The story behind the name Bower Hill Bourbon is historically significant.
John Neville was a militiaman, a member of the Continental Army who survived Valley Forge and later fought in several Revolutionary War battles, including Yorktown. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of Brigadier General. John Neville established a plantation south of Pittsburgh and named it Bower Hill.
Bower Hill was a ten thousand acre spread that reflected the opulence of Neville’s social standing. It contrasted with the surrounding cabins owned by sustenance farmers. Neville was the logical choice to be appointed a tax collector in charge of a four-county area. The farmers who were also distillers detested the whiskey tax because they felt it was unfair to the small family still. When Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton created the whiskey tax in 1791, it favored more extensive industrial distilling operations. There was a sliding discount of fees for larger volumes of distilled spirits that the local farmer would never meet.
Another point of frustration was that the tax was due and payable in cash. In rural Appalachia, cash was hard to come by, and many survived by bartering. Whiskey was a form of currency.
The battle of Bower Hill
Bower Hill Bourbon was an idea born of the historical battle of Bower Hill. By 1794, the abuse of revenue collectors because increasingly problematic. In fact, in individual counties, the tax could not be collected because of the resistance. A large group of rebels numbering in the hundreds included many revolutionary war veterans marched to the home of John Neville. He fortified his defenses with a small group of federal soldiers and his armed servants. The battle took place on July 16, gunfire erupted, resulting in multiple deaths. This event led to the eventual crushing of the whiskey rebellion by President Washington using federal troops. The sheer weight of force by Washington and his troops dispersed the rebels.
Why was there a rebellion?
Many of the rebels who openly opposed the whiskey tax had fought in the revolutionary war and felt the whiskey tax was a form of taxation without representation. It was one of the things they despised about the British. They were mostly farmers who wanted to return to their homes and families. All domestically produced spirits were to be taxed, but whiskey at the time was the predominant product produced in rural stills.
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson
Alexander Hamilton created the whiskey tax to pay the enormous cost of the revolutionary war. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton understood the newly formed nation did not have many options to raise funds, and a spirits tax would generate needed revenue. The whiskey tax was the first tax placed on a product in the newly formed United States of America. Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson ran on a platform to eliminate the tax. President Jefferson repealed the tax in 1802.
Bower Hill is a sourced whiskey with a good backstory. There is no distillery of origin listed on the bottle, but it does indicate that it is distilled and aged in Louisville. It does not have an age statement and is referred to as well-aged small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The labeling does indicate that it is bottled in Ohio by the Bower Hill Distillery. It is an 86 proof bourbon that has some Rye heat upfront. There is a chocolate sweetness that shows through, but there is also a hint of fruit. The name represents an exciting time in history. However, the story is more dramatic than the actual bourbon. It does make a good conversation piece.