Originally produced at the old Stitzel-Weller distiller, this 10 year old Centennial brand was produced by United Distillers (now Diageo) in the mid 1990s.
William Larue Weller was born into a distilling family in Kentucky in 1825, and launched his W.L. Weller brand in 1849. Originally a rectification business (creating 'whiskey' using neutral spirit, colouring and flavourings), this all changed with the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 and the death of Weller two years later. The company was left in the hands of the fiercely passionate Julian 'Pappy' Van Winkle I who, having steered it safely through the wreckage of National Prohibition, established Old Weller alongside the newly acquired Old Fitzgerald labels and the flagship brands for the new Stitzel-Weller distillery in 1933. It was produced there for over 60 years, eventually being sold to the Sazerac Company in 1999, who distil it at Buffalo Trace using Pappy's recipe to this day.
The 10 year old Centennial was launched by United Distillers in 1996 as part of their Bourbon Heritage Collection. This range represented United Distillers brief excitement around bourbon before the newly formed Diageo turned its attentions elsewhere the following year. It was joined by an Old Charter, Old Fitzgerald, I.W. Harper and George Dickel. Only the latter two brands are still part of the Diageo portfolio today.
This will have been bottled using whiskey distilled at Old Fitzgerald distillery, the official name for Stitzel-Weller before it reverted to its historic title in 1992.
The Stitzel-Weller company was officially established in 1933 at the repeal of National Prohibition in the US. It was the result of a merger between the A. Ph. Stitzel distillery and its biggest customer, W.L. Weller & Sons. The Stitzel-Weller distillery opened on Kentucky Derby day in 1935, and quickly developed a reputation for its high quality wheated bourbon, and its main brands were Old Weller, Old Fitzgerald and Cabin Still. The original ownership was shared between Alex T. Farnsley, Arthur Philip Stitzel and Julian Van Winkle. The former passed-away in 1941 and 1947, respectively, leaving the Van Winkle family as the sole heirs to the business. 'Pappy' died in 1965, having handed the reigns to his son, Julian II the year prior, who ran it until 1972 when the board of directors forced him to sell it to the Norton-Simon subsidiary, Somerset Imports. When they were bought over by the American arm of Scottish distillers, DCL, its subsequent iteration invested heavily in bourbon. So much so in fact, that their newly rebuilt Bernheim distillery had such capacity that Stitzel-Weller was rendered surplus to requirements. It was shut down in 1992. Still part of the Diageo portfolio, it has never re-opened and instead now houses the visitor experience for their Bulleit brand.