In 1888, J.W. McCulloch, a former agent for the Internal Revenue Service, registered the Green River trademark and opened a distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. He believed in marketing and created the slogan “The Whiskey Without A Headache,” and a marketing campaign featuring a shabbily dressed, older African-American man leading an old mule with the slogan “She was bred in old Kentucky.”
Green River became the most advertised whiskey in America with thousands of bar signs and coins being distributed across the nation. The whiskey won a gold medal at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago and a gold medal in Paris in 1900. In 1905, the whiskey won the Grand Prize at the Exposition Universelle de Liege and a gold medal at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon and in St. Louis, Missouri.
The following year, 1906, Green River was awarded the Grand Prize at the Esposizione Internatioale in Milan. It continued its winning way by getting a gold medal at the Jamestown Tercentennial. In 1918, a fire destroyed the distillery and much of the whiskey in the warehouses. Wartime Prohibition kept the distillery from being rebuilt and national Prohibition ended the brand for the next thirteen years.
The Green River brand was picked up after Prohibition by new owners and eventually became part of Schenley Distilleries. The brand lasted until the 1960s and then slowly faded away from the market as Schenley concentrated on their flagship brands and blended whiskeys as whiskey sales declined in the United States. United Distillers looked to bring the brand back for the export market in Europe, but the name did not test well with market research and the brand was abandoned.
The Green River Brand now has new owners, new packaging, but in an old distillery. The brand has returned to its roots in Owensboro. The Medley family had purchased the old Green River Distillery after repeal and built a beautiful facility on the remains of the old distillery. The distillery has had several owners since then as first Glenmore Distilleries, and then United Distillers owned the distillery. Charles Medley purchased the silent distillery from United Distillers in the 1990s. Charles sold it to Angostura who was going to re-open it, but got caught in the financial crisis of 2008. The distillery then was sold and known for a while as the O.Z. Tyler Distillery until the owners managed to acquire the Green River trademark. It is now once again the Green River Distillery and they have a four year old Bourbon. Matt and I tasted this whiskey and here are our notes.
Green River Bourbon
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Vanilla and oak with a hint of fruit and spice.
- Matt: Earthy with notes of tangerine and other citrus and spice.
- Mike: Vanilla and apricots with a hint of berries. Baking spices – allspice and cardamom. And sweet oak wood round out the flavor. Tasted with a dried cranberry the vanilla is reduced but the fruit notes are enhanced. Tasted with a pecan and citrus notes come out and the spice becomes more of a floral white pepper and cinnamon spice.
- Matt: Lots of fruit – citrus and berries, with some pepper spice and oak. The dried cranberry made the vanilla a creamy French vanilla and some strawberry fruit comes out to join the flavors. The pecan made the vanilla more of a caramel toffee note while enhancing the citrus and berry flavors.
- Mike: A little short with some sweet oak and a hint of spice. The dried cranberry made the finish a little longer and added a little lingering sweetness. The pecan made the finish very long with oak and peppery spice.
- Matt: Short with some oak and spice. The dried cranberry added a little spice. The pecan made the finish longer with oak and pepper spice.
I would pair this Bourbon with a NUB Maduro cigar. The vanilla and spice notes of the cigar smoke would pair well with this whiskey.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller