Fort Ligonier will auction 1911 Old Overholt bottle at ‘Cannon Ball’ event
When it comes to capitalizing on Western Pennsylvania’s rye whiskey history, the Fort Ligonier Association isn’t going to get left out.
In addition to a rare whiskey auction happening Thursday in Kentucky that includes a bottle of 1909 Old Overholt — a West Overton distillery once owned by Henry Clay Frick and the Mellon family — the association will auction a 1911 bottle of Old Overholt at its Cannon Ball, set for Friday at Fort Ligonier’s new Learning Center.
“The 1911 bottle of Old Overholt Rye is from a private collector’s cellar,” past association president Joe Byers said. “Two years ago, a similar bottle sold at the fort’s auction for $2,300.”
The bottle of 1909 whiskey is expected to fetch between $10,000 and $15,000 at auction and, according to bourbon experts, is frequently referred to as “the unicorn of whiskeys.”
The history of Old Overholt dates to April 1800 when Henry Overholt, his wife and their 12 children moved from Bucks County to Westmoreland County, settling around Jacobs Creek in East Huntingdon, according to the West Overton Village & Museums site. His first business here was distilling rye whiskey.
Production continued until 1919, when the 18th Amendment — Prohibition — was enacted.
Andrew Mellon, then Secretary of the Treasury and part owner of the distillery, granted a license to distill “medicinal whiskey” at the Overholts’ sister company at Broadford, Connellsville Township.
West Overton this year established a new distillery on the original property, bringing whiskey production back for the first time in a century.
WhiskeyAdvocate.com calls Old Overholt the only brand to maintain “undeniable ties” to Monongahela-style rye whiskey — a pure rye or high rye version popularly made in Western Pennsylvania.
Old Overholt is now produced by a subsidiary of Beam Suntory. Its label still contains a likeness of Abraham Overholt — son of Henry Overholt and grandfather of Frick, who took over distilling operations in 1810 and marketed “Old Farm Pure Rye.” After his death in 1870, the brand was renamed Old Overholt in his honor, and his scowling portrait was added to the label.
In addition to the whiskey, the live auction will include dinner for six featuring wine pairings from Vallozzi’s wine cellar, a trip to a coastal retreat in Nags Head, N.C., an end table created by master woodworker Paul Sirofchuck, an 18th-century-style dinner with “Col. Henry Bouquet” at the fort, dinner at The Inn in Washington with an overnight stay at the Foster Harris House bed-and-breakfast and a four-night trip for two to Ireland’s Drumoland Castle.
The event will feature a silent auction.
It will be from 5-8 p.m. Friday at the Learning Center, 200 South Market St. in Ligonier.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .