The Town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming: The Home of American Whiskey and the Cowboy Spirit
When we think of whiskey, images of the Wild West and rough-and-tough cowboys come to mind. A small town in Wyoming shares its name with this spirit: Big Whiskey Wyoming. And as it turns out, this little town has a big history involving whiskey and cowboys.
When you visit Big Whiskey today, you’ll find the world’s only distillery dedicated to making American-style whiskeys (both bourbon and rye). This is something that comes as no surprise when considering that these two were the primary liquors consumed by those rugged, old-school cowboys.
If you’re interested in learning more about this unique town and its legendary past involving whiskey and cowboys, continue reading for some interesting facts about Big Whiskey, Wyoming!
The History of American Whiskey in Big Whiskey Wyoming
The history of American whiskey dates back to the 17th century when Scottish and Irish immigrants first brought their knowledge of distilling whiskeys to the New World. Whiskey became very popular during the late 19th century when the invention of the column still allowed for industrial-scale production of the spirit.
During this time, bourbon and rye (two of the most common styles of American whiskey) were immensely popular. People founded several large distilleries in different parts of the country. These included the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, established in Louisville, Kentucky. The Stitzel-Weller Distillery is the oldest continually operating distillery worldwide.
When Prohibition came along in the early 1900s, it marked the end of the large-scale distilling of American whiskey. However, when the Noble Experiment ended in 1933, new distilleries began to spring up, and American whiskey soon regained popularity in the American drinking culture. Today, American whiskey is as popular as ever, and a new generation of distillers is keeping the old Whiskey traditions alive.
Where Is Big Whiskey Wyoming?
Big Whiskey is an unincorporated community in Crook County, Wyoming. The town is located in the southwest part of the state and has a population of around 70 people. The nearest major city is Denver, which is 596 miles away.
Big Whiskey is located in the southern part of Crook County, near the border with Colorado. It is located on Highway 71. Although the town has no official status, The Geographic Names Information System has it listed as a populated place.
The town is named after the large whiskey still (a device used to distill spirits). The still was located in the area when it was first settled in 1878. The settlement has had several names, including “Whiskey Bend” and “Big Whiskey Camp.”
A Brief History of American Whiskey in Big Whiskey
The history of American whiskey in Big Whiskey itself is long and varied, spanning more than a century. However, the heyday of the town’s whiskey production came during the late 19th century, when dozens of distilleries were operating in and around Big Whiskey.
Most of these were small, family-owned operations, producing whiskey on a reasonably small scale. Many of these operations did not last very long. They often shut down due to economic problems. Despite this, the Whiskey produced in Big Whiskey during this period was very high quality. Local markets sold most of the whiskey produced here.
However, Prohibition forced most of these distilleries to close for good. Big Whiskey’s whiskey production ended.
Busted! The Prohibition Era and the Shootout at the Owl Creek Saloon
During the Prohibition era, Big Whiskey was a rough-and-tumble town. At the time, the Owl Creek Saloon was the only bar in town and was the site of many gunfights and brawls.
One such incident (that gained national attention) happened in April 1911, when a man named Joe R Rogers (also known as “The Border Boss”) shot and killed a city marshal named Joe Hazlett. Rogers and Hazlett had been feuding for some time, and the Owl Creek Saloon was the site of many heated words.
The incident happened after the two had been drinking, and the exact details of what happened are somewhat murky. Either way, Rogers shot Hazlett in the back. Officers then arrested Rogers and charged him with murder.
A courthouse in Laramie, Wyoming, held the trial. Rogers hired a lawyer named William Rogers (no relation) to defend him. The trial lasted five days, during which William Rogers claimed self-defense, and the jury eventually found Rogers not guilty.
The two Rogers men left Laramie and traveled to Big Whiskey. The locals welcomed the Border Boss as a hero, and the local government gave him a full pardon. The Owl Creek Saloon continued to serve drinks for another 17 years until it was destroyed by fire in 1928.
The history of Big Whiskey Wyoming is a classic western American tale of a small boom town gone broke. What do you think? Is it worth making the trip to see this historic town? If you have been to Big Whiskey, please let us know what it was like in the comments below.