J. W. McCulloch and a group of investors founded the Green River Distilling Company in 1885. Far from being the oldest American whiskey, their distillery was in Owensboro, Kentucky. It remains there to this day. However, there have many many twists and turns in ownership along the way.
The Mash Bill
What has not changed is the mash bill, or recipe, for their principal product – a fine bourbon whiskey. Per their website, the 90 proof bourbon whiskey contains 9% barley malt, 21% winter rye, and 70% corn.
Early Product Promotion
In the early days, McCulloch went far and wide promoting his whiskey.. He succeeded in winning a gold medal at a Paris show in 1900 and a grand prize in a Belgium exposition of 1905. Folklore also says that a man once traded his interest in a gold mine for 20 barrels of the stuff.
The company was established at a time when whiskey production was booming in the United States. Kentucky had emerged as a leading producer of the beverage. The Green River Distillery was located on a river bank with additional access to rail transport. Green River whiskey was known for its smooth, mellow taste and distinctive green label.
Prohibition, a War, and Changing Tastes and Control
In the early 1900s, the Green River Distilling Company was acquired by the National Distillers Products Corporation, They continued to produce the whiskey under the same name.
McCulloch did not survive to see the end of Prohibition. During Prohibition, the production and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal in the United States. The Green River Distilling Company was forced to shut down. However, the brand was revived in 1936. The National Distillers Products Corporation began producing Green River once again.
In the post-World War II era, the popularity of whiskey began to decline. Many distilleries struggled to stay in business. The Green River Distilling Company was no exception. In the 1960s, the brand was sold to the Glenmore Distillery Company.
Glenmore continued to produce Green River whiskey until the 1980s. Then the brand was discontinued due to low sales. However, in 2016, the O.Z. Tyler Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky, acquired the rights to the Green River brand and began producing the whiskey once again.
Today, Green River Distilling Company still operates in Owensboro. Its new owners as of late 2022 is Bardstown Bourbon Company. Of course, Bardstown is also in Kentucky.
- Year Started: 1885
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Location by a green river
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: J. W. McCulloch and a group of investors
- Owner While In Use: Several
- Owner Successor: Bardstown Bourbon Company
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Green River Whiskey
- Naics Code: 312140
- Location Headquarters: Owensboro, Kentucky, USA