Another Historic Example of Pennsylvania’s Distilling Past: Fry & Mathias

J. Mathias Distillery Manor, Pa. Westmoreland County RD# 22 23rd District   The small borough of Manor, Pennsylvania in Westmoreland County was once home to the incomparable Fry & Mathias Distillery. It is tragic that this distillery and its legacy have been largely forgotten. Those citizens of Manor that do realize that a distillery was once central to their town’s economy have only vague recollections of what it once was. With origins stretching back to before the Civil War, Fry & Mathias was still active as a distillery into the late 1940s (possibly early 1950s). In fact, its final owner was the famous Brown Forman Company, owners of Jack Daniels and Old Forester whiskey brands (most likely for bottling and warehousing purposes). Even after...

Interview with Whiskey Lore

Episode 1– When Pennsylvania Ruled American Whiskey Drew and I discuss Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey tradition and history. Episode 2– Breaking Pennsylvania Through Kentucky Bourbon’s Hold on American Whiskey History The conslusion of our long, but info-packed conversation about PA rye whiskey. We get into why PA rye whiskey is no longer around and why the history of rye whiskey is so limited in scope....

What is Rye Whiskey & Why Is It So Different Today?

Rye whiskey is very popular these days. We can clearly see the growth in market share. People talk about how unique it is, but then the occasional article surfaces that talks about how blind tastings show that no one can tell the difference between rye and bourbon. If it’s supposed to be so unique and different, why then is it so similar? What is rye whiskey anyway? This seems like an easy enough question to answer, right? There are plenty of articles out there telling us what rye whiskey is. They explain what the US defines as rye whiskey, what it’s made from, what it tastes like, why it’s what you should buying right now…but I’m here to tell you…you’re not getting the full story. What rye whiskey is today is a far cry from what pure rye whiskey used to...

Why Was the Taft Decision Necessary?

(Hint: It’s Not Necessarily Why You’d Think…) Rectifiers VS. Straight Whiskey Interests To understand why the Taft Decision was so important to the whiskey industry, one must first understand why it was necessary to begin with. And NO- it was not to decide the definition of “straight whiskey.” The reason the Taft Decision was necessary at all was because the definition of “whiskey” was being hijacked. This will not be a popular statement, but…the people hijacking the definition were the lobbyists FOR straight bourbon. Since the earliest days of whiskey-making in America, there were rectifiers. Early on, so much of the whiskey being made in pot stills was inconsistent and flawed so many retail establishments began blending and refining the...

Is Rye Whiskey Really that Hard to Make?

After the last blog post, I was reminded by a fellow enthusiast that I should have included that “rye whiskey is hard to make”. It gave me pause so I figured I better address it. I did not include that rye grain mashes can be difficult to work with because I do not believe that it was a contributing factor behind rye whiskey not surviving Prohibition. The first reason among the 8 I provided was that rye was expensive, both to grow and to purchase, but I did not make mention of how difficult it may be to work with in the distillery. After all, these difficulties are not likely something that an experienced distiller in the early 20th century would have been affected by. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you are an experienced Formula One racecar driver,...