Within the past two years, three Louisiana distilleries (Atelier Vie, Donner-Peltier Distillers and Louisiana Lightning) have begun churning out what may very well be the first legally-made whiskies in the state since Prohibition—and maybe ever. Considering Louisiana’s longtime signature cocktail, the Sazerac, uses rye whiskey as its base, The Times-Picayune asks: What took so long?
As it turns out, whiskey’s history in the state is complex. Before the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, cognac was the spirit of choice in the French-owned territory. Eventually, whiskey slowly rose in popularity, while a brandy shortage sped along this change in preference. At the time though, the whiskey supply was primarily Northeastern in origin, with Pennsylvania and Maryland acting as lead suppliers.
Once Prohibition hit, New Orleans became a hotbed of booze distribution, with whiskey and champagne coming in from Great Britain and Canada via the Caribbean. Bootleggers distilled their own whiskey substitute as well, along with spirits made from a sugarcane base. Despite the increased interest in the spirit, distillery rebuilding and grain shortages forced down the commercial viability of production even after the lift on Prohibition.
But a renewed (and legal) local distillery industry is beginning to turn Louisiana’s whiskey tide. [The Times-Picayune] [Photo: Flickr/Lars Plougmann]