Old Overholt whiskey has a long and storied history dating back to the late 18th century. It was first distilled by Abraham Overholt (from the German “Oberholzer”) in 1810 in West Overton, Pennsylvania. His family had been making whiskey there for generations. Old Overholt remains the oldest continuously distilled whiskey in America. Overholt’s whiskey quickly became popular among locals, and he expanded his business to include a distillery.
Overholt’s whiskey gained national attention in the mid-19th century when his grandson, Henry Clay Frick, took over the family business. Frick was a successful industrialist who used his wealth to promote Old Overholt whiskey. He made it one of the most popular brands in the country. Frick’s marketing campaigns included placing Old Overholt ads in newspapers. He sponsored sporting events. He even hired a famous opera singer to promote the brand.
During Prohibition, Old Overholt continued to be produced for medicinal purposes. It was also smuggled and sold on the black market. After Prohibition ended, Old Overholt became one of the first whiskeys to be sold legally again. Old Overholt has maintained its reputation as a high-quality whiskey. Old Overholt has been a favorite of bartenders and whiskey enthusiasts for decades. It is often used in classic cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.
Management and Ownership Changes
Old Overholt whiskey has changed ownership several times throughout its long history. Here is a brief overview of its ownership over the years:
Abraham Overholt: Abraham Overholt was the founder of Old Overholt whiskey. He started the business in the late 18th century in West Overton, Pennsylvania.
Henry Clay Frick: Henry Clay Frick, a successful industrialist and Abraham Overholt’s grandson, took over the family business in the mid-19th century. Frick helped to promote Old Overholt and turn it into one of the most popular whiskey brands in the country.
National Distillers: National Distillers acquired Old Overholt in the mid-20th century. They continued to produce and distribute the whiskey.
Campari Group: In 2019, the Italian spirits company Campari Group acquired a majority stake in the parent company of Jim Beam, Beam Suntory. This means that Old Overholt is now technically owned by Campari Group. However, it is still produced and distributed by Beam Suntory.
Jim Beam: Jim Beam, one of the largest spirits companies in the world, acquired Old Overholt in 1987. The brand has been owned by Jim Beam ever since.
Old Overholt whiskey is currently produced at the Jim Beam distillery (now in turn owned by Suntory Holdings of Japan) in Clermont, Kentucky. The distillery, which is located in the heart of Kentucky’s Bourbon Country, has been in operation since 1795. It is one of the most well-known and respected distilleries in the world. Old Overholt’s recipe is still based on the original recipe created by Abraham Overholt in the late 18th century. However, it has been updated and refined over the years to reflect modern distilling techniques. The whiskey is aged in new charred oak barrels, which gives it its distinctive flavor and color.
Rye vs. Other Types of Whiskey
Old Overholt whiskey is a rye whiskey. Rye whiskey is a type of American whiskey that is made primarily from rye grain. Old Overholt’s mash bill, is the mix of grains used to make the whiskey. It is made up of at least 51% rye, with the remainder being made up of other grains like corn and barley.
Rye whiskey is known for its distinctively spicy and slightly sweet flavor profile, which comes from the rye grain. This sets it apart from other whiskeys. Old Overholt is often used in classic rye whiskey cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.
Rye whiskey and bourbon are both types of American whiskey, but they have some key differences:
Mash bill: The mash bill is the mix of grains used to make the whiskey. To be considered a bourbon, the mash bill must be made up of at least 51% corn. Rye whiskey must be made up of at least 51% rye. Bourbon can also contain other grains like wheat and barley, while rye whiskey may also contain corn and barley.
Flavor profile: The high proportion of rye in rye whiskey gives it a spicy, slightly sweet flavor profile. Bourbon is known for its sweeter, more caramel-like flavor. The aging process, barrel selection, and other factors can also affect the flavor of each whiskey.
Geographical location: Bourbon is primarily made in Kentucky, while rye whiskey can be made in any state in the United States.
Aging requirements: A straight bourbon or a straight rye whiskey, the whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years. However, there is no minimum aging requirement for bourbon or rye whiskey that is not labeled as “straight.”
New Japanese Connection
Suntory Holdings Limited, now the parent company of Beam Suntory, is based in Osaka, Japan. The company was founded in 1899 by Shinjiro Torii and began as a small wine shop in Osaka. Over the years, Suntory has grown into one of the largest and most respected beverage companies in the world. It has a portfolio that includes a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as food products and other consumer goods. Suntory’s acquisition of Beam Inc. in 2014, which created Beam Suntory, was one of the largest ever in the spirits industry. This helped to solidify Suntory’s position as a global leader in the beverage sector.
Beam Suntory, the parent company of Old Overholt whiskey, owns several other American spirits brands. Some of the notable American brands that are owned by Beam Suntory include:
Jim Beam Bourbon
Maker’s Mark Bourbon
Knob Creek Bourbon
Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
In addition to these brands, Beam Suntory also owns several Japanese spirits brands, including Suntory Whisky, Hibiki Whisky, and Roku Gin. The company is one of the largest spirits producers in the world and has a wide range of products that are sold in countries around the globe.
- Year Started: 1810
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founder
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Overholt Family
- Owner While In Use: Many
- Owner Successor: Suntory Holdings
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Old Overholt
- Naics Code: 312140
- Location Headquarters: Clermont, Kentucky, USA