History of Indiana distilling began when two guys by the name of Dunn and Ludlow built a distillery at the confluence of Tanners Creek and the Ohio River in 1807 in present day Lawrenceburg. In a few short years they were producing 2 barrels a week. Records show that they shipped 500 gallons of whiskey to New Orleans at a price of $0.25 per gallon.
Thomas and James Gaff built the T. & J.W. Gaff & Co. distillery in downtown Aurora on the banks of Hogan Creek in 1843. It made bourbon, rye, and Thistle Dew Scotch whiskey. This location became the foot of Mechanic St.
In 1846 W.P. and G.W. Squibb open up a distillery in Aurora. The fantastically named Kosmos Fredrick joined them in 1867. Together they built a new distillery in Lawrenceburg that could process 300 bushels of grain per day. This was at 2nd Street near Main. Fredrick sold his shares to W.P. Squibb in 1871 and went on to form a new distillery with Nicholas Oester.
In 1885 Fredrick and Oester installed a continuous still in their distillery. This is possibly the first use on continuous distillation in Indiana.
When the two Squibbs died they left the distillery to their seven sons and cousins. The very next year four of the sons and a cousin built a new distillery which would go on to produce the Chimney Corner, Old Dearborn, Rock Castle, and Gold Leaf Rye brands. Called the Old Quaker distillery, their motto was “Old Quaker is in tune with today’s growing preference for mildness and mellowness. You don’t have to be rich to enjoy rich whiskey.” Just before Prohibition ended this distillery was sold to Schenley who rolled it into their growing empire that included such brands as Schenley, Finch, Ancient Age, James Pepper, Blanton, Old Stagg, and more.
In Metamore, Indiana (Franklin County) in the 1850’s John and Daniel Walker opened a distillery.
Richmond, Indiana had it’s own distillery in the early 1800’s. The Cushman Distillery appeared in the early 1800’s but appears to have folded sometime before 1827 when it’s building was taken over by a brewery.
Terre Haute has been home to several distilleries – the Wabash Distillery, Indiana Distilling Company, Merchants Distilling Company, and Commercial Distilling Company.
There was a distillery at Water and Sheets Streets before 1840.
The major distillery in Terre Haute had roots back to 1840 when formed by Ezra W. Smith and Horace Button. This operation burned in 1847 but was rebuilt by Smith. Alexander McGregor bought it in 1850 and did profitable business during the Civil War. Herman Hulman bought it from Smith in 1870. By 1880 this distillery, then at First and Wilson Streets, was owned by Crawford Fairbanks and Robert S. Cox and was in the news when a boiler explosion killed 7 people. On June 29, 1884, a this 4-story distillery (by then owned by Fairbanks and Duenweg) burnt to the ground. It was reported that 300 hogs were roasted when the fire spread to nearby barn. The distillery was rebuilt, becoming the Indiana Distilling Company. In 1895 they built a 6-story Majestic Distillery that was thought to be the world’s largest with a capacity of 60,000 gallons a day.
The Merchants Distilling Co was founded in 1898 by Fred B. Smith and had a capacity of 15,000 gallons daily. It was on south First St. This enterprise was reopened after prohibition. They went bankrupt in 1959 and the assets were bought by Schenley.