"The Father & Inventor of Bourbon"
Reverend Elijah Craig
Elijah Craig was born in 1743 in Orange, Virginia. In 1781, he and his older brother Louis (also a preacher) led an exodus of 600 members of what they called the “Traveling Church” to The Kentucky Territory of Virginia, they crossed the mountains through the Cumberland Gap.
A couple years later he bought 1,000 acres of land in what would become Bourbon County. There he preached at the Great Crossing Church in Georgetown which is still active today. He founded the first classical school in Kentucky in 1787, and then later donated the land for Georgetown College, which still exists and operates today.
He was the first to open a “Fulling Mill” for cloth manufacturing, the first to open a “Paper Mill” and the first to open a “Rope or Hemp Mill” in the State of Kentucky. He was also the first to open a “Lumber Mill” and “Grist Mill” in Georgetown.
Elijah Craig opened a distillery in 1789, and in June of that year, one of his barns partially burned down. That barn held some empty whiskey barrels. Craig salvaged some of the burnt barrels that he was going to ship his whiskey in. Some were burned just on the inside and some not badly charred on the outside. Being a frugal man, he used them anyway. On the 6 month trip down to New Orleans the burnt barrels imparted color and flavor. Consumers raved about that “Red Liquor from Bourbon County." Because he did not do anything different to this batch of whiskey then he normally did he later deduced that it must have been the burnt barrels. From that time on he kept using this process. He did it by buying used barrels that had arrived from New Orleans filled with fish to sell at the Northern Markets. Then he would fill the used barrels with hay and set them on fire on the inside, this not only got rid of the fish smell but sterilized the Barrels and toasted the wood, caramelizing the sugars within the staves.
Elijah Craig Bourbon is one of three whiskeys that was credited with beginning the “Bourbon Renaissance” in 1986 along with Blanton’s in 1984 and Bookers in 1988. The term “Super Premium” was established just for these three Bourbons.