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Pre and Prohibition Era Whiskies


Pre-Prohibition and Prohibition Era Whiskey Collection

The world of American Whiskey holds a vast array of spirits to explore with seemingly endless variety - from bourbon and rye to malt, corn and Tennessee whiskey.  The vintage, rare and old whiskies from America are truly a product of their time, more often than not holding a direct connection to historical events at the time.  Local and national happenings, political or otherwise, can be linked to the production of spirits, and, arguably, no event impacted more so than Prohibition. 

Beginning in 1920 following the ratification of the US Constitution's Eighteenth Amendment, 'Prohibition' - the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages - lasted until 1933 with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment.  A defining era when looking back at how spirits were produced, labelled and sold up to and even during Prohibition, the whiskies from this time are very rare and extremely collectable.  

Our auctions regularly feature Pre-Prohibition and Prohibition era whiskies - certainly a unique chance to own a spirit from another time that holds a place in the history of America.

Brief History of Pre-Pro and Prohibition Era Whiskey

With the passing of the Prohibition Act in 1920, the outlook for the US whiskey industry looked bleak. The production, sale and consumption of alcohol was made illegal, shutting down every distillery in the country. There was however, a loophole in the law that permitted the continued bottling of bonded stock from distillery warehouses as a medicinal product. The bottles could only be produced in pint and half pint sizes, and could only be obtained by prescription from a doctor, or as a weekly ration to bakers.

Only six companies were able to obtain permits to produce medicinal whiskey, buying up as much of the country’s distilleries and stock as they could. These were Brown-Forman, A. Ph. Stitzel, the American Medicinal Spirits Company, Schenley, James Thompson & Brother, and Frankfort Distillers. The medicinal whiskey business was not a big one, and turned only modest profits. Most of the companies operated only on the expectation that one day the act would be repealed, which it was in 1933, and the industry only managed to revive itself due to the faith of these businesses.

Prohibition Era