What distilleries were allowed to operate during Prohibition?

Answered by Joseph Vos

During Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933 in the United States, the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages were prohibited. This meant that most distilleries were forced to shut down. However, there were a few exceptions to this rule, and some distilleries were actually allowed to continue operating under certain circumstances.

One of the exceptions during Prohibition was the production of “medicinal .” Under the Volstead Act, which enforced Prohibition, doctors were authorized to prescribe whiskey for medicinal purposes. This led to the creation of “medicinal whiskey” distilleries, which produced whiskey exclusively for medicinal use. These distilleries operated legally, and individuals could obtain a prescription from a doctor to purchase whiskey from them. However, it is worth noting that many doctors prescribed whiskey quite liberally during this time, leading to widespread abuse of this loophole.

Another exception was the production of sacramental . The Volstead Act allowed for the production of wine for religious purposes. Churches and synagogues were permitted to produce and distribute wine for sacramental use. This allowed some wineries and vineyards to stay in business during Prohibition, albeit with restrictions and regulations.

Additionally, distilleries were allowed to operate for industrial purposes. During this time, was still needed for various industrial applications such as fuel, solvents, and even medicinal products like rubbing alcohol. Industrial alcohol production was closely regulated and denatured, meaning that it was made unfit for human consumption by adding toxic substances. However, this did not prevent the illegal re-distillation of denatured alcohol to produce drinkable , leading to health risks and even death for those who consumed it.

Furthermore, bootlegging became rampant during Prohibition. Many individuals and criminal organizations took advantage of the ban on alcohol to produce and distribute illegal liquor. These operations were often hidden in secret locations such as speakeasies or underground distilleries. These illicit distilleries operated in secret, evading law enforcement and supplying the demand for alcohol during Prohibition. Some of these operations were quite sophisticated, using innovative techniques to produce high-quality spirits.

While most distilleries were forced to close during Prohibition, there were exceptions that allowed certain distilleries to continue operating legally. Medicinal whiskey production, sacramental wine production, industrial alcohol production, and the rise of bootlegging all contributed to the continuation of alcohol production and consumption during this period. Prohibition had a profound impact on the alcohol industry, leading to the rise of illicit operations and a shift in consumer preferences that would have long-lasting effects.