“Old Hickory” and “The Hickoryites”

“Old Hickory” and “The Hickoryites”

Andrew Jackson was an interesting character. He was born to Scots-Irish immigrants (most likely landing first in Philadelphia) somewhere between the border of North and South Carolina in 1767. He was an orphan without siblings by the age of 14. His eldest brother, Hugh, died during the Revolution and his other brother, Robert, died of smallpox after he and Andrew had been held captives of the British. You can imagine how losing your family at so young an age would begin to harden the man. Jackson may not have come from wealth, but his years as a frontier lawyer down in Tennessee certainly changed that. He would go on to have a distinguished career as a lawyer, a judge, a politician and a land speculator. His purchase of the Hermitage, his plantation near...

John Steinbeck and Whiskey

John Steinbeck and Whiskey

On this day in 1937,  John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was published.  Two years later, he would win the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath.  Steinbeck was writing Of Mice and Men in the 30’s after Prohibition and before WWI.  The book emphasizes dreams and loneliness in the characters and gives modern readers a snapshot of the American desire for something better. George is trying to make a better life for himself and Lennie.  They work as migrant field workers with a dream of having their own homestead.  The American condition was tough as the Great Depression hit the country.  There’s a scene in the book where Candy describes the Boss’s son, Curley, as not a bad guy because he gave the workers a gallon of whiskey for Christmas.  Anyone who’s read the book...

Frank Sinatra and Jack Daniel’s

Frank Sinatra and Jack Daniel’s

A few days ago, on December 12th, Frank Sinatra (if he were still alive) would have turned 100 years old. Sinatra was an icon. He was a man that broke through stereotypes and changed how Americans viewed musical performances. He also changed the whiskey industry as we know it. It may seem like a stretch to say that Frank Sinatra kicked off the whiskey boom, but it is not far from the truth! It’s hard to imagine today, but the behemoth that is Jack Daniels was only producing about 150,000 cases in 1955. (In comparison Beam was producing about that amount of Knob Creek in 2011) That is no small amount of whiskey, but by the following year, that number doubled. Today, Jack Daniels is ranked fourth globally in wine and spirit sales, but that had to start somewhere....

Al Capone Went to Prison Today…

Al Capone Went to Prison Today…

Did you know that today is the day that Al Capone went to prison? On this day in 1931, Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000. It was the beginning of the end for the most notorious criminals of the Prohibition era. “Scarface” was given control of the Chicago crime syndicate in 1925, when the crime boss Johnny Torrio retired. Capone’s wealth grew enormously during Prohibition. The smuggling of illegal hooch into Chicago was very lucrative and by 1930, he was at the top of the FBI’s wanted list. I always find it ironic that Al Capone was arrested and charged with tax evasion when the government was fully aware that they had lost the equivalent of 50% of their own tax income by imposing Prohibition on the country. The...

The Pope is In Philadelphia!

So the pope’s here in Philadelphia…does he drink whiskey? Apparently, there are no papal dietary restrictions. Seems the pope can drink and eat what he likes. Pope Benedict XVI was from Bavaria and he liked his beer. On his 88th birthday he chose to sit in the Vatican gardens with a pint. Pope Francis is from Argentina, and though he has been seen drinking mate tea in the streets with the people, is only known to indulge in the occasional glass of wine. He is a man of the people…perhaps just a bit of whiskey? When the Queen Elizabeth visited the Vatican in April of 2014, she gave Pope Francis a basket of goodies from her estate. One of the items in her gift basket was Balmoral Single Malt Scotch. Royal Lochnagar distillery (originally New Lochnagar),...

Jefferson’s Whiskey?

Jefferson’s Whiskey?

Thomas Jefferson may have a whiskey named after him, but maybe not for the reasons you think… When the Jefferson’s brand of whiskey was launched in 1997, the brand said that Trey Zoeller chose the name Jefferson’s “because the bourbon was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s curiosity, experimental spirit and good taste.” When Reid Mitenbuler (author of Bourbon Empire) asked Zoeller admitted, “I had no marketing budget. I simply wanted a recognizable face associated with history and tradition.” Even if the whiskey wasn’t thoughtfully named after Jefferson, the history of his association with and his connection to whiskey is interesting… After the Revolutionary War, the country (the government) needed revenue to pull itself out of...

Poor Old Crow…When Will You Get Your Due?

Poor Old Crow…When Will You Get Your Due?

Poor Old Crow…when will you get your due? Old Crow bourbon long ago fell to the bottom shelf. It uses the same mash bill and yeast as Jim Beam, but is only aged for 3 years and not as much interest is put into its taste profile. Old Crow Reserve gets a bit more love by being aged for 4 years and is bottled at 86 proof instead of the industry standard 80 that Old Crow is brought down to. This historic American whiskey is named after James Crow, the Steve Jobs of bourbon! Dr. James C. Crow (chemist/physician- with a medical degree from Edinburgh University) was originally from Inverness, in Scotland. He first moved to Philadelphia and then down to Woodford County, Kentucky in the 1820’s. He began working on new methods for distillation while working for...

William McKinley’s Political Cocktail

Today was the day President McKinley was shot… What does this have to do with whiskey, you ask? William McKinley had a cocktail named after him while he was running for president in 1896. Of course, so did his opponent, William Jennings Bryan…(Bryan’s was the Free Silver Fizz) Handing out booze was common practice when running for office. Even George Washington knew that handing out free liquor was the best way to secure votes. In fact, the first reference we have to the term “cocktail” comes from 1806, in a newspaper article describing how a Federalist defeated a Democratic-Republican candidate in New York’s Hudson River Valley despite the latter’s attempt to secure votes by handing out almost 300 mixed drinks....