The first distillery of which anything is known was a little kettle concern for manufacturing apple and peach brandy, operated by Mr. MELTON. He, perhaps, made as much as twenty-five gallons per year. There were others in the early times, but the introduction by merchants of cheaper goods eventuated in pretty much breaking up the little stills in the county. Mr. MELTON held on until the beginning of the war, when, by reason of the stringency of the revenue laws and the taxes, he suspended operations.
The first whiskey distillery known in the county was built by D. R. BURBANK, in the Town of Henderson in 1867-68. This was a large house and made several large crops of whiskey, which found a ready market.
The next distillery built was that of STARLING & McCLAIN, in 1872. A few years subsequent to this another was built opposite Evansville, and shortly after burned. The first two ceased operations and have long since been torn down.
During the summer and fall of 1880 Messrs. A. S. WINSTEAD and N. B. HILL, under the firm name of HILL & WINSTEAD, who, having purchased the buildings and grounds of the Henderson Car Works, formed a copartnership under the firm name of HILL & WINSTEAD for the purpose of distilling. The buildings were remodeled and arranged for that purpose, and the first whisky made during the winter of that year. The capacity of this house is twenty barrels per twenty-four hours, but it has, owing to the over supply of whiskies on the market, never been run beyond half capacity. They manufacture the renowned "Silk Velvet" sour mash, and meet with ready sales. Large numbers of cattle and swine are fed from the offal.
During the summer of 1881 E. W. WORSHAM and J. B. JOHNSTON, under the firm name of E. W. WORSHAM & Co., purchased ground and commenced the building of the present distillery, situated between the line of the L. & N. R. R. and Canoe Creek, fronting Center Street. This house was completed and fully stocked with all the machinery and necessary apparatus for manufacturing the finest quality of sour mash whisky, and commenced operations during the winter of 1881. Its original making capacity was twenty barrels per twenty-four hours, but subsequently cut down, and has never been taxed at over eight barrels per day. Twenty-seven hundred and sixty-seven barrels of the favorite "Peerless" have been made, and there is but little of it that has not found a ready market. January 1st, 1887, Mr. WORSHAM assumed sole charge of the distillery and associated with himself in the wholesale house his two sons, Andrew J. and D. W. C. WORSHAM.
During the summer of 1881, Messrs. J. E. WITHERS, H. F. DADE, and Captain Charles G. PERKINS, under the firm name of WITHERS, DADE & Co., purchased the necessary ground upon the Evansville road, two miles from the Court House, and built a ten barrel house. They have made three crops, a total of over three thousand barrels, of superior sour mash, and found ready buyers for their make. This is one of the most complete house in the State, and its make of whiskey ranks with the best known to the trade.
History of Henderson County, KY
Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2005 HCH&GS