Founders of Bourbon
The stories behind the
Famous Names on your Bottles of Bourbon
Rev. Elijah Craig
Elijah Craig was born in 1743 in Orange, Virginia. Craig opened a distillery in 1789, and in June of that year, one of his barns burned down.
Evan Williams was born in Virginia and moved to Kentucky in early adulthood. It was in 1783 that Evan Williams founded the first commercial spirit distillery "K.S.P. #1"
Henry McKenna was born in the Draperstown, County Derry in Ireland in 1819, and came to Kentucky in Nelson County in 1838. As a youth Henry worked for a period in an Irish distillery and later clerked in a liquor store for a relative.
The Shapira Brothers
The Shapira family (brothers Gary, George, David, Ed and Mose) agreed to pay $17,500 to start a distillery that had no still, no brands, no inventory and no warehouses. On Dec. 13th, 1935, the first barrel was filled and a tradition started at Heaven Hill Distillery.
Parker Beam named after the legendary 6th generation Beam distiller, Park Beam, his grandfather. Park Beam was the brother of Jim Beam. Parker learned the business from his grandfather, and his father Earl Beam at Heaven Hill.
George Garvin Brown
George Garvin Brown was born in September 1847 and grew up in Munfordville, KY as a young man he got a job as a pharmaceutical salesman selling things like quinine, laudanum, opiates, and whiskey.
Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel was born in Tennessee in 1849, and opened a distillery in Lynchburg. Because of the confusion and disarray after the Civil War, most distilleries in the South didn’t register their stills with the government, but young Jack did and became the country's Number 1 distillery.
Dr. William Forrester
Old Forester is the flagship brand of Brown-Forman, named after the Civil War surgeon Dr. William Forrester. It was the first bourbon to be bottled and labeled as a medicinal bourbon by George Garvin Brown when he was a pharmaceutical salesman. It had always been sold at a 100 proof.
Lincoln Henderson was appointed Brown-Forman’s Master Distiller in 1976, and under his direction releases its first super premium brand ever in Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey. Next Henderson pushes out Jack Daniel's Single Barrel ushered in as the company's first "Top Shelf Brand" in 1997.
J. T. S. Brown
John Thompson Street Brown, was the patriarch of the Bourbon whiskey making Kentucky family that left an indelible mark on the industry for the many generations that followed. Born in 1826, J. T. S. was part of a six generation family that grew into the largest whiskey producing company in the world.
Paul Smith, Jr.
Jones decided to move his company and distillery to "Whiskey Row" in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884 but could not find enough room to his liking. In 1889 he bought the J. G. Mattingly distillery for $125,000 at auction ($3,460,000.00 in today's dollars). Included in the purchase were a mill, a fermenting house, a boiler house, a distillery building and a cattle barn.
Charles L. Beam
Charles L. Beam (1922-2007), grand nephew of Jim Beam was hired as at Four Roses in 1962 and named only the fourth Master Distiller at Four Roses in 1968. Under Beam's tenure as Master Distiller, Four Roses introduced the Bourbon brands of Benchmark Bourbon in 1969 and Eagle Rare in 1975.
Jim Rutledge begged owner Kirin to "let us go back to bourbon and also bring Four Roses back home and start selling into the U.S. again" Kirin agreed, they started recalling and destroying all the bottles of bargain-basement blended whiskey. The distillery reintroduced a Four Roses Bourbon in 2002 and released its first Four Roses Single-barrel Bourbon in 2004 in Kentucky.
Colonel E. H. Taylor
Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. was born in Columbia, Kentucky in 1832. Taylor was a descendant of two U.S. presidents, James Madison and General Zachary Taylor
George T. Stagg
George T. Stagg was born in 1835, near Lancaster, Kentucky. He is one of the founding fathers of what is now the "Buffalo Trace Distillery" in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Colonel Albert Blanton
Born on an adjacent farm, Blanton joined what was then George T. Stagg Distillery as an office boy at the age of 16. Over the next several years, Blanton was promoted and given experience in every department at the Distillery.
Julian P. Van Winkle
A man who was true to the craft, Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr.’s mantra was “We make fine bourbon at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.” His name has now become synonymous with quality in the bourbon industry.
W. L. Weller
A true distilling pioneer, William Larue Weller is credited with being the first distiller to produce Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey using wheat instead of rye in the mash bill. Weller’s original “wheated bourbons” became extremely popular, with a softer, smoother taste.
Bill Samuels, Sr.
