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  1. #11

    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    What terrific posts, especially today on the anniversary of repeal. Prohibition brought my grandfather's distillery literally to its knees. As prohibition wore on more and more whisky was consolidated from the individual distilleries into the government warehouses. My grandfather's distillery, the H.E. Pogue Distillery, shipped its last barrel to the consolidated warehouse in Louisville in August 1926. For the years prior to that time the whisky was withdrawn with government issued "warehouse receipts" for medicinal purposes. We also bottled an 18 year old whisky for "medicinal purposes" during prohibition called "Old Jordan". (Interestingly, my grandfather became a consultant to T.W. Samuels after Prohibition and T.W. Samuels then made the "Old Jordan" brand. I have a pint of my grandfather's Old Jordan from the 1920s and a mini of the T.W. Samuels from the 1930s). It is my understanding each physician was limited to prescribing 12 pints per month for medicinal purposes. Not much to get the public what they needed so hence the bootleggers. A fascinating read on Prohibition, including the politics surrounding the whole era, is The Long Thirst, Prohibition in America: 1920-1933, by Thomas M. Coffey, which I am reading for the third time right now. It's amazing what new gems you pick up each time you reread an insightful book like this.
    Peter H. Pogue

  2. #12
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    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    Waymack and Harris in The Book of Classic American Whiskeys state that the distillery now called Sazerac did not produce whiskey during Prohibition. It did operate as a collection warehouse and bottler of whiskey sold under the medical prescriptions. Therefore, I interpret the statement greenbob referred to on the back of the Stagg bottle in this latter sense. My former e-mail stands corrected because I stated the distillery made whiskey during Prohibition under a special license; that appears not to have been the case (which of itself takes nothing away from Sazerac, a fine distiller indeed. Waymack and Harris note Colonel Blanton managed the distillery from 1912 to 1952, an amazing 40 years, and one can assume that stewardship assured the maintenance of tradition at Leestown even though the stills didn't fire up again until 1933 by which time Schenley was in control which assured the modernization of the plant).

    Gary


  3. #13

    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    Gary, their own historical literature states they were one of four distilleries 'licensed to operate' during Prohibition. Whether this means they actually produced, I don't know. But, the tour guides certainly leave that impression.

  4. #14
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    The "license" basically meant they could bottle and sell whiskey to pharmacists. They needed additional, explicit permission to make more, i.e., to distill, which wasn't forthcoming until near the end of Prohibition when stocks had dwindled. It was also a recognition that repeal was coming. The license always contemplated that those licensed facilities would be the ones who would distill when the time came, but no one made any whiskey legally until pretty late in the game.

  5. #15
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    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    Some time ago I found an old copy of Fortune magazine from 1933 which discussed the U.S. whiskey business and forthcoming repeal. It stated as Chuck said that ownership of whiskey stocks being sold for medicinal whiskey formed the basis for distilling new whiskey under government quotas. Also, that the newer whiskey available in 1933 was distilled since 1929 under these quotas. Yet I have read elsewhere that some distillation occurred earlier (that is, since the start of Prohibition). Sam Cecil states in his book that distilleries "operated" in "four periods" during Prohibition to replace "depleted" stocks. In the Fortune magazine mentioned (November 1933 issue), there is almost a full page color photograph of a bottle of Old Overholt rye whiskey. The strip stamp is clearly visible. It states the whiskey was "made 1921" and "bottled 1932". Clearly this shows whiskey was distilled in 1921. I have read (possibly also in Cecil, I'll try to find the reference) this was done in anticipation of pre-Volstead stocks running out by 1925. In the light of that concern it would have made sense to authorise distilling in 1921. The whiskey would be 4 years old in 1925 - matured and ready for sale. Therefore, I infer whiskey was made at various times during Prohibition. It seems Sazerac did not need, or was not allowed under the quota system, to distill since it had enough pre-1919 whiskey to sell as medicinal spirits.

    Gary


  6. #16
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    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    I have an unopened Mount Vernon rye quart. It is a BIB . The tax stamp states:

    Produced by Gwynnbrook Company Distillery No. 33, 5th supervisory district Maryland Spring 1921

    Bottled at Internal Revenue Bonded warehouse no. 27,
    Maryland Fall 1933

    The label states:

    Mount Vernon Straight Rye Whiskey

    Bottled In Bond 100 proof

    Distilled by Gwynnbrook Company, Gwynnbrook, Md

    American Medicinal Spirits Company, Baltimore, Md

    Rebottled by the AMS division of National Distillers Products, Baltimore, Md

  7. #17
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    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    (Sniffle, Sniffle)
    I feel chills and a fever coming on, Dave. Can you bring me a tablespoon of that before it gets worse?
    (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHCCHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOO)

  8. #18
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    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    I have done some additional research and have found that we not only served as a concentration warehouse and bottler of medicinal whiskey, we also distilled at various times throughout the noble experiment. We distilled bourbon, apricot brandy, and a host of other spirits I would rather not be associated with. Our history gets a bit more colorful when you consider that World War I preceeded Prohibition and also caused beverage alcohol production to be greatly curtailed as most distilled alcohol was used in the war effort. Apparently alcohol was used in "ammunition and in the production of synthetic compounds crucial to the war effort." During the war, we had a special arrangement with the U.S. government to distill one month for our stocks and then one month for the war effort. We even built a huge pressure cooker in which we cooked and later fermented vast amounts of potatos. Heck, we made potato vodka before we even knew it was cool! According to Elmer, and other old timers, they remember train car loads of potatos rolling up to the distillery with large signs proclaiming the potatos as "unfit for human consumption." So, what was the first thing several of the poorer families around the distillery did when the train arrived? Bingo, they had potatos for dinner for the next several days. According to Elmer, those railroad cars carried some of the prettiest potatos he ever saw!

    When Colonel Blanton took over here, he had to face WWI, Prohibition, The Depression, and WWII. Each of these eras greatly affected the production of aged bourbon. It is interesting to note that it seems the fates (and certain competitors) have long conspired against well-aged bourbon. The force-out law, prior to all of this, placed a great strain on the cash flow of any distillery that wanted to sell bourbon older than 2 years of age. Some of the large purveyors of distilled spirits today were the biggest supporters of the force-out because they specialized in underage whiskies and blends.

    Ken

  9. #19

    Re: Prohibition Distilleries?

    Well, I like being right, even if just by accident.
    And the story about the potatos/potatoes (yes, Dan Quayle was right -- Webster's says you can spell it both ways) is interesting, enlightening and just a little bit sad. On the other hand, those potato trains were undoubtedly a great boon to the distillery workers and local population.
    Thanks for the history lesson, Ken.

 

 

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