James C. Crow

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Born in Inverness, Doctor James C. "Jim" Crow (1789-1856) was the Scottish creator of the sour mash process for creating bourbon whiskey.

Dr. Crow, a Scottish chemist-physician, graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University in 1822. He moved from Philadelphia to Kentucky in 1823 and began working for a distiller, bringing his scientific and medical training to the process.

According to The Kentucky Encyclopedia, Crow began experimenting in 1835 at his Glenn's Creek Distillery in Woodford County Kentucky with a saccharimeter to measure sugar content. This litmus paper test to determine the mash acidity resulted in Crow's decision to age his "Old Crow" whiskey before selling it.[1]

Crow moved to the town of Millville and for the next twenty years he was in charge of the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, now known as Woodford Reserve. Later he went to work for the Johnson Distillery. That distillery eventually became Old Taylor. He worked there until his death in 1856.

Dr. Jason S. Amburgey, an employee of the same distillery as Dr. Crow, is also sometimes credited with creating the sour mash process.


  1. The Kentucky Encyclopedia - University of Kentucky Press - 1992 pg 266