The Complete American Whiskey Story

We are resolute to uncover the complete American Whiskey story. One thing's for sure - it's bigger than bourbon. Join us in our quest to uncover the truth and share what you know about the roots of American distillation.

1000

 The Dawn of Drinks

, 1000 : The long history of wine, cider, and beer dates back to 5,000 BC, wine 7,000 BC. The earliest recorded evidence distilled beverages for consumption dates from the 11th century in Europe, although archeologists have found what may be apparatuses for distillation in India and China that date back much earlier, 1st century BC for India and even earlier for China. The picture above is from the first century AD and shows monks with wine barrels. This WhiskeyWiki will focus primarily on the distillation of cereal grains, and how new technology, resources, and consumer tastes influenced the rise of distilled spirits.
Source: Singer, C. (1954). A history of technology, Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

1494

 First Substantiated Record of Whiskey Distillation in Scotland

January, 1494 : The details are hazy, but the first record of Scottish Whiskey distillation was requested by King James IV to Friar John Cor. He had enough malt to make 1,500 bottles.
Source: Singer, C. (1954). A history of technology, Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

1496

 German Townspeople Get Boozy

January, 1496 : The Town Council in Nuremburg, Germany prevented drinking on Sundays because of drunken behavior. Talk about a Sunday Funday! "One should remember how far one can go to be a gentleman."
Source: Singer, C. (1954). A history of technology, Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

1500

 From Wine to Whiskey in the 1500s

January, 1500 : Distilled Spirits were also made from wine and used medicinally by apothecaries and physicians. Countries began to import wine specifically to distill it, a costly process which didn't last too long.
Source: Singer, C. (1954). A history of technology, Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

 Distilling Cereal Grains

January, 1500 : Instead of importing wine, countries such as Germany started distilling with cereal grains. They used a distilling apparatus with a tall cone shape to cool the distillate, like the ones shown above. Scandinavian countries tried to prevent this type of distillation, but the thirst for spirits grew.
Source: T. Fairley, The Early History of Distillation. Singer, C. (1954). A history of technology, Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

1620

 Bringing Distillation to the New World

January, 1620 : When Scottish and Irish immigrants traveled to the New World, they brought their distilling equipment and experience with them. Fresh water was hard to find, so distilled spirits quickly became the "healthy" liquid of choice. They started distilling with new grains they found, making fruit brandies and unaged whiskies. By 1661, "a still and worm had been set up in New London for distilling rum."
Source: Crowgey, H. (2013) The Early Years of Whiskey Making, University Press Kentucky.

1630

 City of Boston Founded by Puritans

January, 1630 : On September 7, 1630, Puritan Colonists from England officially founded the City of Boston. They loved beer and spirits - according to Bradford's History of the Plymouth Plantation, an excited man named Thomas Morton of the City of New London, "drank both wine and strong waters in great excess... 10 pounds worth in the morning." There was a "prevailing attitude toward strong drink."
Source: Crowgey, H. (2013) Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskey Making. University Press of Kentucky.

1632

 Maryland Colony Settled by English

January, 1632 : King Charles I grants land to George Calvert, Lord Baltimore

1644

 The First Whiskey Tax in Scotland

January, 1644 : In 1644, the Scottish Parliament imposed an Excise Tax on distilled spirits. The tax was 13p on a third of a gallon. This led to a rise in illicit distillation, the world's first bootleggers!
Source: T. Fairley, The Early History of Distillation, 580. Stewart, L. (2016) Rethinking the Scottish Revolution, Oxford University Press, 202.

1681

 Pennsylvania Founded

January, 1681 : Pennsylvania was founded in 1681 by William Penn. Soon, Scotch-Irish and German immigrants would move west and start distilling rye whiskey known as "Monongahela Whiskey."
Source: https://punchdrink.com/articles/the-fall-and-rebirth-of-americas-first-great-whiskey-pennsylvania-rye/

