Most whiskey enthusiasts know that Kentucky and Tennessee have been important whiskey-making regions since the 18th century, before they were even states. We know Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland also had long whiskey-making traditions. There are a few other places that were once important but they came along later and didn't last as long so they're little remembered today. One of those is Cincinnati, Ohio.
Cincinnati’s role in the pre-Prohibition era was as a kind of market town for whiskey, consolidating production from a regional network of distilleries in three states, turning that commodity into products, and then selling those products nationally. After Prohibition it was the American beachhead for the then-largest foreign company in the American liquor business, and the launching pad for one of the two largest domestic companies.
Today, only one of Cincinnati’s many regional feeder distilleries is still in operation, and Cincinnati itself has only one small craft distillery. Its last connection to a major spirits company will end next year. By the time it finally draws to a close, Cincinnati’s distilling history will have been almost completely forgotten.
The complete story begins in the current issue of The Bourbon Country Reader, Volume 13, Number 1; and will continue in the next issue, due out in September.
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