View Full Version : Whiskey across the U.S.?

09-04-2002, 21:25
Prior to Prohibition, does anybody know just how widespread whiskey distilliries were across the U.S.? For example, the east had some Rye production, I believe the midwest had some production along various rivers. I would think where you found grain, water and know how you would have whiskey and beer. Illinois whiskey? North/South Dakota (not far from Canada) etc. Are there some "extinct" famous old brands from that era?

09-05-2002, 06:11
I'm trying to recall some information the Regans gave in one of their books on bourbon. My memory is a little foggy so somebody correct me if what I say is a big fat lie.

The book I mentioned implied that there were hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of distilleries in operation before prohibition. Many of these were small, low-quality operations. I think the majority were concentrated east of the Mississippi, especially in the midwest and in the mountain and hill regions of the south. But the Regans implied that just about every state in the Union had at least one operating disillery prior to Prohibition.

I vaguely recall that at one point North Carolina had more stills and distilleries in operation than any other state. (They probably still do!) And at one time, Indiana had more distilleries than Kentucky.


09-05-2002, 16:19
A few corrections Jono to what I posted earlier:

According to "The Book of Bourbon and other Fine American Whiskies" by Gary and Mardee Regan (page 237) who, in turn, quote the "The Wine and Spirit Bulletin: Statement of Distillers in 1891" there were 779 total grain distilleries operating in the US as of January 1, 1891.

Of course that's several years before national prohibition but we never defined exactly what we meant by "prior to prohibition". http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

Here's some 1891 numbers (grain distilleries per state):

North Carolina - 273
Kentucky - 172
Georgia - 72
Pennsylvania - 62
Virginia - 51
Tennessee - 47

The Regans go on to say that the remainder of distilleries were spread out across the rest of the country including such states as Alabama, California, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.

Also I screwed up when I said that at one time Indiana had more operating distilleries than Kentucky (they may have but I have no way of confirming that). The Regans state that by 1880, Illinois, rather than Indiana, had surpassed Kentucky in the distilling industry. Peoria seemed to be the at the center of it all. Whether this means Illinois had more operating distilleries than Kentucky or that they simply brought in bigger profits, I'm not sure. Illinois never recovered from national prohibition. It's a good thing that Kentucky did http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif !

Btw, the Regan's book is a great reference. Mike Veach is listed in the acknowledgements so I figure the historical sections are pretty darn accurate.


09-05-2002, 21:13
Thanks! Sounds like a very nice addition to the library. Funny how a handful of states managed to stay in the game. I know Peoria had a (I believe) Hiram Walker operation for years...in fact the yeasty smell permeated the downtown area...also other grain processing plants due to Illinois river and barge terminal location. Maybe one day other versions of quality whiskey will pop up...I think of the Seattle company making a single malt whiskey. Thanks again!

09-06-2002, 06:28
Speaking of the Regans...here's the latest article by Gary Regan in Wine Enthusiast magazine:

Wine Enthusiast Regan article. (http://www.winemag.com/ISSUES/SEPT02/proof_positive.cfm)

09-07-2002, 14:27
Thanks for sharing the Regan article!! Truly appreciated.

I guess Gary has as much trouble as others getting his facts straight -- (without reading this forum). In the side piece he writes, "...and before we could turn our heads, the Labrot & Graham distillery, where Dr. James Crow perfected the sour-mash process of making bourbon back in the early 1800s, had fired up its gleaming new pot stills and Woodford Reserve, another small-batch offering, hit the shelves."

Of course, everyone in this forum knows that nothing from L&G has been offerend yet and Woodford Reserve is not really distilled in those pot stills.

09-09-2002, 13:35
Yes, but the sentence is completely true on its face. Those two events, L&G firing up its stills and Woodford Reserve hitting the shelves, did both occur at more or less the same time. The sentence neither states nor explicitly implies, a causal relationship between the two events.

(Tongue firmly in cheek.)

09-09-2002, 15:44
Chuck, I'm glad you had your tongue in cheek. I admire Lincoln Henderson and he does not do the marketing for these products and certainly does not control what Gary writes but this piece by Gary continues to propel the myth that WR comes from those pot stills. And that myth does not seem to be clarified but seems to be further aided by B-F advertising, while likely legal.

As a marketing type, I really prefer honesty.

09-10-2002, 16:53
I may not be remembering correctly, but on our distillery tour...(L&G..very good) I do not recall coming away with the impression that the whiskey was not distilled there...we assumed it was...gee, it had a nice open vat and those copper stills....what do they produce on site..zilch?

09-10-2002, 17:44
Jono, it is not that they do not produce at L&G. They do. But remember that bourbon must age. When they started shipping Woodford Reserve they had not produced long enough to dump barrels of product that were distilled at L&G. We will soon find out what they've put into barrels that is now aging. But it is not Woodford Reserve. And L&G is not just a fancy tourist site.

09-10-2002, 18:12
Thanks...I was beginning to think they were doing a lot of "show"...I recall seeing Wolfgang Puck's and Julia Child's barrels aging on the racks. Cannot wait to taste the "real" product.

09-11-2002, 13:31
There is great anticipation, at least within our small community, to taste the product of L&G's stills.

09-11-2002, 15:26
Fetzer's (more or less) new tasting room in Hopland bears an uncanny resemblance to L & G's visitor center.

I suppose that's not just a coincedence, as Brown-Forman is the parent of both.

09-11-2002, 23:17
all i know is, a week from today (it is thursday after all) I wll be at L&G anxiously awaiting my "very special tasting treat"!!!!