1706

 Port of Baltimore Established

, 1706 : The original Port of Baltimore was established in 1706 in the present day Inner Harbor, a deep water harbor that served as a hub for trade and commerce. Later, it would expand to the Fells Point neighborhood and include Recreation Pier, the the second largest immigration Port to Ellis Island. Many Scottish, Irish, and German immigrants entered the United States via this terminal, bringing with with them their penchant for distilling spirits.
Source: View of Baltimore by William Henry Bartlett, circa 1840. www.jeffersonpatterson.wordpress.com

1745

 Annapolis-Based Club for Imbibing

, 1745 : The Tuesday Club was founded in Annapolis as a place to celebrate its members ability to imbibe, especially with whiskey. It looks to have been disbanded when Alexander Hamilton died in 1756. 
Source: Maryland State Archives

1756

 The First American Whiskey Tax Was Earlier Than You Think

January, 1756 : The Supply Bill was the first tax on distilled spirits meant to help illeviate English debt. The tax was controversial among colonial legislators and led to the growing spirit in the colonies to split from England.
Source: Maryland State Archives

1760

 Jacob Beam Born in Pennsylvania

, 1760 : Born Johannes Jacob Beam on February 9, 1760. Jacob was the fourth of five children. His parents were Nicolaus and Margaretha Boehm. It's thought that his father changed their last name to "Beam" to make it more American
Source: https://www.jimbeam.com/behind-the-bourbon/our-story

1771

 Colonel Evan Shelby moves from Maryland to Tennessee

, 1771 : Colonel Evan Shelby was the father of Kentucky's first governor. After moving from Maryland, he set up his distillery in Tennessee and operated an inn and tavern. Many famous frontiersmen, such as Daniel Boone and Colonel Henderson stopped in to his shop to pick up necessities for their long journeys.
Source: Crowgey, H. (2008) Kentucky Bourbon. They Early Years of Whiskey Making. University Press of Kentucky.

1780

 40 Bushels of Rye Wasted!

, 1780 : Historians agree that almost all of Kentucky's original distillers, started distilling in their native colonies - Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia - first. The letter above, for example, is written to a lawyer in Bedford County, Virginia. A citizen is seeking financial assistance because his rye and malt burned on the kiln!
Source: Crowgey, H. (2008) Kentucky Bourbon. They Early Years of Whiskey Making. University Press of Kentucky.

1785

 Annapolis Whiskey

, 1785 : A note from a "Baltimorean" to a Maryland legislator about "The Act for Founding a College on the Western Shore." Two clauses specifically mention whiskey and require that the retailer has a license to sell it.
Source: Maryland Journal. (Baltimore, Maryland) • 08-16-1785 • Page [2]

 Potomac Canal Made with Whiskey

January, 1785 : President George Washington signed off on a whiskey delivery to Potomac Company employees. The Potomac Company was created to improve the navigability of the Potomac River, improving infrastructure with the goal of linking the East Coast to Ohio via tributaries. The Maryland Historical Society has an invoice signed by George Washington himself, requesting over 40 gallons of whiskey for the workers.
Source: Maryland Historical Society

1786

 Bourbon County Founded

, 1786 : Bourbon County was original founded in the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to historians, a month after the founding, the court set "tavern rates" for whiskey and brandy.
Source: Public Domain, Digitized

 Frederick Maryland – You need a license!

, 1786 : Six years before Hamilton's famous Whiskey Tax, Frederick, Maryland needed to impose retailer rules! Looks like there were already a fair number of distillers in Western Maryland and the local government needed to monitor expansion.
Source: The Maryland Chronicle or the Universal Advertiser (Frederick, Maryland) • 03-22-1786 • Page [1]

1790

 Jacob Beam Travels the Cumberland Gap

, 1790 : According to family accounts, including Fred Noe III, Jacob Beam and Mary Beam traveled through the Cumberland Gap in Western Maryland toward Kentucky, bringing his distilling equipment on a wagon. Jacob and Mary were two of over 300,000 people to move west from 1775 to 1800. The image above is an oil painting of Daniel Boone, the trailblazing pioneer of the Cumberland Gap.
Source: Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (George Caleb Bingham, oil on canvas, 1851–52; https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/wilderness-road

