American Distilling’s Julius Freiberg Leaves A Special Mark

216-218_E_Front_1904Occasionally you read something in the trade press of the American alcohol industry, in this case from Teddy Roosevelt’s era, which jumps out at you.

It was an obituary of Julius Freiberg, a Cincinnati resident.

Freiberg achieved great success in the distilling business. He owned with a partner two distilleries, Lynchburg Distillery in Ohio, and Boone in Petersburg, KY not far from Cincinnati and the Ohio River.

He was born in 1823 in Germany and died in 1905. Of Jewish origin, he was one of those protean spirits, much given to philanthropies including Jewish ones remembered in Cincinnati to this day, and leading his industry’s associations.

His distilleries made straight whisky only, bourbon and rye. Only just before he died – and he had retired by then, the firm was run by descendants – did the firm invest in an alcohol (neutral spirits) plant in partnership with other distillers.

Freiberg had trained as a winemaker and cooper in Germany before emigrating. He worked in Kentucky at a general store, branched out into whiskey jobbing in Cincinnati, and finally invested in his own distillery with a partner, Workum.

Freiberg & Workum’s history is well-described in this posting of the excellent website, Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men! The firm achieved huge production for the period and established many brands.

Some of these are remembered today such as Cyrus Noble. Noble was a representative of the firm from the west coast and a bourbon ended being established with his name. You can still drink a bourbon with that name, I had it a few years ago in, appropriately, Sonoma Valley, CA with Jim Butler, major domo of There is some interesting lore on Cyrus Noble from the classic family-owned D & M Liquors, here. A choice tidbit:

The year was 1871 when a brand of whiskey was named after him. The exact circumstance is unknown, but it is said that Cyrus was intoxicated by perfecting a new bourbon when he fell in one of the vats of whiskey. Henceforth, that whiskey was named “Cyrus Noble”.

The Wine and Spirits Bulletin, edited by George Washburne, covered Freiberg & Workum’s activities closely. Obviously a journal of this nature subsisted on the patronage of distilleries and their suppliers. It was not going to take them to task for anything, but I’ve read quite a few articles now in the Bulletin and Bonfort’s, the other industry journal of the period, including many obits. Few if any rose to the heights of this particular homage Washburne gave to Julius Freiburg:

Mr. Freiberg’s death will arouse deep feeling in the hearts of many members of the trade. Strongly outlined in his nature was the idea of giving assistance to young men in the early stages of their career. Sometimes this assistance would take a financial form, and sometimes it would be of that definite sympathy and moral backing which would assist in overcoming the discouragements of youth. The writer has a vivid recollection of an incident along these lines which occurred some twenty years ago in his own experience and as a result of which he has ever held Mr. Freiberg in the highest esteem, and shall ever venerate his memory.