Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

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Malachite’s Big Hole

Myth of Taos Lightning:

The Mountain Men never heard the term Taos Lightning.  Although the term Taos Lightning is a common used modern term for the alcohol distilled in the colony of New Mexico.  The term is not found in any historical document, journal or letter contemporaneous with the mountain men.  Most often the trappers referred to this product as aquardiente, Taos Whiskey, or simply Ol Taos (Taos Whiskey Trade by Joe Kierst).  The Mountain Men did consume vast quantities of Taos Whiskey, a wheat based whiskey which resembles contemporary wheat vodkas.  Turley's Mill in Rio Hondo was a major and preferred supplier of Taos Whiskey up along the range to Fort Laramie and in the Southwest in the 1840's.  George Frederick Ruxton (Reference) spent several days at Turley's Mill and Lewis Garrard (Reference) passed through the area in 1846-47.  Both of the writers went to considerable efforts to record and publish the spoken language of the mountain man.  If such a colorful phrase as Taos Lightning was then in use, one or both of these men would have captured the term.  Garrard did give an alternate description of Taos Whiskey as "Mountain Dew." 

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