Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking

Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking

Henry G. Crowgey

Language: English

Pages: 190

ISBN: 0813191831

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Bourbon whiskey is perhaps Kentucky's most distinctive product. Despite bourbon's prominence in the social and economic life of the Bluegrass state, many myths and legends surround its origins. In Kentucky Bourbon, Henry C. Crowgey claims that distilled spirits and pioneer settlement went hand in hand; Isaac Shelby, the state's first governor, was among Kentucky's pioneer distillers. Crowgey traces the drink's history from its beginnings as a cottage industry to steam-based commercial operations in the period just before the Civil War. From "spirited" camp meetings, to bourbon's use as a medium of exchange for goods and services, to the industry's coming of age in the mid-nineteenth century, the story of Kentucky bourbon is a fascinating chapter in the state's early history.

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eds., Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York, 1888-1892), 1:766. 1 5 Collins, History of Kentucky, 2:605. 16 Cresswell, Journal, 81. 25 KENTUCKY BOURBON of corn was fall cribbed at the different fields where it was raised.m.1 A petition to the Virginia Assembly (1779) from the "Distressed Inhabitants of Boonsfort" referred to the original settlement of 1775 where "all of the men raised corn here the first year.m.s William Calk was one of these, as his journal for May of that

the mowers one and a half rations Ibid., 581. Ezekial Howell to Thomas Bodley, August 25, 1797 (Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort), fol. 460. This was by no means an isolated case; for similar actions on the part of the military, and the post-campaign demands for reimbursement, see Hundley to Innes, June 6, 1791, Innes Papers, fol. 20, part 2, 245. See also James, George Rogers Clark Papers, 4:247. 1s Hening, Statutes at Large, 9:446; 10: 19; 11:476-94. 11 12 65 KENTUCKY BOURBON per

absent-mindedness when he included the prosaic "water" in his list of this enticing assortment of colonial beverages. Robert Beverley supplied some indication of the source of these items in his colorful history of the colony: "Their strong drink is Madera Wine, Cyder, Mobby Punch, made either of Rum from the Caribbee Islands, or Brandy distill'd from their Apples and Peaches; besides Brandy, Wine, and strong Beer, which they have constantly from England.ms He then added a very informative

nineteen and one quarter. During the same period, and in the same markets, "Old Bourbon Whiskey" commanded prices which varied from thirty cents to one dollar per gallon, "according to age.m• By the time of the Civil War "bourbon" was well on its way to becoming a permanent part of the American language. The experiences of two French visitors to the United States serve to illustrate this point. In the first instance, during General LaFayette's tour of the country (1824-1825), a part of his

grievance, and particularly with the subsequent attempts at tax evasion. Butler's coverage of whiskey production was equally unsatisfactory, though he does mention that "some distilleries were erected for the distillation of spirits from Indian corn" on the south side of the Kentucky River.48 As Butler was referring to the year 1783, this is probably the source of the "1783 myth" so effectively perpetuated by Richard Collins and others. Lewis Collins supplied only the barest minimum of words

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