1791

 The Whiskey Tax

, 1791 : On January 27, 1791, Congress voted in favor of the "Whiskey Tax." The vote was 35-21. Believe it or not, George Washington opposed this tax initially, but local government officials were in favor of it (maybe because they agreed with Alexander Hamilton that whiskey was a luxury!) Washington shared these sentiments with Congress and they passed the bill.
Source: Crom, K. (2013) The Whiskey Tax of 1791, Accounting Historians Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2, https://www.politico.com/story/2009/01/excise-tax-imposed-on-whiskey-starts-whiskey-rebellion-jan-27-1791-017976

1792

 Kentucky Founded

, 1792 : Kentucky was established as a state on June 1, 1792.
Source: Wikipedia - Kentucky

1794

 Whiskey Rebellion

February, 28 1794 : The Famous uprising of Farmers and Distillers in Western Pennsylvania. Years of aggression between citizens and tax collectors led to the big protest. Besides a few flesh wounds, no one was hurt, and it demonstrated the strength of the new Federal government.
Source: https://www.history.com/topics/early-us/whiskey-rebellion

1795

 Jacob Beam Sells Whiskey

, 1795 : According to JimBeam.com, Jacob Beam sold his first barrel of "Old Jack Beam" in 1795.
Source: https://www.jimbeam.com/behind-the-bourbon/our-story

 Whiskey in Ledgers

, 1795 : The Shriver Family ledgers run from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s. They cover all payments and sales of the family business in Western Maryland. Whiskey was always on the docket.
Source: Maryland Historical Society; Shriver Family Ledgers

 George Washington Pardons the Whiskey Rebels

, 1795 : A year after the Whiskey Rebellion, President George Washington pardoned the participants of treason.
Source: https://congressional-proquest-com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/congressional/docview/t66.d72.1795-20-1?accountid=11752 ProQuest Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved.

1796

 Rye Whiskey Famous Before Bourbon

, 1796 : Henry Crowgey's book, Kentucky Bourbon, uses multiple sources to show that between 1796 - 1812, rye whiskey was the preferred beverage and distillate to corn-based spirits. A Lexington firm wanted to hire a distiller with "good clean rye," and a Louisville grocery store offered both Old Rye Whiskey and common rye whiskey. He writes, "Writers of a later day have been somewhat remiss in referring almost solely to corn distillates."
Source: Crowgey, H. (2013) Kentucky Bourbon, the Early Years of Whiskey Making. University Press of Kentucky. 44.

1797

 The Still is Down!

, 1797 : The Shriver Family of Western Maryland was known for distilling whiskey. This letter from the Maryland Historical Society is a note from one brother to another that the family still was down. It would cost $5 to fix.
Source: Maryland Historical Society, Shriver Family Papers

1798

 George Washington’s Mount Vernon Distillery Established

January, 1798 : George Washington established a gristmill to produce flour and cornmeal. In 1791, Washington's farm manager, James Anderson, suggested he build a distillery. By 1797, Washington's distillery was the largest in America and by 1799 it produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year. The photo above is Washington's meticulous plan for rotating crops on one of his Mount Vernon Farms.
Source: American History. Feb2004, Vol. 38 Issue 6, p64-78. 11p.

1800

 Whiskey Delivered to Men on Guard in Western Maryland

February, 28 1800 : The Maryland Historical Society houses letters that show how important Whiskey rations were to men on guard. Letters reached commanders letting them know that whiskey was on its way. In this example, William Darke wrote to Captain Joseph Tidball.
Source: Maryland Historical Society

1803

 New York Advertising Maryland Whiskey

, 1803 : Maryland Whiskey was a distinct product and famous up and down the east coast. This note from the Evening Standard in New York advertises 30 Gallons of Maryland Whiskey for sale.
Source: The Evening Post. (New York, New York) • 05-24-1803

1814

 Whiskey on The Eastern Shore

, 1814 : No doubt about it, whiskey was a vital requirement for American soldiers. This is a letter, located at the Maryland Historical Society, from Sergeant Joseph Frazier to Solomon Lowe, requesting a delivery of whiskey rations to men on guard in Easton, Maryland.
Source: Maryland Historical Society; Special Collections Reading Room MS1846

