The History of Old Hickory

by The Tasting Alliance Team  |  04.02.2022

Old Hickory goes way back— before prohibition, before the automobile, and before electric lights. The brand began in 1868, right before the industrial revolution in the era of monumental growth and prosperity and industrial giants.

Born in Fayette County, Kentucky, Old Hickory eventually made its way to Lawrenceburg, Indiana where R.S. Lipman Co. revived the brand in 2011, after 24 dormant years. Recognizing the rich history and committing to the legacy of the brand, owner Robert Lipman works closely with Master Blender Sam Schmeltzer to ensure that exceptional whiskey is crafted, whiskey worthy of the name Old Hickory.

This storied American whiskey brand has changed hands and homes several times in its 150+ years, but is now settled for good and dedicated to producing high-quality bourbons, ryes, corn whiskeys, and blends.

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Today, all distillation takes place at the historical Joseph E. Seagram’s facility in Lawrenceburg, Indiana that dates back to 1857 — even before the Old Hickory brand began. They use environmentally friendly ways to distill and produce their whiskey, including sourcing all their corn from farms within a 250-mile radius of the distillery. All spent grains are reused or sold to farmers for high protein food supplements for livestock and poultry, steam is captured and repurposed for heating and cleaning of the distillery, and wastewater is treated on site then returned to the system with a positive environmental impact. The water used for distilling and proofing is drawn from deep, rechargeable ancient glacial aquifers, dating back 1.2 million years which formed the Ohio River basin.

Old Hickory Hermitage Reserve Barrel Proof Corn Whiskey’s mash bill is 99% corn and 1% malted barley. Distilled in May of 2008, the grains used were of the highest quality for production. Barrels were filled that same month, then aged in brick warehouses at the Ross & Squibb Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, aka “Whiskey City USA.” These barrels first held bourbon for their inaugural aging cycle of four years, then were filled with the golden liquid and aged for 10 to13 years for this special release.

“Some consumers talk about ‘honey barrels’ or ‘unicorn barrels’ being a distillery’s highest quality product,” says Schmeltzer. “Many consumers associate these terms with bourbon whiskey. This special release of Old Hickory Hermitage Reserve Barrel Proof challenges this concept. This American Whiskey barreled in May 2008 used in this brand, is an amazingly delicious product. It has a flavor profile crafted by time, passion, and creation. R.S. Lipman Co. should be very proud to deliver such a special product to consumers.”

Adds Lipman, “We are extremely proud of the recipe and mash bill we developed with our distiller partner using whiskey that was laid down back in 2008. Our goal was a barrel proof whiskey that is nicely balanced with color coming only from the ex-bourbon barrels. Sam used his expertise to bring this vision to life by creating a 117-proof whiskey that is mellow, easy to sip, and natural in color. We could not be more pleased with the results.”

Master Blender Sam Schmeltzer

And what are those results? Intriguing aromas of vanilla bean, banana brioche, marmalade, and sweet corn brûlée with hints of sandalwood. Graceful on the palat,e featuring flavors of caramel corn, toffee, and orange zest with hints of cocoa, all gently wrapped in warm, subtle notes of oak. The extended aging lengthens the taste profile resulting in an incredibly smooth and approachable barrel-proof whiskey. Old Hickory Hermitage Reserve Barrel Proof Corn Whiskey won a Double Gold at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

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