Understanding the History of Whiskey in America

American Whiskey is known for its rich taste, quality, and the nostalgia a single sip can conjure. The history of whiskey in America is deep, and it has become a vintage drink that many enjoy. The history of whiskey is detailed and winds alongside this country’s history, including wars, prohibitions, rebellions, and more. Just as whiskey ages and adds character, each era of its existence has added character to the drink’s charm. 

What is the History of the First Whiskey in America?

The history of whiskey begins in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. It was in the eastern United States in 1791 when whiskey started its journey into the glasses of Americans. It was brewed as a rye-based product and eventually taxed by the president, which led to the famous “Whiskey Rebellion.” The people of Kentucky and Tennessee began to brew American whiskey as they could procure the necessary materials. 

Corn was plentiful in this area, and as the main ingredient of whiskey that makes up 51% of the total ingredient share, it was needed. As whiskey evolved, it was split into two types: bourbon and sour mash. The latter is still primarily produced in Tennessee, where it continues its popularity as a strong American drink. 

What is the History of Distilling Whiskey?

Whiskey grew in popularity, and as such, became part of the counterfeit trade. Many who participated were selling non-whiskey drinks labeled as whiskey. Given that the primary mode of transportation was horse-drawn carriages during this time, oversight was incredibly difficult. To combat the problem, George Barvin Brown attempted to standardize the labeling and bottling of whiskey. 

Soon enough, many taverns were sold on this new way of branding and procuring only standardized bottles of whiskey, which became standard commercial practice until the Bottled in Bond act was born. This act made it law that whiskey must be straight, or 50% alcohol by volume. It could only be produced by a single distiller, at one distillery, under one distillation season, and stored in a federally bonded warehouse. 

The History of Whiskey in the 1900s

Prohibition took place in America between 1922 and 1933, barring alcohol production and presenting a significant obstacle to whiskey. This grand experiment ultimately failed and ended, allowing the history of whiskey in America to continue. Bourbon became recognized as a “distinct product of the USA” in 1964, laying down legal statutes around the quality standards of real bourbon. 

American whiskey remains a drink of choice in the U.S. today, primarily due to the quality control standards applied to its production over the years. Many great whiskey brands have stood the test of time and even contributed to the history of whiskey in America, including Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, and Wild Turkey. Those and other distilleries provide tours and tastings to the public so it can enjoy the rich taste -- and the rich history of whiskey in America.