Whiskey Nips: The First Bottled bourbon

June is quickly approaching, and it will be a very exciting time for me. I will be attending the Kentucky Bourbon Affair for the first time ever! One of the events that I’m looking forward to the most is touring the brand-new Old Foresterfacilities on Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville. There is so much history behind this brand. One of the most important parts of their history, is being credited as the first ever bourbon to be sold only by the bottle. Take this with a grain of salt, like most bourbon history.

In  the 1800’s, bourbon was sold exclusively by the barrel to bars for public consumption and to doctors for medicinal purposes. There was a big problem with it being served from the barrel, consumers could not see what they were getting. People started noticing a variance in quality. Some of that quality problem was due to the barrels being tampered with. People were watering it down, or maybe adding things that would darken the color, or make it sweeter.

A pharmaceutical salesman, by the name George Garvin Brown, grew tired of this inconsistency, and wanted to ensure his patients that they were getting a quality product. In 1870, he and his half-brother, J.T.S. Brown, decided to start selling their bourbon in a sealed bottle with Brown’s signature on it. He wanted to make sure that his customers saw his signature, and could see the bourbon through the clear bottles, to guarantee thatquality, and consistency, that consumers were looking for. He named his bourbon Old Forrester after one of his patients, Dr. William Forrester, but dropped one of the R’s shortly after coming to market, when Dr. Forrester retired.

The first bottled bourbon continued to be bottled and sold during prohibition.Old Forester continued producing as one of the few distilleries licensed for medicinal purposes. This makes them one of the longest continually distilled and sold bourbons on today’s market. With such a rich and tenured history, it will be a great experience to be one of the first of the public to visit, and tour, the new Old Forester distillery as it etches its own mark in the brands’ history.


Tony Freund