Rye whiskey with Pennsylvania roots raises nearly $20,000 at auctions
Century-old bottles of rare Western Pennsylvania rye whiskey are making a few organizations very happy this week, and it’s not just the buzz from throwing back a couple shots.
Bottles distilled in 1909 and 1911 were auctioned off within days of one another this week, with one fetching $14,000 to benefit the Speed Art Museum in Kentucky.
Closer to home, a 1911 bottle was auctioned off at the Fort Ligonier Association’s Cannon Ball on Friday evening.
It brought in $5,500 for the association.
“It was an outstanding auction in many respects,” said past president Joe Byers. “The last time we had one (of these bottles), it went for about $2,400, so it was an exceptional auction in our minds.”
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.
In addition to the whiskey, the live auction included dinner for six with 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.
While the numbers won’t be finalized until early next week, “my sense is that this will be a record auction for Fort Ligonier,” Byers said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .