This remarkable cache of pre-prohibition rye, whiskey and gin is
believed to originate from casks purchased by John Welsh of
Philadelphia, US ambassador to Great Britain in the late 1870's.
The original owner writes:
The Hannisville Rye you purchased has been in my family since 1913 if
not longer. Family lore has it that the Hannisville Rye was distilled in
1863, was held in oak barrels for 50 years or until 1913 when it was put
into the carboys now in your possession. The rye was purchase by my
great-great grandfather, John Welsh of Philadelphia who had served as
Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, 1877-1879. He purchased
these rare spirits along with some other friends in Philadelphia; I have
located another family that has some of the same Hannisville Rye. They
too treat it as a family heirloom. The carboys you have were initially
stored at the Merchants Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. of Providence,
RI. The storage tags were stapled to the crates. The carboys were then
moved to my great-father's summer home, Shadow Farm in Wakefield, RI
where they remained until 1985, when at my grandmother's death they
were moved to my parent's home in Saunderstown, RI. In 2003 the
carboys came into my possession at my mother's passing. For the first
time in almost 100 years the Hannisville Rye has passed from my family.
I hope that you and your aficionados of rare fine spirits will enjoy them.
The second tranche of the rye and the gin from this remarkable
cache is now available for purchase in 200ml sample bottles.
Please click here for full ordering details.
Tasting notes on the rye, from Dave Hughes, acclaimed author and
internationally respected wine and spirits judge for over 30 years:
The initial nose is kind of ethereal and somehow mysterious !
There is a slight whiff of vanilla which disappears rapidly leaving a nose as
clear as a bell with resounding high notes of ginger, fruitcake, some burnt
toast and dry, brown spice followed by a hint of licorice. There is a slight
caramel note along with some treacle. All very intense and giving the
impression of “sweetness”. Yet turns out to be decidedly dry in the
Rich, deep and haunting in the mouth with massive fruit edging
seamlessly into mint. Then the sweet impression gives way to a gentle
oiliness which in turn surrenders to a very dry palate. There are flashes of
honey wax which adds to the overall complexity.
On a second sip there appears an underlying , rich fruitiness with hints of
tangerine, orange and even lemon. All of which seem fairly youthful and
belies the age of the whiskey. Always ending dry and crisp.
With time in the glass a whole host of aromas accumulate. Hints of old
honey from a bushveld hive, some smokey notes, hint of charcoal. Mint
and lemon zest. Intensity builds all the time. The ginger and licorice
seems to hover there abouts most of the time.
Impossible to nail down a simple description as each sniff and sip delivers
different characters. It definitely has no clear start or finish. It simply
rolls on forever !
I left a fraction in the glass overnight and it was just the same in the
morning. Had lost nothing of it’s fascination and was still delivering a full
A fascinating product and a once in a life time experience.
|- Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey & Rye -
Born in the USA Whiskies
“First Ya’ Swaller……Then Ya’ Holler….”
Among the first settlers who brought their whiskey making traditions to the US were the Scotch-
Irish of Western Pennsylvania. Although whiskey was produced throughout the colonies (George
Washington was among the noted whiskey producers of the time), these settlers of
Pennsylvania are where bourbon’s roots began. To help finance the revolution, the Continental
Congress put a tax on whiskey production. So incensed were the settlers of Western
Pennsylvania that they refused to pay. To restore order in the ensuing "Whiskey Rebellion" of
1791, Washington was forced to send the army to quell the uprising. To avoid further troubles
with the tough and stubborn Scotch-Irish settlers, Washington made a settlement with them,
giving incentives for those who would move to Kentucky. The significance of this is that while the
earliest whiskies were made primarily from rye, this was about to change with their move and
"Bourbon" would be born.
The Governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, offered pioneers sixty acres of land in Kentucky if
they would build a permanent structure and raise "native corn". No family could eat sixty acres
worth of corn a year and it was too perishable and bulky to transport for sale; if it were turned
into whiskey, both problems could be solved. This corn based whiskey, which was a clear
distillate, would become "bourbon" only after two coincidentally related events happened. The
French, having at that time their own territories in North America, assisted in the War of
Independence against the British. In acknowledgment of this, French names were subsequently
used for new settlements or counties. In the Western part of Virginia, the then county of
Kentucky, was subdivided in 1786. One of these subdivisions was named Bourbon County, after
the French Royal House. Kentucky became a state in 1792 and Bourbon one of its counties.
Although Evan Williams, in 1783, might have been the first commercial distiller in Louisville,
Bourbon is sometimes considered to have begun with the Reverend Elijah Craig from Bourbon
County. The legend goes that to save money he used old barrels to transport his whiskey to
market in New Orleans. He charred the barrels before filling them, thus after his whiskey made
the long trip to market, it had "mellowed" and taken on a light caramel color from the oak. Being
from Bourbon County he started calling the whiskey "Bourbon". Interestingly today, there is no
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The "Hannisville Cache". Rye whisky believed distilled 1863
2 carboys of magnificent pre-prohibition rye
2 carboys of pre-prohibition whiskey
1 carboy of superb pre-prohibition gin
Tennessee whiskey is essentially bourbon that has been filtered through Sugar-Maple charcoal before ageing (called the
State Process, or colloquially “charcoal mellowing”). It takes the whiskey 4 days to leach through 12 feet of charcoal. It was
granted its own since 1958, only two: George Dickel and Jack Daniels.
Today, most rye whiskeys are made in Kentucky. Originally though their production was centred in Pennsylvania and
Maryland – but the industry there never recovered from the effects of Prohibition. A whole generation had to get used to
drinking no alcohol at all or, if they broke the law, something that was much lighter than their indigenous bourbon and rye.
After Prohibition ended, popular taste switched permanently to lighter spirits. Even today in Kentucky it is rare to find a
straight rye whiskey in bars and restaurants.
Just as American law states that bourbon has to contain a minimum 51 per cent corn in its mashbill, so the law says that
straight rye whiskey must contain at least 51 per cent rye. But whereas bourbon producers often take their corn
percentage up to around the 80 per cent mark, there is no matching tendency to take rye content up to such levels. First,
rye is a lot more expensive to buy than corn; second, it is more difficult to control; third, the powerful, intense nature of the
grain means that distillers are frightened that too much taste might frighten off customers.
If rye is an expensive commodity, then malted rye is even less of an economic winner. For that reason, all Kentucky rye
mashbills contain a similar percentage of malted barley, between 10 per cent and 12 per cent, to assist fermentation; the
remainder is corn. And the rye remains unmalted. The result is a whiskey with the oily heaviness in body of an Islay, but
with the crisp, hard fruitiness of an Irish pot still where another unmalted grain, this time barley, is used.
The rye gives the spirit a hardness that cannot be detected in bourbon, even though the corn character is usually not that
far behind. To taste, the contrast is even more marked: rye is sharper, sweeter and leaves an almost sour, unripened fruit
residue; the average bourbon, meanwhile, is flatter with less spice.
A remarkable collection of 10 rare pre-Prohibition bourbon and rye bottles.
Old Bridgeport Rye Whisky
Small flask bottle.
Topaz Corn Whisky from the
Jack Daniels Distillery
1950's flask-shaped bottle,
extremely rare and important.
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whiskey produced in Bourbon County.
In 1964, a congressional resolution protected the term "Bourbon" and only since then has the product been defined.
Bourbon must be at least 51% corn. Generally 65% - 75% corn is used, together with about 10% barley and the balance rye
or wheat (some, like Makers Mark and Rebel Yell, use no rye at all). It must be aged for at least 2 years (but usually 4 years
or longer) in charred new American oak barrels. No colorants or flavorants are permitted, so, unlike Scotch, no caramel may
be added. Kentucky is the only state allowed to put its name on the bottle (95% of all bourbon is made there). All modern
bourbons are made by the sour mash process. Spent beer, or backset (residue liquid from the previous distillation) is added
to the new mash in addition to yeast. This helps ensure consistency - the characteristics of the previous batch are passed on
– the same principle as using a sourdough starter in baking. At some distilleries as much as 25% of the volume in the
fermentation tubs is backset. Bourbon distilleries generally use continuous stills. Straight bourbon is pure bourbon – as
opposed to blended bourbon, which is at least 51% bourbon blended with neutral grain spirits. Colouring etc is also
permitted for blended bourbon.