The Early Times Whisky brand is one of the oldest whisky brands in the United States. It is believed to have been started in 1860 by John Henry ‘Jack’ Beam at the Beam Distillery in Washington/Marion County, Kentucky. A few years later in 1866 Jack Beam started the Early Times Distillery Co. in Nelson County at what became to be known as Early Times Station, three miles East of Bardstown along the Springfield Branch of the L&N Railroad.
1923: Brown-Forman Makes its 1st Acquisition – Early Times Whisky
As distilling was curtailed around the country because of WW1 and with the onset of Prohibition the Early Times Distillery stopped distilling in 1918. During Prohibition only a small number of distilleries were allowed to continue to sell medicinal spirits. Brown-Forman was one of those companies. As their stocks of aged whisky dried up they acquired aging barrels from other shuttered distilleries. In 1923 Brown-Forman made its first acquisition when it purchased the Early Times brand and existing inventory of aging Kentucky bourbon.
After the 21st Amendment was passed Brown-Forman eventually restarted distillation of Early Times but moved the operation to Jefferson County, Kentucky near the company’s headquarters in Louisville. Production shifted to the company’s Labrot & Graham Distillery (now Woodford) and eventually back to Jefferson County at what was to be called the Early Times Distillery. The whisky has been made at that location ever since until now.
2020: Sazerac Acquires Early Times Whisky Brand and Inventory
It was announced in June of 2020 that Brown-Forman sold their longtime Early Times Whiskey brand to Sazerac. The acquisition included Early Times, Canadian Mist, and Collingwood brands, and the Canadian Mist production assets, to Sazerac Company.
At the time Sazerac Company President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Brown said, “We are delighted to acquire such iconic brands as well as the Canadian Mist Distillery. Brown-Forman has done an excellent job building these brands over the years and we expect to invest in the brands and grow their sales in the coming years.”
2021: Sazerac Announces Early Times to be Made at Barton 1792 Distillery
The Early Times Whisky acquisition included the brand and all existing whiskey inventory. Sazerac has since officially announced that production of Early Times Whiskey will now take place at the company’s Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. This means for the first time in more than a century Early Times is returning to its Nelson County, Kentucky roots in Bardstown.
“We are excited to add such an iconic brand to the Barton 1792 Distillery,” said Adam Wilkins, brand manager, Sazerac Company. “The strong American whiskey lineage of Early Times will be a valuable inclusion to our existing whiskey portfolio.”
With a new source of production, consumers can expect the well-known Early Times BIB whiskey to uphold the Bottled-in-Bond Act regulations and continue to be bottled at 50% ABV (100 Proof).
Sazerac released a statement saying, “A magnitude of enthusiasm stems from the Early Times Bottled-in-Bond expression, in particular as a connector to the brand’s early pre-Prohibition era offering. With sweet notes of caramel corn and traces of cinnamon spice, the Early Times Bottled-in-Bond expression has rapidly become a fan favorite. Though Early Times will have a new home, Barton 1792 Distillery will continue to deliver the same great tasting Early Times Bottled-in-Bond product that consumers have grown to love using the original recipe and mash bill.”
Q: Is Early Times a Whiskey or a Bourbon?
A: Yes and no. The answer has changed many times over the 160 years of the brand. For the most part Early Times is not a bourbon mainly because its been aged in used barrels. There are however versions that are bourbon. In 2017 the company released Early Times Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey which as the name says is Bourbon.
A spokesperson for Sazerac says production for Early Times will continue to be made as a Kentucky Whiskey (made in used bourbon barrels) and a Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The acquisition included the existing barrel stock.
Barton Brands has facilities in Bardstown, Ky., Carson, Calif., and Baltimore, Md. Barton Brands is owned by the Sazerac Company, an American family-owned company based in New Orleans, La. Barton 1792 Distillery was established in 1879 and continues today as the oldest fully-operating Distillery in the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” The Distillery is located on 196 acres and includes 28 warehouses, 22 other buildings, the Morton Spring and the Tom Moore Spring. Distilling, aging and bottling fine Bourbon whiskey are hallmarks of the historic Barton 1792 Distillery.