Monday, July 11, 2022

The Death of James C. Crow and the Birth of Aged Bourbon Whiskey


Grave of James Christopher Crow; Versailles Cemetery; Versailles, Kentucky.

Although death is always the end of something, it can cause something else to begin. That is what happened when James Christopher Crow, 67, died in Woodford County, Kentucky, in 1856. 

Crow was a professional distiller, itself something new. He didn’t have a farm, mill, or distillery of his own. His was an itinerant profession, plied at various distilleries in Central Kentucky from the 1820s until his death. 

In those days, few whiskey-makers were known beyond their home communities, but Crow and whiskey he made at Oscar Pepper’s distillery at Versailles (Vur-SALES is the local pronunciation) had a national reputation. The fascination with Crow and his whiskey began the connection between whiskey and Kentucky in popular consciousness. It also was the beginning of a new style of whiskey, bourbon whiskey as we know it today.

The site of Oscar Pepper’s distillery is today’s Woodford Reserve. 

James Crow is often cited as the  father of bourbon. Sometimes, that title is given to his banker, E. H. Taylor. The little-known William Mitchell is another likely candidate. (Elijah Craig is not a likely candidate. That story is bullshit.)

But it all starts with Crow. 

You may think you know Crow's story and perhaps you do, but you probably don't know all of it, and most people don't know what happened next nor how big Old Crow Bourbon ultimately became. But you will if you read the new issue of The Bourbon Country Reader (Volume 21, Number 2).

Also, a rye varietal revered by whiskey makers a century ago, known as Rosen, has returned to its roots in Michigan, literally.

The Bourbon Country Reader is the oldest publication devoted entirely to American whiskey. It is a charming mix of news, history, analysis, and product reviews. Do you worry that advertising spending influences coverage in other publications? No chance of that here since The Bourbon Country Reader is 100 percent reader-supported. It accepts no advertising.

To experience The Bourbon Country Reader for yourself, you need to subscribe. Honoring history, The Bourbon Country Reader still comes to you exclusively on paper, in an envelope, via the USPS. Doing our part to keep the USPS solvent, we use only First Class Mail, which just went up, again, so there is a whiff of subscription price increase in the air.

Nevertheless, a subscription to The Bourbon Country Reader is still a mere $20 per year for addresses in the USA, $25 for everyone else. The Bourbon Country Reader is published six times a year, more-or-less, but your subscription always includes six issues no matter how long it takes. For those of you keeping track, this new one is Volume 21, Number 2. 

Click here to subscribe with PayPal or any major credit card (the fastest and easiest way). Or click here for other options and more information (the slightly more difficult way). Click here for a free sample (an older issue in PDF format). Click here to open or download "The Bourbon Country Reader Issue Contents in Chronological Order." (It's like an index.)

If you want to catch up on what you've missed, bound back issue volumes are available for $20 each, or three for $50. That's here too. (Those prices are probably going up soon too.)

If you prefer to pay by check, make it payable to Made and Bottled in Kentucky, and mail it to Made and Bottled in Kentucky, 3712 N. Broadway, PMB 298, Chicago, IL 60613-4198. Checks drawn on U.S. banks only, please.


Sam Komlenic said...

Another great issue, Chuck. Well worth the twenty buck price of admission!

Gene said...

I subscribed, Chuck, sent money via paypal.. What do I do next?

Chuck Cowdery said...

You've done your part. The rest is up to me.