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A Ban on Everclear Grain Alcohol Is Bad News... For the Violin Industry?

Everclear is powerful, amazing stuff. And also, apparently, the key to powerful, amazing music.

A few years ago, Maryland instituted a ban on Everclear and other grain alcohol. And the reasons make sense on the most basic nanny state level. It's 190 proof -- making it 2.5x to 3x more potent than vodka and even 25 percent more potent than 151 rum -- so when it flavorlessly disappears into a jungle juice-type concoction, the results could be lethal or, at a minimum, vomitous. And Everclear was certainly a staple at Maryland's big party schools, you know, ones like Johns Hopkins and the U.S. Naval Academy.

But the ripple effects of political decisions aren't always predictable (note to modern politics: this grain alcohol story could be, in a way, allegorical). And when the state banned Everclear, they almost certainly had no idea about a victim of the ban besides college kids and foot-in-the-grave boozers: Professional violinists.

NOT because professional violinists are legendarily hardcore drinkers, although I'm sure that Venn diagram does have quite a bit of overlap.

But because, it turns out, Everclear is an irreplaceable tool in violin repair. According to the Washington Post...

When a violin is chipped or broken, a new piece of wood often is used in the repair. When attached, the wood looks out of place because it has not been varnished...

The violin maker must dissolve a coloring substance called resin to paint onto the wood. The craftsman dissolves the resin in Everclear because, with its high alcohol content, it dries resins quickly, so the already tedious process can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. It looks good, too.

And Maryland violin makers say there's no equivalent substitute --vodka, whiskey, moonshine, and their ilk don't get the job done -- so the only option is to hoard Everclear. In order to grow such a hoard, violin makers have to make booze runs to the nearest place where it's legally sold: Delaware. (And, I'd imagine, a car full of Everclear is a risk for a mushroom cloud-level explosion.)

They're not the only ones it's hurt, either. The fancy cake decorating industry also suffers from a grain alcohol ban, because they use the stuff to make an edible paint they can use on fondant icing. So they're also in on the caravan to Delaware.

This entire saga is all absurd, of course, and not at all life-or-death -- but, again, I love it as an example of the ripple effect of politics. In a way, soon, it feels like we'll all be driving to Delaware.


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