Personal Perspectives

Read more about the article The Case of the Charred New Oak Containers
The requirement that Bourbon and rye could only be aged in charred new oak containers was added at some point between 1935 and 1938. No one really knows why it was added or by whom.

The Case of the Charred New Oak Containers

Between 1935 and 1938 one very significant substantive change was made to the nascent standard of identify for Bourbon and rye whiskey (among others): the requirement for aging in new charred oak barrels. The difference is less than a sentence. No one really knows how it came to be added.

Read more about the article A Guide to Guides for the American Whiskey Novice in the 1990s [Part I]
The Signet Encyclopedia of Whiskey, Brandy & All Other Spirits would have been one of only three books a bourbon n00b would have found in the 1990s.

A Guide to Guides for the American Whiskey Novice in the 1990s [Part I]

Whiskey nerds often like to go on about how easy it would have been ‘back in day’ to bag what today would be considered unicorn finds, paying then retail prices for bottles that now go for thousands of dollars. It’s a fun (if pointless) exercise, but it did get me thinking: if I had been interested in American whiskey back in a decade like the 1990s, exactly how would I have known where to begin?

Read more about the article The Last Gasp of Prohibition
Close up of a medicinal spirits prescription showing details as elaborate as a dollar bill, probably intended to prevent counterfeiting. Apparently this wasn't enough of deterrent. But that wasn't going to matter much longer.

The Last Gasp of Prohibition

In May of 1933 the federal government issued one final set of regulations regarding prescriptions written for medicinal whiskey, reflecting an act passed just two months earlier. But the 21st amendment was already in the process of being ratified and by the end of the year national Prohibition would be repealed. These regulations appear to have been its last gasp.

Read more about the article A Pilgrim in Shively [Part I]
The unassuming Louisville suburb of Shively is home to two active and five historic distillery sites.

A Pilgrim in Shively [Part I]

I already knew that Shively, a suburb of Louisville, was something of an archaeologic mecca for whiskey history buffs when I was shown photos of the old Seagram warehouses located there a couple of week ago. I had also not realized how striking and beautiful they were. I decided it was time for a proper visit to see all Shively had to offer.

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Read more about the article A Moment of Sober Reflection
The Harrison-Cullen Act levied a federal tax on low proof alcoholic beverages like beer and wine. This was several months before the 21st amendment was ratified. Obviously the feds saw the writing on the wall.

A Moment of Sober Reflection

Today, December 5th, is the 89th anniversary of the end of national Prohibition after Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah (!?) voted to ratify the 21st amendment. Interestingly enough the federal government had already begun the repeal process months earlier.

View from the top of the ladder at Hard Water, San Francisco
Not too many people got to look at the wall from this angle. But for those of us who worked here, it was a view we took all too for granted.

A Notable Absence…

Seeing the list of America's best Bourbon bars for 2022 it was hard for me to note that Hard Water was missing. It was one of many bars that didn't survive the COVID shutdowns.

Juarez Whiskey Straight American Bourbon
Label from a bottle of Bourbon whiskey made in Mexico in the 1930s, before 'Bourbon' became a protected trade name.

Three Important Dates in American Whiskey History

A week or so ago I attended an ‘experience’ at one of the many distilleries in Kentucky now offering tours and tastings. Like many similar offerings, it included a recap of various important milestones in American whiskey history. And as happens all too often, one or more of these milestones was attributed to the wrong event and date. I guess this isn’t the biggest deal but when those of us who represent the distilling industry are asked to tell the story of Bourbon to the general public I think it’s important to get these details right.