Virginia is the Birthplace of American Spirits!
Craftsmanship, history and heritage are the pillars that define Virginia’s spirits. While quality is our focus today, we would be remiss not to share the stories of our past.
Let VirginiaSpirts.org be your tour guide and inspiration for learning more about Virginia distilleries. Here you will find:
The Evolution of Virginia Spirits
1620: Virginia Colonist, George Thorpe was credited with the distillation of the first batch of whiskey made from corn in America. This is the ancestor of all corn-made moonshine and bourbon whiskey.
Born in Gloucestershire, England, George was a noted landowner, member of parliament, distiller, educator and major investor in early colonial companies.
1776 – 1786: Kentucky County “Old Bourbon” Virginia was formed by the Commonwealth of Virginia when Fincastle County was divided up into three new counties, Kentucky, Washington, and Montgomery, on December 31, 1776. Kentucky County was abolished on June 30, 1780 when it was divided into Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties of Virginia – often referred to as the “District of Kentucky.”
Formed in 1786 from Fayette County, Bourbon County, Virginia, originally comprised 34 northeastern counties of Kentucky’s 120 current ones, including the current Bourbon County. The area later became known as “Old Bourbon” in reference to its historical expanse
Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties later petitioned to separate from Virginia, which was approved by the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1792 the Commonwealth of Kentucky was admitted to the United States as its 15th state.
Late 1700s – early 1800s: Scottish and Irish immigrants brought their recipes for “uisce beatha,” Gaelic for “water of life”. The settlers made their whiskey without aging it, and this is the same recipe that became traditional in the Appalachian area.
Early 1900s: Moonshine became a key source of income for many Virginia residents, since the limited road network made it difficult and expensive to transport corn crops. One could transport much more value in corn if it was first converted to whiskey. One horse could haul ten times more value on its back in whiskey than in corn.
White lightning, homebrew, white whiskey… these are some of the names used to reference moonshine made by Virginia’s Appalachian distillers. The term “moonshine” historically implied that the liquor was produced illegally; especially around the time of Prohibition.
1935: The Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial resulted in the indictment of 80 people involved in the illegal production and distribution of moonshine whisky in Virginia. Franklin County Virginia produced the highest volume of illegal liquor in the U.S., informally referred to as “The Moonshine Capital of the World.”
TODAY: Our distillers take pride in the stories that shaped our past, while focusing on the depth and breadth of quality spirits production in Virginia. Whiskey, bourbon, gin, rum, brandy, vodka and even absinthe are all produced in Virginia today.