FRANKFORT, Ky. (November 6, 2013) – After a yearlong effort with four Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame historians, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association today released the first-ever Bourbon historical timeline of pioneers, landmark events and noteworthy occurrences.
“Today’s Bourbon connoisseur is thirsty for more than just premium whiskey – they seek a robust knowledge of Bourbon,” said KDA President Eric Gregory. “The goal of this effort is to answer questions with independent, concrete and factual evidence.”
The interactive timeline documents how Bourbon has been impacted by topics such as advertising, legislation, technology and transportation. It also catalogues historical events such as Prohibition and American wars that have shaped the spirits industry over 200 years.
Al Young, Brand Ambassador at Four Roses Distillery and chairman of the timeline committee, said the group steered away from brand-specific items and focused on fact-based events that transformed the industry.
Timeline examples include the first recorded recipe for sour mash and sweet mash (1818), the earliest known mention of a charred barrel ((1826), Frederick Stitzel’s patent of tiered storage racks to increase air circulation (1879) and automated bottling systems (1904).
“While the folklore surrounding our signature industry is entertaining, this group focused on one goal – accuracy,” Young said. “The timeline will be a useful educational tool for our members, consumers and the media when researching the rich history of America’s only native spirit.”
J. McCauley Brown, president of the Filson Historical Society and second vice president of the Kentucky Historical Society, said, “Our industry is a large part of American history, from the Whisky Rebellion through Prohibition to how beverage alcohol is included in today’s society.
“An unbiased collection of historical facts is critical to ensure authenticity and clarity so that we not only understand Bourbon’s role in people and society, but also understand how it’s changed and how the world we live in came to be.”
The four esteemed historians who developed the timeline are:
• Chuck Cowdery, author of “Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey” and several other books. Cowdery, a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee, writes extensively about American whiskey for numerous magazines and publications.
• Dixie Hibbs, author of 14 books about Bourbon and Kentucky and a Hall of Fame inductee in 2004. She has traveled throughout the world to spread her knowledge of Bourbon and its history, and was the first female mayor of Bardstown, Ky.
• Mike Veach, a 2006 Hall of Fame member and one of the country’s most noted Bourbon archivists, writer, book reviewer, speaker and educator. He has spent the past 15 years building the Filson’s impressive and vast special collection of Bourbon records.
• Al Young, Four Roses Brand Ambassador with 45 years of knowledge in Kentucky’s spirits industry. A true industry champion and 2011 Hall of Fame member, Young is the author of “Four Roses: The Return of a Whiskey Legend.”
The historians also are hard at work on the “Kentucky Bourbon Tales” initiative, an oral history project to collect the timeless stories of the state’s most cherished distillers and the iconic distilleries they represent.
The KDA is teaming with the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History on this collaborative, landmark effort, which is expected to be complete by May 2014.
Gregory said he wouldn’t be surprised if more items are added to the timeline based on the interviews. “The timeline is grounded in facts, but it’s also a living document that will be updated as we unearth more and more about our heritage,” he said.
“These historians have worked tirelessly and volunteered their time to capture the humble beginnings and tremendous growth of Kentucky Bourbon,” Gregory said. “We can’t thank them enough for their passion, expertise, dedication and commitment.”