Repeal Day has become quite an event since I first started celebrating it in the late 20th century. My first celebration of Repeal Day was with some co-workers from the Filson Historical Society. We went to D’Maries, an early Bourbon Bar at the top of the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky, and had drinks, and toasted the event with a brandy snifter of Bourbon. Soon after that, The Filson Historical Society created a Repeal Day event where we opened a bottle of Prohibition era whiskey and drank it, along with some modern whiskeys. That event lasted until I left the Society. Since then, Repeal Day has grown to become a national event among Bourbon enthusiasts.
When we formed the Original Bourbon Society back in 2006, we started having a Repeal Day party on December 5th. It was a party with the members of The Bourbon Society, their guests and special guests such as Jimmy Russell, Jim Rutledge or some other Master Distiller or Brand Ambassador. We started by holding it at Bourbons Bistro, but we quickly outgrew that venue. We moved on to holding it at the Pendennis Club. We had a meal and toasted the Repeal of Prohibition. We started to invite distilleries to send representatives to the party and they would pour drinks before dinner. It was quite a party!
This year, The Original Bourbon Society is holding their annual Repeal Day Party at the Marriott East in Louisville. It will be quite an affair with speakers, a meal and the annual toast to the end of Prohibition. It is hoped that other Bourbon / Whiskey Societies will hold similar events in their towns. However, it is important to remember what we are celebrating.
Prohibition is a dark stain on America’s history. It brought about the loss of freedom to purchase beverage alcohol, but it did so much more. It hurt the economy. Distillers, brewers and everyone who worked for them immediately lost their job. Liquor store owners were forced out of business. Bartenders and the wait staff were forced out of their jobs.
Then there are the related businesses that were hurt by Prohibition. Still manufacturers and coopers lost their major source of income. Printers who made labels lost income. Bottle makers lost income. Newspapers and magazines lost advertising income. Farmers lost a valuable market for their grain. It is no wonder that the Great Depression happened during Prohibition. I am just surprised that it took as long as it did to hit America’s economy.
So remember, when you are toasting the end of Prohibition at your Repeal Day Party, that the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was the only amendment to take away a freedom and not guarantee a freedom, and the only amendment that has been repealed. That is the real reason we should be celebrating Repeal Day. It is the National Day of Freedom.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl