Published On: Tue, May 19th, 2015

The Jewish Origins of Kentucky Bourbon

This month's Atlantic has an extensive story about it.


In 1867, a Jewish immigrant by the name of Isaac Wolfe Bernheim arrived to America from Germany. He rode in steerage and survived on potatoes—a humble beginning to the bootstrapping success story he would tell decades later, after building one of the biggest whiskey brands in the world. Despite his achievements within the whiskey industry, Bernheim was always ambivalent about the liquor business, a trade he had fallen into in 1868 after two distillers from Paducah, Kentucky, enlisted him for his bookkeeping abilities.

After earning enough to bring his brother over from Europe, they opened their own distillery in 1872. The new operation needed its own brand, which presented a dilemma: What should Bernheim call it? His decision would not only reveal how…



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