Old Crow

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Old Crow Bourbon whiskey
Old Crow.JPG
Old Crow Reserve
TypeBourbon whiskey
ManufacturerBeam Suntory
Country of originKentucky, United States
Alcohol by volume43.00%
Proof (US)86
Related productsJim Beam

Old Crow is a low-priced brand of Kentucky-made straight bourbon whiskey distilled by Beam Suntory, which also produces Jim Beam and several other brands of whiskey. The current Old Crow product uses the same mash bill and yeast as Jim Beam, but is aged for a shorter period of time.

The Old Crow brand has a venerable history as one of Kentucky's earliest bourbons.[1] Old Crow is aged in barrels for a minimum of three years, and in the United States is 80 proof while Old Crow Reserve is aged for a minimum of four years and is 86 proof.


James C. Crow, a Scottish immigrant, started distilling what would become Old Crow in Frankfort, Kentucky, in the 1830s. Reportedly a very skilled distiller, he made whiskey for various employers, which was sold as "Crow" or, as it aged, "Old Crow" – and the brand acquired its reputation from the latter.[2] Crow died in 1856. W.A. Gaines and Company acquired the name and continued to distill the bourbon similar to his recipe, but the original distillation formula died with its creator.[1] The substantial remaining stock of original Old Crow[2] acquired near-legendary status. After the Civil War the Old Crow logo was changed from a picture of James Crow to the current crow perched atop grains of barley. In 1875, offering drinks from the last available cask reportedly secured the election of Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn of Kentucky to his first Congressional term.[1] A dispute over ownership of the name "Old Crow" was decided in 1915 in favor of the Gaines company.[2]

Although the whiskey had been at one time the top selling bourbon in the United States, it underwent a swift decline in the second half of the twentieth century. A production error in the amount of "setback" (the portion of spent mash added to a new batch in the sour mash process) negatively impacted the taste of the whiskey, and the distiller's inability or unwillingness to correct it led to many customers switching to other brands. Parent company National Distillers was sold to Jim Beam in 1987. The Old Crow recipe and distillery were abandoned and the product became a three-year-old bourbon based on the Jim Beam mashbill.[3] In 2013 Glenns Creek Distillery started operations in part of the former Old Crow Distillery.[4]

Famous drinkers[edit]

Besides Blackburn, many American politicians have declared their love for Old Crow. It has been said that it was the drink of choice for American general and later 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.[5] An apocryphal story about Grant's drinking has the general's critics going to President Abraham Lincoln, charging the military man with being a drunk. Lincoln is supposed to have replied, "By the way, gentlemen, can either of you tell me where General Grant procures his whiskey? Because, if I can find out, I will send every general in the field a barrel of it!"[6]

Confederate General Jubal Early was also a fan of Old Crow.

Another famous politician who preferred Old Crow was Henry Clay, of Kentucky,[1] who was even featured in Old Crow advertisements.[7]

An advertisement for Old Crow Rye Whiskey in the December 31, 1909 edition of The New York Times.

World War II "triple ace" Bud Anderson named his P-51 Mustang Old Crow, after the whiskey.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

Old Crow is said to have been the favorite bourbon of American writers Mark Twain and William Faulkner. Journalist Hunter S. Thompson liked it. Twain reportedly visited the distillery in the 1880s, and Old Crow advertised this heavily;[9] John C. Gerber sees in this commercial exploitation a sign of Twain's continuing popularity.[10] As for Thompson, the frequent occurrences of the drink in his writing, semi-autobiographical[11] as well as fictional,[12][13][14] have led to similar associations. The manufacturer actively pursued such publicity: in 1955, they took out an ad in College English, the journal of the National Council of Teachers of English, offering $250 for every literary reference to their product.[15]

In the 1955 film I Died a Thousand Times, the dying mob boss, Big Mac (Lon Chaney, Jr.), drinks Old Crow in violation of doctor's orders.

Throughout Up a Road Slowly Irene Hunt's 1966 Newbery Award–winning novel, Uncle Haskell drinks copious quantities of Old Crow, taking the empty bottles in a golf bag to bury them at a creek. He claims the Old Crow is rare French wine, so the children begin referring to it as Le Vieux Corbeau.

In recent books in the Spenser series, originated by the late Robert B. Parker and continued by Ace Atkins, the title character regularly refers to drinking Old Crow.

Dirty Bird Blues by Clarence Major the main character, Bluesman Manfred Banks favorite drink is Old Crow.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Alvey, R. Gerald (1992). Kentucky Bluegrass country. Oxford: UP of Mississippi. pp. 230–32. ISBN 978-0-87805-544-9.
  2. ^ a b c The Trade-mark Reporter, Vol. 6. United States Trademark Association. 1917. pp. 10–27.
  3. ^ Charles K. Cowdery (2004). Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey. Made and Bottled in Kentucky. p. 25. ISBN 978-0975870303. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  4. ^ "OUR STORY". Glenns Creek Distilling. Retrieved 2019-06-01.
  5. ^ "Whiskey and the war: Alcohol played a role in the Civil War". Times Free Press. 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2017-07-14.
  6. ^ Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and presidential addresses, 1859-1865. New York, New York: The Current Literature Publishing Company. 1907. p. 301. By the way, gentlemen, can either of you tell me where General Grant procures his whiskey ? Because, if I can find out, I will send every general in the field a barrel of it.
  7. ^ "Drinks Advertisements of the 1950s". Vintageadbrowser.com. Retrieved 2017-07-14.
  8. ^ O'Leary, Michael (2000). VIII Fighter Command at war: 'the long reach'. Osprey Publishing. p. 142.
  9. ^ For instance, in an ad in Look magazine, from 1953. See also this ad from Kiplinger's Personal Finance, 1981.
  10. ^ John C. Gerber, "Collecting the Works of Mark Twain", in Davis, Sara deSaussure; Philip D. Beidler; John C. Gerber (1984). The Mythologizing of Mark Twain. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P. pp. 3–14. ISBN 978-0-8173-0201-6.
  11. ^ Thompson, Hunter S.; Douglas Brinkley; David Halberstam (2000). Fear and loathing in America: the brutal odyssey of an outlaw journalist, 1968-1976. Simon and Schuster. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-684-87315-2.
  12. ^ Thompson, Hunter S. (2002). Songs of the doomed: more notes on the death of the American dream. Simon and Schuster. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7432-4099-4.
  13. ^ Thompson, Hunter S. (2003). The great shark hunt: strange tales from a strange time. Simon and Schuster. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-7432-5045-0.
  14. ^ Thompson, Hunter S. (2000). Mescalito. Simon and Schuster. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7432-1522-0.
  15. ^ "News and Ideas". College English. National Council of Teachers of English. 17 (2): 119. 1955.

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