Jim Beam makes Old Overholt and is one of three bourbons nicknamed “The Olds” (the other two are Old Crow, and Old Grand-Dad). Old Overholt, is America's oldest continually maintained brand of whiskey, was founded in West Overton, Pennsylvania, in 1810. The brand was founded during the James Madison Administration before the War of 1812.
Old Overholt is a Rye Whiskey distilled by A. Overholt & Co., currently a subsidiary of Beam Suntory Brands at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. It is the most commonly available straight rye whiskies in the U.S. It is available at most liquor stores & bars. It is aged for three years and bottled at 80 proof. A five-year old Bottled-In-Bond, 100 proof version was released in 2018. Old Overholt has been called a "corner stone foundation of American whiskey" because of its long history.
Henrich K. (Henry) Oberholzer a German Mennonite, a 61- year-old farmer from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, loaded his family and all his worldly goods into wagons and took the long and primitive road over the Allegheny Mountains to Western Pennsylvania in 1800. There, he and his sons cleared 150 acres of wilderness on their 263 acre farm on the banks of a Jacob’s creek that fed into the Youghiogheny River, a tributary of the mighty Monongahela River, and set out to farm the land. He changed the family’s name to Overholt to assimilate better in America.
Abraham Overholt was born in April of 1784 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He was one of twelve children by Henry and Anna Meyer Overholt. Abraham or Abe as he was called married into a very wealthy family when he married Maria Stauffer. They had seven children together and gave all of them the maiden name Stauffer so that everyone around knew that they came from a prominent family.
In 1803 the Overholts built a log still-house and started making small amounts of whiskey out of the grain they were growing. In 1810, Henry’s second-youngest son, Abraham, then a young father of 26 and a weaver by profession, took over the management of the still-house and turned it into a thriving business. Abraham, considered by many to be an “unruly Mennonite. Abe stood five feet, eight inches tall with a 42-inch chest, and was said to have possessed a “frugal, industrious and economical disposition,” By the 1820s, the distillery was putting out 15 gallons of rye whiskey per day. Abraham’s seven children did very well in their lives having obtained good positions in the family business, nice houses and an inheritance. Those included by age; Jacob Stauffer Overholt, Abraham Stauffer Overholt, Elizabeth Stauffer Frick and her husband John Wilson Frick (who Managed at the distillery), Martin Stauffer Overholt and Christian Stauffer Overholt.
The size of the still itself increased three times between 1811 and 1828. But in 1832 Abraham rebuilt the distillery in stone and expanded its capacity more than tenfold. Clearly, something was working. A couple of years later, he built a substantial new gristmill, further streamlining production as his sons no longer had to haul his grain away by wagon to be milled. Abraham’s business was very much a family concern, involving two of his four sons and various sons-in-law and grandsons. Abraham grew the company rapidly; by 1843, Baltimore newspapers were advertising Overholt's "Old Rye"; best in the country. At that time, only the very few top distilleries were advertised by name, but not any brands
In 1854 the Overholts built a large, modern distillery at Broad Ford, only miles away on the banks of the Youghiogheny, and, more importantly, right next to the tracks of the brand new Pittsburgh & Connellsville Railroad. By 1859, Overholt incorporated his business as "A. Overholt & Co." He operated out of a new distillery building that was six stories high, 100 feet long, and which could produce 860 gallons per day. (17 Barrels)
Abraham Overholt died in January of 1870 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. In 1881, Abraham's grandson Henry Clay Frick took over the company. As one of the country's wealthiest people, the distillery was a sentimental side-business for Frick. Frick took on Andrew Mellon as a partner.
In 1888, they adopted the name "Old Overholt" as the official name of the company, adding a picture of Abraham as the logo. Around that time, the company started selling its product in bottles instead of barrels. By 1900, Old Overholt became a national brand and the largest and most respected whiskey in the country.
Frick died in December 1919, and left his share to Andrew Mellon. This ended family ownership in the company. National prohibition of alcohol passed in 1920 and hit most Americans hard. Many distilleries were put out of business. But because it was owned by Andrew Mellon, who was then secretary of the treasury under President Warren G. Harding, Old Overholt was able to secure one of six permits for selling medicinal whiskey.
The company was sold in 1932 to National Distillers Products Co., which owned more than 200 brands at the time. During World War II, It was the so-called "medicinal" alcohol of the United States Navy. After war's end, whiskey fell out of favor with the American public generally, as drinkers switched to white liquors like vodka. Rye whiskey especially fell out of favor, and by the 1960s,
Old Overholt was one of only three nationally distributed straight rye whiskey. The others were Jim Beam (1938) & Wild Turkey (1944). The brand struggled through the 1970s as sales continued to decline. In 1987, Old Overholt was sold to the James B. Beam Distilling Company, which moved production to Kentucky.