Old Overholt, said to be America’s oldest continually maintained brand of whiskey, was founded in West Overton, Pennsylvania, in 1810. Old Overholt is a rye whiskey distilled by A. Overholt & Co., currently a subsidiary of Beam Suntory, which is a subsidiary of Suntory Holdings of Osaka, Japan. It is produced at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. It is one of the most commonly available straight rye whiskies in the U.S., where it is available at most liquor stores. It is aged for three years and bottled at 80 proof. A four-year Bottled In Bond, 100 proof version was released in late 2017. Old Overholt has been called a “foundation stone of American whiskey” because of its long history.
The History of Old Overholt
Henry Oberholzer (Anglicized to “Overholt”), a German Mennonite farmer, moved to West Overton, Pennsylvania, on the banks of Jacobs Creek in Western Pennsylvania in 1800. His family came from the area of Germany which specialized in distilling “korn”, or rye whiskey, and Henry took up the tradition.
In 1810, Henry’s son Abraham Overholt (1784–1870) took over the management of the distillery and made it into a business. By the 1820s, the distillery was putting out 12 to 15 gallons of rye whiskey per day. Abraham grew the company rapidly; by 1843, Baltimore newspapers were advertising Overholt’s “Old Rye”; at that time, only the very few top distilleries were advertised by name. By 1859, Overholt incorporated his business as “A. Overholt & Co.” He operated out of a new distillery building that was six stories high, 100 feet long, and which could produce 860 gallons per day.
In 1881, Abraham’s grandson Henry Clay Frick took over the company. As one of the country’s wealthiest people, the distillery was a sentimental side-business for Frick. Frick took on Andrew Mellon and one Charles W. Mauck as partners, each owning one-third of the business.
In 1888, Mauck adopted the name “Old Overholt” as the official name of the company, adding a picture of Abraham as the logo. Around that time, the company started selling its product in bottles instead of barrels. By 1900, Old Overholt became a national brand. In the early years of the 20th Century, Old Overholt became one of the largest and most respected whiskeys in the country.
Frick died in December 1919, and left his share to Andrew Mellon. This ended family ownership in the company.
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