With all these amazing new breweries and booze distilleries emerging around the country, it’s time to pay homage to the older, more established breweries and liquor companies who, regardless of having their metaphorical lawns crowded with whippersnappers, carry on doing what they’re doing and staying cool. A few of these brands have been in business since a 1,000 years or more and faced some crazy stuff – including having burned down a combined 100 times or so – so give them some respect! They’re most certainly your elders (assuming you are not an immortal).
Check out these scary stories behind 8 of the world’s oldest booze brands.
Founded in 1040 (but maaaybe as early as 768)
The abbey that at the start housed this fabled Bavarian brewery was founded back in 725… BY A SAINT. How many other booze makers can claim that (other than George Clooney’s winery)? Because the monks obtained their official license to brew and sell beer in 1040, the abbey burned down four times, was destroyed by plagues and earthquakes, and still kept rebuilding itself in order to brew beer. And, y’know, to do monk stuff.
Operating since 1141
The Sudo family from Obara, Japan has been making sake for more than 870 years, and they’ve been managing the Sudohonke company FOR THAT ENTIRE TIME. Keeping their family business running for that long must have been hard, specially because almost all kids today don’t want to be seen near their dad when the family goes to the mall together. As per the Sudo family history, the first proprietors were “originally… members of the warrior class,” which is perhaps a pick-up line your dad also used to try out back in the day.
Officially licensed in 1608
The oldest licensed whiskey of the world comes right outta Ireland – King James I gave Sir Thomas Phillips permission to start distilling in 1608. Since then, the brewery burned down once, got some major literary cred when it was cited by James Joyce in Ulysses (granted, there aren’t many people who have the patience to authenticate this), and was made use of as lodging for soldiers during World War II. We imagine that those soldiers were perhaps pretty bummed that production had to halt so they could stay there. In 2008, the Irish government celebrated the distillery’s 400-year anniversary with commemorative bank notes. No biggie.
Abbey built around 1074
Affligem began as a cluster of knights who loved to help people (in the form of growing hops and brewing beer); later those knights founded an abbey and became monks – always a solid move. However, owing to the strategic location of the abbey, it was invaded, destroyed, restored, eventually burned down by William of Orange, and restored yet again… before being shut down by the monarchy before the French Revolution. Luckily, two gutsy monks outlasted all that stuff and came back to the site to found the abbey/brewery. Just let these guys brew beer! Yeesh.
Mount Gay Rum
Founded in 1703
Despite the fact that Mount Gay’s original operation was set up by a guy named John Sober (dude was in the wrooooong business), it was when Sir John Gay Alleyne took over that the rum distillery actually started to take off. Barbadians had already been making rum – which they dubbed Kill-Devil – for decades using the island’s bountiful sugarcane, and, with Sir John’s help, they exported rum to the entire developing world, specially colonial America, where it was the unofficial drink of choice of pretty much every Founding Father.
Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Originally started in 1773
What we now know as Buffalo Trace began as two brothers making whiskey on a spot adjacent to the Kentucky River in 1773. It lacked a name back then, nor was bourbon whiskey even a thing… and Kentucky wasn’t officially a state yet… but dammit, Hancock and Willis Lee wanted some booze. Their distilling endeavors finally went kaput in 1776, but were restored many more times under various different names, finally settling on Buffalo Trace in 1999, thus eventually legitimizing the Lee brothers’ quest for whiskey.
Established in 1793
Carrying on a long-standing tradition of utilizing repurposed religious buildings as booze factories, the Plymouth Gin Distillery (also dubbed the Black Friars Distillery) was set up in a former Dominican monastery in Plymouth, England in 1793 with the aim of supplying “Navy-strength” gin and juice to sailors on the high seas in order to avert scurvy. The Mayflower, visible on the label of all Plymouth Gin bottles, in actual fact set sail from Plymouth’s harbor in 1620, and the Pilgrim Fathers may have indeed stayed at the monastery on the night before their departure. Unluckily, they would later go on to really, really enjoy rum.
Founded in 1575
Claiming to be the world’s oldest family of liquor brands, Bols was set up by the eponymous family in 1575, granted that their distillery was originally called “’t Lootsje”, or “the little shed.” Needless to say, they soon grew too big for their britches (people wore those back then) after their cumin and cardamom spirits became famous, and, when Luca Bols took over in the 17th century, he converted the distillery into a world-class institution with a larger distillery. Today, they produce Galliano, Vaccari, and their own line of products… along with yogurt liqueur. Bottoms up!