1. Delegates of the first Continental Congress met at City Tavern in Philadelphia.
2. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in the Indian Queen Tavern in Philadelphia.
3. Rye whiskey was made before bourbon whiskey existed.
4. Rye whiskey was first made in Pennsylvania. Immigrants that initially tried to grow barley found that rye was more easily grown in the rocky Pennsylvanian soil. Surplus rye grain was distilled into whiskey.
5. By the 1780s, around 5,000 log stillhouses were operating in Pennsylvania’s Fayette, Allegheny, Westmoreland and Washington counties.
6. Rye whiskey was used as a means of “currency” and was traded in an early American barter system.
7. Taxes implemented by the newly formed U.S. government in 1791 to pay for the Revolutionary War led to the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. George Washington was forced to end the rebellion by rallying 13,000 American troops and marching west. Wigle distillery,0 in Pittsburg, PA, is named after Philip Wigle, one of the instigators that was eventually pardoned by Washington.
8. Production of rye whiskey in Pennsylvania disappeared in the 1980’s leaving the only rye whiskeys being produced in the U.S. to made by bourbon focused Kentucky distilleries.
9. Brand names that had become famous as high rye content rye whiskeys from Pennsylvania such as Rittenhouse Rye (the same Rittenhouse that Rittenhouse Park in Philadelphia was named after), Old Overholt, and Michter’s, were now redesigned whiskeys owned by new companies (Heaven Hill, Jim Beam and Chatham Imports, respectively) and barely count as rye whiskeys now at just over 51% rye content.
10. Pennsylvania style rye, sometimes referred to as Monongahela Style Rye, is high is rye content- over 80% rye with the balance being malted barley.
11. Many distilleries in Pennsylvania saw whole towns being built up around them to accommodate the distillery staff. The closing of those distilleries, due to Prohibition, left ghost towns, abandoned by their residents, that would eventually disappear completely. Many distillery sites are no longer visible at all, though some remain as ruins.
12. The famous Old Overholt brand was named after Abraham Overholt, the original founder of the West Overton Distilling Company in Scottsdale, Pa. Abraham Overholt’s family was originally from Bucks county. The Old Overholt brand was actually distilled at the Broad Ford Distillery along the Youghiogheny River near Pittsburgh. Broad Ford operated as a medicinal whiskey distillery during Prohibition. The last Overholt family member to own the brand was Henry Clay Frick, an Industrial Revolution era tycoon. Old Overholt was absorbed by the American Medicinal Spirits Company during Prohibition which later would become National Distillers. In 1987, National Distillers was absorbed by Fortune Brands (Jim Beam). Beam Suntory Company makes Old Overholt today in KY.
13. The Large Distillery was built along the Monongahela River in the early 1800’s. By 1890, Large Monongahela Style Rye was a well-known national brand. The town, Large, is the smallest town in Pennsylvania. The smoke stack from the original distillery still stands.
14. The Schenley Distillery located along the Allegheny River, was founded by Frank Sinclaire in the town of Schenley, Pa. It was the purchase of this distillery by Frank Rosensteil, a titan of the American whiskey industry, that gave him the name for his company. Schenley was one of the four giant distilling companies to survive Prohibition and ended up owning about ¼ of the aging American whiskey stocks in the country. The town no longer exists.
15. A. Guckenheimer Distillers near Freeport, Pa and associated distillery, Pennsylvania Distilling Company, were the makers of Guckenheimer rye. It was considered a top shelf rye whiskey right up until Prohibition when the label began being bottled and distilled by others that discredited the famous whiskey.
16. Sam Thompson Distillery was located in West Brownsville along the Monongahela River. They produced Sam Thompson Monongahela Rye. The brand survived Prohibition because it was owned by Schenley and was produced most likely their Alladin, Pa distillery or by PennCo (Michter’s).
17. Gibson Distillery, also known as Moore and Sinnot, was the largest rye distillery in the world from the 1880’s until Prohibition. At its peak, the distillery produced 150 barrels a day. It has its own cooperage where oak was aged for at least three years before being assembled. Prohibition bankrupted the company and the giant was sold in pieces at a sheriff’s sale in 1923.
18. The Sam Dillinger Distillery, also known as the Ruffsdale Distillery, was one of the distilleries to survive prohibition. It operated until the 1960’s. Their flagship brand was Thos. Moore Bottle in Bond rye Whiskey. Dillinger was their blended rye.
19. Around 1860, Joseph Bomberger bought his distillery in Shaefferstown, Pa. Bomberger Distillery ceased production during Prohibition, but reopened after 1933. It changed hands until being bought by Schenley in 1950. Charles Everett Beam designed the old fashioned pot still style whiskey that would become Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey. In 1978, Bomberger’s officially became Michter’s Distillery, Inc. The company finally went in bankrupt in 1989. The final whiskeys made at that location would become some of the most sought after whiskey on the market by collectors. A.H.Hirsh 16 year old Reserve Bourbon was distilled in the 70’s by Dick Stoll, the master distiller for Michter’s at the time. Dick Stoll now partners with Erik Wolfe in a new distillery venture called Heritage Spririts on the site of the old Bomberger’s Distillery. Their new product is called Stoll &Wolfe.
20. The Kinsey Distillery, also known as the Linfield Distillery, was located along the Schuylkill River in Linfield, PA. It reopened after closing during Prohibition, only to bought by Continental Distilling Company. Continental also operated a distillery in Philadelphia. It ended distillation in 1951, the bottling line shut down in 1979 and the site as warehousing complex closed its doors in 1986, around the same time as Michter’s.
21. In 2005, Robert Cassell, his uncle, Andrew Auwerda and Timothy Yarnall launched Philadelphia Distilling, the first craft distillery to open in PA since Prohibition. Robert Cassell helped spur the passing of Act 113 in 2011 that enabled Pa distilleries the same rights as limited licensed wineries. He has since opened New Liberty Distillery in Philadelphia to make whiskey. Cassell’s Millstone Spirits Group reintroduced the Kinsey brand in 2014.
22. Dad’s Hat Distillery was the first distillery to produce a Pennsylvania style rye whiskey in over two decades. Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey was recently voted America’s Best New Craft Whiskey by Whisky Advocate magazine.
23. In PA, there are 33 limited license distilleries with 14 pending applications underway.
24. New distilleries in Pennsylvania are embracing their state’s roots with many spins on rye whiskey. Thistle Finch Distillery in Lebanon, Pa makes a wheated rye with a mash bill of 60% rye, 30% wheat and 10% barley. New Liberty Distillery is experimenting with a 100% malted rye whiskey.
25. Glen Mills, Pa boasts a malting house-the first in the area since before Prohibition- with a true malting floor that produces bulk malted grains for whiskey makers in Pennsylvania such as Thistle Finch Distillery, New Liberty Distillery and County Seat Spirits as well as many others.
26. American Whiskey Convention will take place on March 25th at Citizen’s Bank Park. We will draw the connection between Pennsylvania’s Distilling past and the bright future that lies ahead for distillers, farmers, wholesalers and the small businesses that they inspire.