1839

 Needwood Distillery

February, 28 1839 : The American Civil War left the Needwood Distillery in ruins, but Outerbridge Horsey - yes that was his name! - rebuilt it. He distinguished himself by aging whiskey at sea and then shipping it back to Maryland by rail. He believed the jostling helped the aging process.
Source: Maryland State Archives

1850

 Mount Vernon Distillery Established in Baltimore

January, 1850 : Henry Hannis, was an established distiller when he bought the Mount Vernon Distillery from Edwin Clabaugh and George Graff in 1863. He quickly created a distillery set-up so impressive that it became the model for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. 
Source: Maryland State Archives

1855

 Lanahan & Stewart Distillery Established in Baltimore

February, 28 1855 : William Lanahan started as a rectifier, creating a rye whiskey blend called Hunter Baltimore Rye - with the tagline "First Over the Bars." Hunter's memorable labels featured a top hat-tipping steeplechase rider astride a shiny steed. Does anyone know the mash bill? We'd love to add it.
Source: Maryland State Archives

1860

 44 Distilleries in Maryland

, 1860 : By the mid-1800s, Maryland was home to 44 distilleries, all making whiskey. Maryland sits on a shelf of limestone (just like Kentucky) and most, if not all Maryland distillers set up shop on the banks of rivers to take advantage of this unique water. The map also highlights the importance of railroad lines to whiskey commerce.
Source: Library of Congress

 The Isaac Keefer Distillery Established in Western Maryland

January, 1860 : Issac Keefer chose to put his distillery along Licking Creek, an ancient waterway that originates in the Tuscarora Mountain and flows into the Potomac River.
Source: Western Maryland Historical Society

 Monumental Distillery Established in Baltimore

January, 1860 : Monumental Distillery was established in Highlandtown, Baltimore. Baltimore was known as the "Monumental City" because of its penchant for erecting monuments. 
Source: Maryland Historical Society

1865

 Monticello Distilling Co. Established in Baltimore

January, 1865 : This was the preferred rye of Augustus Mencken, father of the famous Baltimore writer H.L. Mencken. According to H.L. Mencken, his father loved whiskey and "regarded this appetizer as necessary to his well-being." 
Source: Maryland State Archives

1866

 Jack Daniels Distillery Established

, 1866 : The Jack Daniels Distillery was established in 1866 as the first registered distillery in the United States. He learned the art of distilling from an enslaved man named Nathan "Nearest" Green. Jack Daniels would later hire Nearest as his Master Distiller.
Source: https://www.jackdaniels.com/en-us/our-story

1868

 Sherwood Distilling Co. Established in Baltimore County

January, 1868 : Two Northern Baltimore grocers - John Wight and William Lentz - started this distillery as a small operation. Soon, Edward Hyatt expanded it, thanks in part to a deal with the U.S. army which wanted Sherwood Pure Rye for medicinal use. 
Source: http://pre-prowhiskeymen.blogspot.com/2011/07/sherwood-distillery-and-family-feud.html

1870

 Old Forester Bourbon

, 1870 : Old Forester Bourbon was the first bourbon to be sold in sealed glass. It was first bottled and marketed in 1870 by George Garvin-Brown- the founder of the Brown Forman Corp.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Forester#cite_note-ProhibitionOFPR-3
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 Brown-Forman Established in Kentucky

, 1870 : Brown-Forman, now one of the worlds largest producers of whiskey, was established in Kentucky in 1870 by half brothers, George Garvin Brown and JTS Brown. Old Forester was their premier bourbon.
Source: https://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/419?tour=28&index=4

1875

 M.J. Miller’s & Sons Distillery Established in Western Maryland

January, 1875 : "Melky" Miller and his sons were important to the local economy of one of Maryland's earliest settlements and biggest producers of Rye Whiskey. They bought grain from area farmers and employed locals to transport whiskey to market and work in the bottling house and sawmill. 
Source: http://pre-prowhiskeymen.blogspot.com/2011/10/melky-miller-of-maryland-distiller-of.html

