Bourbon Whiskey

Historical Marker #2295 in Paris notes the influence of bourbon whiskey on Kentucky's history.

Whiskey has been distilled in Kentucky since before it was a state. The first white men to settle in the area were from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, where domestic distilled spirits were produced on large plantations and small farms. In Kentucky, they found a region particularly well adapted for its production.

Some of the earliest whiskey distilled in Kentucky was produced in Bourbon County. Bourbon County, located in the Bluegrass Region of the state, proved especially well suited for growing corn, the major ingredient in whiskey. Corn and other grain ingredients such as wheat, barley or rye were combined with the fresh water produced by local limestone springs and placed in barrels for storage.

Early-nineteenth century Kentucky distillers produced their whiskey for both home use and market consumption. Bourbon often appeared in early Kentucky newspaper advertisements. One early notice, in the Paris "Western Citizen," offered "Bourbon whiskey by the barrel or keg." Bourbon County distiller Jacob Spears and his partner Samuel Williams readily marketed their particular brand as "Best Old Whiskey." By the middle of the nineteenth century, Bourbon was a nationally-recognized type of whiskey, distinct from other corn-only variations.

By the late 1800s, Kentucky was the leading producer of bourbon in the nation. At that time, federal law established standards for aging and manufacturing processes. After Prohibition, the present standards were set, and, in 1964, Congress determined bourbon to be a distinctly American product by prohibiting importation of any bourbon whiskey.

Today, the Bluegrass State still reigns as the nation's leading distiller. According to the Kentucky Distillers Association, more than 95% of the country's bourbon is produced in Kentucky. Kentucky's notoriety for bourbon has manifested itself in the historic preservation of notable distilleries and helped to fuel a tourism boom at operating distilleries across the Commonwealth.

The marker reads:


Named after Bourbon Co. because of quantity and quality of whiskey produced within its borders. Made from a fermented mash of at least 51% corn, with less wheat, rye, or barley, yeast and limestone water. Distilled at no more than 160 proof and aged in charred oak barrels. In 1964, Congress recognized bourbon as a distinctly American product.


(Reverse) Stone Castle, 1 mile south, built 1790 by Thomas Metcalfe for Jacob Spears. A Pennsylvanian who settled in Paris, he was innovative farmer & one of first distillers of bourbon whiskey. Still standing on this farm are a springhouse and a storehouse for his bourbon whiskey. It is the most complete distiller’s complex still in existence today.

This marker was dedicated on June 28, 2009.