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Kentucky: A road trip through the state - Part 17 - Orlando / Florida Guide

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Kentucky – a road trip through the state:- part 17

It’s now standard practice to char the inside of the oak barrels that the spirit matures in but when did it start? The earliest record of this charring of a barrel can be found in a letter from a general store in Lexington to the Distiller John Corlis. The letter written in 1826 states that the whiskey will be much improved “if the barrels are burnt upon the inside, say only a 16th of an inch”. In the rest of the letter he orders more barrels of whiskey.

It has always been a long standing distiller’s tradition to burn the name of the distillery into the end of the barrel. All the early saloons just stored the barrels above the bar with the branded ends of the barrels showing the customers what was on offer. So when you hear the term “brand-names” this is where it originated from at the start of the 1830’s. Brand names started to become more important and recognised in the 1830’s with people asking for ‘brands’ they liked. Distiller E. H. Taylor tried to ensure his Bourbon was distinctive by using brass rings on his barrels that he polished before each shipment. E. H. Taylor also had an elaborate trademark designed for the end of his barrels.

Also in 1830 the other big event that happened was the open of a two mile long canal; this was the Louisville and Portland Canal. It may not sound much but was the first river improvement scheme to be carried out in the U. S. This small canal bypassed the falls on the Ohio River which up to that point had stopped all river traffic. During summer, autumn, and winters months the river was low at this point and during spring the rush of water was just as bad. In practice most cargos were unloaded moved to the bottom of the falls and then reload onto a new vessel which cost both time and money. Once this obstacle was removed it also extended the time that the product could be shipped to market.

It was another 20 years before the next major milestone happened and that was in 1850 when the state of Kentucky chartered the construction of The Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The first track extended just south of Louisville, however by 1859, the track construction was finally completed when it reached Nashville, a total distance of 180 miles.


The next major change to the industry was another 20 years further on in 1870. At that time George Brown realised that by bottling Bourbon instead of selling it in kegs he could offer consumers a number of positive things. His new consistent packaging gave his product legitimacy as no one could tamper with it, and customers would know they were getting the product they had paid for. He called it Old Forrester and it was the first Bourbon to be exclusively sold by the bottle.

Until 1879 when barrels were stacked in a warehouse they were very difficult to move around. Then Frederick Stitzel patented a system of tiered storage racks that increased air circulation and made it easier to move barrels.

Continued in part 18

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Page added on: 8 February 2016
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