The Story of Elijah Craig
The history of Elijah Craig is the history of Bourbon. Reverend Elijah Craig was a Baptist preacher and active character in 1800s Kentucky. He was an educator, road builder, land speculator, and built the first paper and wool mills in Georgetown, KY. But it was his gift as a distiller and entrepreneur that establishes his place in history as The Father of Bourbon.
How did Elijah Craig become credited with pioneering the charring of the oak barrels used to age Bourbon? We’re actually not totally sure. A lot of the history is lost, and there are several versions of the story. One account tells of an accidental fire in Elijah’s mill, which charred the wooden barrels and changed the whiskey inside. Makes for a great story at your next Bourbon tasting, doesn’t it? Other accounts speak of Elijah storing his wares in former sugar barrels, and becoming impressed with how the charring of the barrels improved the flavor.
The truth is, no one really knows how Elijah began charring his barrels, but once he figured it out, it’s easy to understand why he continued to develop the process and changed Bourbon making forever. Inside, the clear, unaged corn liquor becomes transformed into a bold amber liquid, with a distinctively smooth flavor that makes Bourbon what it is.
However it happened, Elijah Craig is credited with being the first distiller to age his whiskey in charred oak barrels. That’s an essential and rich part of the Bourbon story, and we’re proud to embrace that history.
Today, Heaven Hill Distillery preserves the Bourbon making traditions developed by Elijah Craig. Each bottle of our Bourbon is crafted with the same method used by Elijah over two hundred years ago: local corn and grains are milled and mixed with limestone-rich Kentucky spring water, then fermented and distilled. After years of aging in charred oak, our Master Distillers select the most complex barrels to become Elijah Craig Small Batch, Barrel Proof, and Single Barrel Bourbons. Our rich history and craftsmanship can be savored in every sip.