Whisk(e)y musings read by tens of people worldwide.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Myths and Legends (But Mostly Myths)

WARNING.  For those of you who believe in Santa Claus, please skip the first paragraph.

I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the whole Santa Claus thing.  We tell our children to never lie, but lie to them every holiday season.  We don’t stop there.  The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy...we seem to have a lie for every occasion.  Eventually, they wise up (we slip up), and we’re forced to come clean.  It’s a little different when it comes to distilleries.  They want us to keep on believing, and they’ll never come clean.

Elijah Craig (according to their website) was the first person to age whiskey in charred oak barrels.  He allegedly did so out of necessity after an accidental fire.  We have to assume Craig’s customers liked the way he made whiskey.  Wouldn’t changing his methods in such a way be a tad risky?  I also love how this “immaculate fire” charred the barrels just right.  Perhaps the most damning blow to the Craig narrative occurred in 1827, when a man named Lewis Sanders toasted Craig at a fundraising event in Frankfort.  He credited Craig for many things, charring barrels wasn’t one of them.  My guess is someone was toasting a barrel (a common practice at the time for maturing brandy) that accidentally caught fire.  Not wanting to discard the barrel, he (or she) used it, and hoped for the best.  What resulted was a “happy accident” as the late Bob Ross would say.

In downtown Louisville, there’s a plaque honouring Evan Williams as “Kentucky’s 1st Distiller.”  Williams may have been granted the first license to distill in 1783, but there’s strong evidence to suggest he wasn’t even in Kentucky (or North America) at the time.  He apparently travelled to Philadelphia from London in early 1784.  Even if he was in Kentucky, frontiersmen (and women) were distilling way before Williams, it just wasn’t recorded.  You’ll also find, “Since 1783” on almost every bottle of Evan Williams, suggesting the brand is well over 200 years old.  The Evan Williams of today has only been around since 1957.  As for the “1783” Evan Williams, it was renowned for being something only suitable for medicinal purposes.

The Old Grand-Dad brand is named after bourbon legend and pioneer Basil Hayden, the “Father of High Rye.”  A version of his likeness is proudly displayed on every OGD bottle.  OGD Bonded pays homage to the high levels of rye Hayden preferred in his mash bill (recipe).  Many liquor stores (where I live) stock the entry-level, 40% version.  I’ve had water that was more flavourful.  OGD Bonded, on the other hand, is a real charmer.  Cinnamon.  Some fruit starts to emerge as it opens up in the glass.  Well behaved oak.  Vanilla custard.  It may not be legendary, but it’s definitely worthy of a spot in your home bar.

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...