The History of Holladay
It all started with the limestone spring. First discovered in what would become Weston, Missouri, by Lewis and Clark during their 1804 expedition, a pure limestone spring was a rarity whose potential was recognized by two enterprising young brothers by the names of Ben Holladay and Major David Holladay. After visiting the site, which was then a meat-packing house, the Holladay brothers divined an even greater purpose for that limestone spring: Bourbon.
Together, they founded this distillery in 1856. Ben Holladay went on to great fame and fortune as the “Stagecoach King,” running the stagecoach lines from Missouri to the West Coast that later became the Wells Fargo Express, and ultimately acquiring the Pony Express as well. He was a serial entrepreneur who owned saloons, hotels, and silver mines, and by 1864, he was the largest individual employer in the United States. Little did he know that his distillery would become the lasting legacy that carried the Holladay name well into the future.
The Holladay Distillery evolved as the decades passed, changing ownership and names a number of times before ultimately becoming known as McCormick Distilling Company in 1942. Acquired in 1993 by Ed Pechar, Mike Griesser, and a small group of private investors, the distillery has since grown in size and expanded its portfolio of products. In 2016, the distillery commemorated 160 years of rich history and paid homage to its founders by going back to its bourbon-making roots and bearing the proud name of Holladay Distillery, operated by McCormick Distilling Company.
“Stagecoach King” Benjamin Holladay and his brother, Major David Holladay, establish the Blue Springs Distillery on the site of a limestone spring first discovered by Lewis and Clark during their expedition in 1804.
The distillery is transferred from Benjamin Holladay to his brother, Major David Holladay, under the name of Platte County Hemp Manufacturing and Distilling Company.
After the death of David Holladay in November 1893, the court allows his son-in-law, Thomas Gregory Barton, to continue the manufacturing of whiskey using the name Barton & Holladay.
The distillery is sold to George H. Shawhan on July 18, 1900, after his distillery in Lone Jack, Missouri, is destroyed by fire. The name is changed to the Shawhan Distillery Company.
Isadore Singer and his brother buy the distillery. The name is changed to the Old Weston Distilling Company.
The distillery is renamed McCormick Distilling Company after the rights to the name and formula are purchased from the original McCormick Distilling Company in Waldron, Missouri.
McCormick Distilling Company is purchased by Midwest Grain Products, a company owned by Cloud L. Cray of Atchison, Kansas. The company purchases the distillery primarily to store alcohol in the large empty warehouses due to the threat of impending war in Korea.
A devastating fire nearly destroys the distillery building, the oldest building on the distillery site.
The original site of the distillery is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Ed Pechar and Mike Griesser lead a small group of investors in the purchase of McCormick Distilling Company. Under their leadership, the company has doubled the number of employees and has expanded the McCormick family of brands to include such premium products as 360 Vodka, Tequila Rose, and Broker’s Gin.
Mike Griesser passes away. In 2016, the newly renovated stillhouse is dedicated as the Michael S. Griesser Memorial Stillhouse in his memory.
The distillery celebrates its 160 years of rich history by going back to its roots. It is once again known as the Holladay Distillery, operated by McCormick Distilling Company. It is distilling Real Missouri Bourbon on site again for the first time in 30 years. And for the first time in two decades, it is open again to the public for distillery tours and tastings.
THE MODERN DISTILLING TECHNIQUES MAY BE NEW,
BUT OUR 160-YEAR-OLD RECIPE REMAINS THE SAME.
What’s the difference between
Whiskey and Bourbon?
We could talk for days about what makes a true bourbon, but we’ll stick to the basics. All bourbon is considered whiskey, but not all whiskey earns the bourbon distinction. There are four essential characteristics that determine whether a whiskey can rightly be called a bourbon: the mash used for distilling, the aging process, the proof, and the location where the product is made.
The spirit is distilled from a fermented grain mash including wheat, rye, barley, and corn. A bourbon mash must contain at least 51% corn, which gives the spirit its sweet character.
To be labeled as a straight bourbon, it must be aged a minimum of two years in a new, charred oak barrel. While whiskey is also aged in barrels, they do not need to be either new or oak.
Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 proof and enter the barrel at no more than 125 proof to begin the aging process. After aging, fresh limestone spring water can be introduced to bring the bourbon to a desirable proof.
While there are several types of fine whiskey made around the globe, true bourbon can only be made in America. Contrary to popular belief, bourbon can be made anywhere in America – not just Kentucky!
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