Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Amber Lights: Scots doctor’s link to birth of bourbon

Post Thumbnail

Whisky writer Brian Townsend takes a closer look at Old Crow bourbon and how its Scottish creator may have had a hand in establishing America’s whiskey industry.

There is no doubt that Scots played a major role in creating America’s whiskey industry and one key name is Dr James Crow. The bourbon he created, Old Crow, is still made today although the original distillery is now a vast – and apparently haunted – ruin.

Born in Inverness in 1779, he studied medicine and chemistry at Edinburgh University, graduated aged 43 in 1822 and promptly emigrated to America. He worked briefly as a doctor in Philadelphia, then moved to Kentucky and its new, growing whiskey industry, where he worked at several distilleries including Grier’s Creek and Pepper’s.

He pioneered applying chemistry to the production, especially mashing and fermenting. Using litmus testing to check acidity and hydrometers to gauge wash strength, he improved the quality, even when produced in industrial quantities.

He developed the sour mash system, retaining part of a previous mash to add to the next one. His repute ensured that his name soon appeared on labels, either as Crow or Old Crow. Early labels carried his picture but later showed a crow perched on barley. Old Crow gained a great repute, its aficionados including Mark Twain, William Faulkner and General Ulysses S Grant.

Indeed, Grant drank Old Crow to excess, prompting a group of officers to ask Abraham Lincoln to sack him. He replied that he would give a bottle of Old Crow to all his generals if it made them win as many battles as Grant did.

Dr Crow died in 1856 and, after some litigation, the brand name and distilling rights passed to the firm WA Gaines who around 1860 built the Old Crow distillery near Frankfort, Kentucky. For years it was the best-selling bourbon in the US, until 1936, when distillery and name were sold to National Distillers.

In the post-war years, National Distillers blighted Old Crow, cutting costs, tampering with the sour mash formula and giving the distillery a dire record for work accidents, many fatal. It was sold to Jim Beam in 1987, who promptly closed the plant, which today lies derelict, bar one small section reopened as Glenn’s Creek Distillery.

Old Crow can still be bought today, but it is essentially the same bourbon as Jim Beam, but bottled a year younger.


More like this…

Amber Lights: Whisky on the rise again in USA

Amber Lights: Glen Moray with a touch of Sauternes

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]
Tags

More from The Courier Food & Drink team

More from The Courier