1877

 Old Pimlico Brand Maryland Straight Rye Whiskey

, 1877 : Moritz (aka Morris) Lowenbach emigrated to  Harrisonburg, Va, around 1860.  About 1870, Moritz moved to Baltimore and began a liquor business called Moritz Lowenbach & Co. The company's flagship brand was “Old Pimlico,”  a familiar Maryland name. The Baltimore company went out of business in 1898, and Lowenbach's sons moved the business back to Virginia.
Source: The internet
Author:

1880

 Melvale Distillery Established in Baltimore

January, 1880 : According to Whiskey history buffs, John and Linda Lipman "During the 1880s, John T. Cummings opened the Melvale distillery on Cold Spring Lane in the Jones Falls area north of Baltimore. The distillery was built around an existing stone structure, itself established fifty years earlier, which had been a water-driven sawmill, also used for flour and cotton." You can view more about their research at their website www.ellenjaye.com
Source: http://www.ellenjaye.com/mval_melvale.htm

1882

 Gunning Distillery Established in Allegheny Mountains

January, 1882 : Gunnings Delight was the brand of choice for this distiller! He set up his distillery in his home and after the brand's popularity took off, invested his money into another 1,000 acres for growing crops for distillation.
Source: Allegany College of Maryland Library

1919

 Triaca Whiskey Conspiracy

, 1919 : Baltimore's Triaca company was a large whiskey distributor founded in 1882 and at the start of prohibition was involved in illegal whiskey shipments. The trial in 1922 was known as the "Million Dollar Whiskey Conspiracy"
Source: Jack Sullivan, Pre-Pro Whiskeymen
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1935

 Heaven Hill Established

, 1935 : Shortly after Prohibition ended Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., was founded in Bardstown, Kentucky by the Shapira family to produce and market Bourbon and premium American Whiskys. Today, the company is the largest independent, family-owned and operated distilled spirits supplier in the country.
Source: https://www.heavenhill.com/history.php

1938

 The Mint Julep and the Kentucky Derby

, 1938 : The Kentucky Derby and the Mint Julep. In 1938 the Mint Julep became the official drink of the Derby. The Julep may have not originated in Kentucky but the Derby is credited with making it famous and a staple while at the derby or attending any Derby party in the world.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mint_julep
Author:

1954

 Makers Mark Distillery Established

, 1954 : T. William "Bill" Samuels Sr., purchased the "Burks' Distillery" in Loretto, Kentucky, for $35,000 on October 1, 1953. Production began in 1954, and the first run was bottled in 1958.
Source: https://www.makersmark.com/family

1996

 Woodford Reserve Brand Established

, 1996 : Woodford Reserve looks old, but the brand was actually released by Brown-Forman in 1996. The distillery is the original Pepper Distillery from 1812.
Source: www.woodfordreserve.com

2006

 Angel’s Envy Established

, 2006 : Angel's Envy was founded by Lincoln Henderson and his son, Wes, in 2006. Bacardi Ltd. acquired the brand in 2015, and a year and a half later, opened the new distillery in downtown Louisville.
Source: http://whiskyadvocate.com/angels-envy-building-distillery/

2015

 Maryland Distillers Guild Founded

, 2015 : The distillers of Maryland joined together to form the Maryland Distillers Guild to promote and protect the industry's rich heritage.
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2017

 Old Line Spirits Established

, 2017 : Old Line Spirits opens in Baltimore in February, 2017 with a focus on making the country’s best American Single Malt Whiskey.
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 Empire Rye category unveiled

, 2017 : In October 2017, seven New York State distilleries unveiled a new whiskey style/category unique to the state called "Empire Rye." To qualify as Empire Rye, the whiskeys must be made from at least 75% New York State-grown rye, be distilled at a single New York State distillery, be at least two years old and be aged at the barrel entry proof of 115 or lower
Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rye_whiskey
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 Sagamore Spirit Distillery Opens in Baltimore

, 2017 : Sagamore Spirit was founded in Baltimore, Maryland in April 2017 with a mission to inspire a global passion for Maryland Rye Whiskey,
Source: Sagamore Spirit

2018

 Epoch Straight Rye

, 2018 : Baltimore Spirits Company releases the first Rye Whiskey distilled in Baltimore in over 50 years is, and, subsequently, Epoch Rye wins Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for Rye Whiskey the same year.
Source: BSC Max
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