Bill Samuels burned up the 170 year-old family recipe and almost the living room as well in the 1950's. He then experimented with many recipes but did not have the time to distill them, barrel them, age them and then taste them years later. So he baked seven different mash bill recipes in seven loaves of bread and had his family try each. What they settled on was corn with a soft winter wheat to make their bourbon.
T. W. Samuels
T. W. Samuels opened his first distillery in Deatsville, Kentucky in 1844. Known for it’s unique stair step designed rack houses, it had greater chimney effect forcing more heat to the top floors. T.W. Samuels grandson went on to start a little bourbon called Maker’s Mark.
Two gentlemen, Thomas (Tom) Selvin Moore and Benjamin (Ben) F. Mattingly fell in love with the Willett sisters. Both Tom and Ben married their sweet hearts & years later, their father-in-law signed over ownership of the Willett & Frenke distillery to them. In 1876 Tom & Ben rechristened their operation Mattingly & Moore Distillery.
Oscar Getz was amazed with the history of distilling in Kentucky. He was also a prolific collector of whiskey memorabilia. Getz was so enamored with bourbon making he wrote a book called, "Whiskey: An American pictorial history," which came out in 1978 and became the definitive reference to everything in the Bourbon business for the next two decades.
James B. Beam
Colonel James Beauregard Beam "Jim Beam" was born in Bardstown, Kentucky near the end of the Civil War in 1864. He took over the "Old Tub Distillery" (later the Jim Beam Distillery) before Prohibition.
It was in Frederick, Maryland that Jacob Beam learned how to ferment grapes, apples into hard cider and Rye whiskey. Jacob began to distill his first whiskey in 1795.
Frederick Booker Noe was born in December 1929 and passed away in 2004. He introduced Booker’s Bourbon in 1987 and coined the phrase “small batch” to describe his uncut unfiltered bourbon. Master Distiller for over 40 years, Booker was a larger than life character.
Basil Hayden, Sr.
Hayden led a group of twenty-five Catholic families from Maryland into what is now Nelson County, Kentucky in 1785. This area, Bardstown is home to many of the famous bourbon brands and is considered "The Bourbon Capital of the World."
David M. Beam
David M. Beam stayed at home and took over the distilling operation begun by his grandfather. Then in about 1860, David M. moved the family distillery from its original site to Nelson County, to take advantage of a new railroad line between Louisville & Nashville.It was at that time, "leveraging" the railroad that their bourbon became a national brand and they named it after their former distillery calling it "Old Tub Bourbon."
Dr James Crow
Crow was a Scottish chemist and physician that arrived in the US in 1820 and worked for a couple distilleries until Oscar Pepper made the best move of his career, and probably the bourbon world by hiring Dr. Crow in 1838 to be his master distiller.
. Jacob Beam's son David helped his father most in the whiskey business. David Beam was as smart as a whip and learned from the industrial revolution going on around him. He expanded the distillery from a modest family business into a good sized factory, naming it the “Old Tub Distillery.”
Fred Noe, who’s birth name is Frederick Booker Noe III, was born in 1954 in Bardstown, Kentucky. He became the Seventh Generation Beam family to be named Master Distiller in 2007 and regularly travels for promotional purposes.
T. Jeremiah Beam
Jim Beam had two children, a son, T. Jeremiah Beam, and a daughter, Margaret. Jere (pronounced "Jerry") was born in Bardstown in 1899 and went to work in the family distillery, Clear Springs at age 14. Jeremiah eventually gained full ownership of Beam Brands and opened a second distillery near Boston, Kentucky, in 1954.
Baker worked at both these distilleries himself, and has his own small batch bourbon in the famous Jim Beam “Small Batch Bourbon Collection.” Baker retired at age 81 is an avid fan of high storage in the warehouse for his Baker’s Bourbon. He feels it 7 years is the maximum age when you use high storage.
T. B. Ripy
The Rippy Brothers Distillery named after the two sons of James Ripy that he had hired to run the place, Thomas Beebe Ripy and James P. Ripy. Thomas would go on to become the largest distiller in the world during the two decades in the 1890's and 1900's. Thomas Ripy's Bourbon was chosen from over 400 to represent the State of Kentucky at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.
Russell's beginning in the whiskey business started off by sweeping the floors at the distillery not five miles from where he grew up in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Now after 60 years passion for his work, Master Distiller Jimmy Russell has become a Global Ambassador, not just for Wild Turkey but for the entire Bourbon Industry.