Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage
Michael R. Veach
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On May 4, 1964, Congress designated bourbon as a distinctive product of the United States, and it remains the only spirit produced in this country to enjoy such protection. Its history stretches back almost to the founding of the nation and includes many colorful characters, both well known and obscure, from the hatchet-wielding prohibitionist Carry Nation to George Garvin Brown, who in 1872 created Old Forester, the first bourbon to be sold only by the bottle. Although obscured by myth, the history of bourbon reflects the history of our nation.
Historian Michael R. Veach reveals the true story of bourbon in Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. Starting with the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, he traces the history of this unique beverage through the Industrial Revolution, the Civil War, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and up to the present. Veach explores aspects of bourbon that have been ignored by others, including the technology behind its production, the effects of the Pure Food and Drug Act, and how Prohibition contributed to the Great Depression. The myths surrounding bourbon are legion, but Veach separates fact from legend. While the true origin of the spirit may never be known for certain, he proposes a compelling new theory.
With the explosion of super-premium bourbons and craft distilleries and the establishment of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, interest in bourbon has never been higher. Veach shines a light on its pivotal place in our national heritage, presenting the most complete and wide-ranging history of bourbon available.
covered interstate and foreign commerce and had an impact on the spirits industry worldwide since, to sell their products in the United States, distillers had to follow the regulations established by the act. These arguments were made before the courts and in magazines and newspapers around the country. Various interest groups took sides, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, for example, siding with the straight whiskey distillers because straight whiskey was at least an all-natural product
on the books, people busied themselves de77 Kentucky Bourbon W hiskey vising ways around them. One of the most popular was the “blind tiger,” the earliest form of the speakeasy. The owner of such an establishment would charge customers to see an attraction (usually some exotic kind of animal) and then serve them a complimentary drink. The setback was only temporary, however, and the temperance movement continued to gain in momentum. Temperance organizations played a key role in the march
section stipulates: “The transportation or importation into any State, Territory or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.” That is, states retained essentially absolute control over alcoholic beverages, and many states remained dry. Prohibition was over—sort of. 90 7 The End of Prohibition and the Second World War The thirteen long, dry years of Prohibition had taken their toll on the
Fine Bourbon: Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald. Louisville: Limestone Lane, 1999. This is an excellent source for the history of the Van Winkle Family and the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. Cecil, Sam K. The Evolution of the Bourbon Whiskey Industry in Kentucky. Paducah, KY: Turner, 1999. This book is the first attempt to give some history of every distillery in Kentucky. It has mistakes and is best used as a starting point for further research. However, it gives an excellent history
Revolution and the Distilling Industry Aerial view of Bonnie Bros. Distillery, Louisville, with a railroad roundhouse in the background, ca. 1940. (Courtesy United Distillers Archive) connected with northern and western as well as southern markets. It was inevitable, then, that Louisville would become the marketing center of the Kentucky bourbon industry. Whiskey Row eventually stretched for over a dozen blocks on Water, Main, and Market Streets between Preston Street on the east and Tenth