Overholt Rye whiskey, once owned by Mellon family, to be auctioned in Kentucky | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Overholt Rye whiskey, once owned by Mellon family, to be auctioned in Kentucky

Patrick Varine
1666112_web1_gtr-ScaifeBourbon-091319
A 1909 bottle of Overholt Rye whiskey is expected to fetch up to $15,000 at a Kentucky auction on Sept. 19, 2019.
1666112_web1_gtr-ScaifeBourbon2-091319
The "Art of Bourbon" auction will also include several bottles of Pappy Van Winkle.

Someone next week will have a shot at buying a historic bottle of whiskey distilled in Westmoreland County that typically fetches more than $1,000 a shot, on the rare occasion it can be found.

On Thursday, a 1909 bottle of Overholt Rye whiskey — passed down through the Mellon family and previously inherited by late Tribune-Review publisher Richard Mellon Scaife — will be offered at Speed Art Museum’s “Art of Bourbon” auction in Louisville.

It 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.”

“A 1.5-ounce pour will set you back $1,250, and that’s if you can even get it,” said bourbon expert Fred Minnick, who is serving as the auction curator. “It has such a historic taste. They just don’t make whiskey like that anymore.”

The auction will consist of 54 total lots, and it is expected to be a who’s-who of the bourbon world, according to organizers.

“Bourbon royalty — families with last names like Van Winkle, Brown, Samuels, Henderson and Dedman — will gather under the museum’s Beaux-Arts roof for the event. Guests will mingle with master distillers, members of the old-guard bourbon families, distillery executives and founders of new distilleries that have sprung up on and off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” according to a Speed release.

Proceeds will benefit the art institution’s education programs and exhibitions.

Tickets are $200 and include a cocktail hour, bourbon tastings and a seated dinner.

In the early 20th century, Andrew Mellon purchased a third of the Overholt whiskey distillery from Henry Clay Frick, a great-grandson of the distillery’s founder. When Frick died in 1919, he left his Overholt shares to Mellon, making him the distillery’s majority owner.

Following Scaife’s death in 2014, a wine cellar was discovered containing about 60 cases of Overholt Rye bottled between 1901 and 1912. Those cases were auctioned by Christie’s, and six of them were bought by Speed patron Marc Abrams, who donated a bottle to Speed.

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 Broad Ford, 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 that was 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 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.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.