beverages.
Alcohol Content Regulation in Major Countries
In the United Kingdom, where the term ‘alcohol proof’ was originally used, the standard proof was equal to about 1.75 times the alcohol by volume or ABV. As prescribed by the European Union, they have been using the ABV standard in measuring alcohol content since January 1980.
In the United States, alcohol proof should be twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. Liquor labels must also indicate the percentage of ABV as required by the Code of Federal Regulations. Although not required, there should be a statement of the proof printed close to the ABV number. Canada also follows the US regulations when it comes to labeling using percentage of alcohol by volume.
Origin of the Term ‘Proof’
The use of proof when measuring the alcohol or ethanol content of alcoholic drinks goes back to the 16th century in England. It was established to have a system that they can follow in taxing liquors based on their alcohol content . In England, they had an interesting way of testing the liquors. What they did was they soaked pellet of gunpowder with the liquor. If the gunpowder would still ignite even after getting soaked, they would rate the alcohol as above proof so it will be taxed at a higher rate. On the other and, if the gunpowder would not ignite, there is a big possibility that the alcohol was watered down.
Aside from the concept of proofing to determine taxes, there were also some stories that proofing was first done by pirates or sailors to avoid being sold rums which were watered down by merchants. Some say the soldiers in the British Royal Navy were the first to proof alcohol to ensure that they acquire drinks with high alcohol content. Stories of where and when proofing originated may vary, but one thing is common among those stories, gunpowder and fire are always involved. If the gunpowder does not light up, merchants can be in trouble and can be accused of watering down the alcohol for bigger profit.
The Highest and Strongest Proof There is
There are probably hundreds or more alcoholic beverages available in the market today and they vary not just in terms of the brand or type but also in proof. Casual drinkers would definitely look for those with minimal alcohol content so that they would not get drunk easily. However, for those who are strong drinkers of alcoholic beverages, they tend to get very adventurous and look for drinks with higher alcohol proof.
To date,the alcoholic beverage considered to have the highest alcohol proof in the market is the Everclear 190 proof. Everclear is the brand name of a rectified alcohol or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin. It was produced by Luxco which is an American company. It is made from grains of corn and contains highly concentrated ethanol, which was rectified or purified by means of repeated distillation.
Everclear has caused quite a stir because of its high alcohol content. In fact, selling of the liquor has been prohibited in some US states such as in California, Iowa, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, and Minnesota. Although, aside from the 190-proof bottle which has 95% ABV, Everclear is also available in 151-proof bottle which has 75.5% ABV.