A Storied Bourbon Brand is Slated for Revival in Owensboro, Kentucky

Green River Distilling Co. Mural in Owensboro, Kentucky. Courtesy GRSC.

When the O.Z. Tyler team first arrived at the ruins of the Green River Distillery in 2014, they knew they’d have a long road ahead of them.

The distillery, located in Owensboro, Kentucky, was founded in 1885 by J.W. McCulloch. His whiskey was known as “the most expensive spirit in the world,” with just 20 barrels once traded for a stake in a Colorado gold mind. But in 1918, with Green River’s popularity at an all-time high, a fire burned the distillery (and 43,000 barrels of whiskey) to the ground, causing $3,000,000 in damage – an equivalent of over $56,000,000 today.

Courtesy Green River Spirits Co.

Although McColluch rebuilt the distillery, he didn’t live to see the end of Prohibition in 1933. The distillery traded hands and fell into disrepair until it was purchased in 2014 by the team who named it O.Z. Tyler. It took them 2 years just to get a still running, and now, six years later, they’re returning the Green River name to their site.

“Green River was known for making some of the finest whiskey in Kentucky. We’re excited to be crafting bourbon and rye under the Green River flag again,” said Jacob Call, Master Distiller of Green River Distilling Co. “As a third-generation distiller and seventh-generation Kentuckian, playing a role in reviving this historic distillery has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Master Distiller Jacob Call at Green River Distilling Co.

CEO Simon Burch worked closely with John’s great-grandson Rob McCulloch to rename the distillery, a press release tells us. McCulloch said, “I’ve always wanted the distillery’s name back at its original location in Owensboro. It completes the story my great-grandfather started in 1885.”

“Today’s announcement honors the distillery’s proud heritage in Owensboro and the beginning of its next chapter,” said Burch. “We’re so grateful to Rob for sharing his family’s legacy with us and it’s a privilege to continue to build on the legacy that John McCulloch created. It’s particularly exciting to make this announcement during September, which is National Bourbon Heritage Month.” 

Green River Distilling Co. 4 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey will be available in 2021.

Caroline Paulus
Caroline Paulus is the Senior Editor for The Bourbon Review. She lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky. Follow her on Instagram @misswhiskeyhistorian to keep up with her latest in bourbon news - and a few old finds, too.