Bourbon, a type of American whiskey, has a rich history that dates back to the late 18th century. To be considered bourbon, the whiskey must meet certain legal requirements, including being made primarily from corn and aged in new, charred oak barrels.
When it comes to the oldest American bourbon, there is some debate and ambiguity due to the changing nature of the industry and the difficulty in tracing the exact origins of certain brands. However, one of the contenders for the title is Old Forester.
Old Forester, produced by the Brown-Forman Corporation, is often cited as America's first bottled bourbon. It was introduced in 1870 by George Garvin Brown, who had the brilliant idea of selling bourbon in sealed glass bottles. This innovation not only ensured the quality and consistency of the product but also protected consumers from the potential adulteration and tampering that was prevalent at the time.
While Old Forester is recognized as a pioneer in the bourbon industry, it is important to note that there were certainly bourbon producers before its inception. However, their exact origins and production methods may not be as well-documented or widely known.
Another brand that often comes up in discussions of the oldest American bourbon is Evan Williams. Evan Williams, produced by Heaven Hill Distillery, claims to be Kentucky's first distiller and has a history that dates back to 1783. While it is not explicitly stated that Evan Williams was producing bourbon at that time, it is likely that their early production would have resembled what we now consider bourbon.
It is worth mentioning that the bourbon industry has faced various challenges throughout its history, including Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933. During this time, many distilleries were forced to shut down or change their production methods, leading to a loss of historical records and continuity.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in vintage bourbons and the preservation of historical brands. Whiskey enthusiasts and collectors seek out limited-edition releases and older bottlings from distilleries that have a long-standing heritage.
While Old Forester and Evan Williams are often mentioned as contenders for the title of the oldest American bourbon, the exact origins and production methods of early bourbon brands can be difficult to trace. The bourbon industry has a rich history that is intertwined with American culture, and the search for the oldest bourbon continues to captivate whiskey enthusiasts.