The Official Unofficial Fictitious Historical Tale of River Rat Whiskey
Last week we were up in the attic of the store located on the corner of 3rd & Court and found an old dusty bottle of booze. Upon further inspection - we uncovered what we believe is the first ever production run of the historic River Rat whiskey.
After doing exhaustive research on the internets, scouring the You Know You’re from Portsmouth If Facebook page, and dozens of interviews we began to piece together the unbelievable story of the River Rat Distillery.
River Rat Whiskey was founded by a true pioneer - Charles Norris in 1866. Although the lineage of Charles is widely disputed - we have traced his bloodlines back to legendary Shawnee Chief Tecumseh.
Growing up in the River bottoms; Charles was abandoned by his parents and left to be raised by his Great Aunt “Chubby”. Chubby was a hard woman - mean as a snake, stubborn as a mule, and could drink like a fish. She was the owner of a bakery by day and illegal gambling hall by night. Even though she was a harsh woman and widely feared in the Boneyfiddle district, she dearly loved Charles and taught him her secret recipe for concocting moonshine using excess ingredients from the bakery.
Charles would later enlist to fight in the Civil War. Upon returning home in 1865, Charles was struggling to find work. The bakery that Aunt Chubby had promised him was now owned by the Glockner family. It was reported that Aunt Chubby got heavily intoxicated and literally bet the house in a card game against Timathias Glockner. Multiple eye witness report state that Timathias cheated by dealing from the bottom of the deck which sent Chubby into a drunken rage and led to challenging Timathias to a duel on Market Street. No one knows what happened next, but Aunt Chubby was found dead the next morning washed up on the banks of the Ohio. Many people believe Timathias had his henchmen poison her whiskey so he wouldn’t have to face Chubby in the street.
Upon hearing this - Charles swore one day he would avenge his dear Aunt Chubby. Using the lessons and recipes passed down to him by Aunt Chubby - he started distilling River Rat Whiskey. Using fresh Ohio River water and corn grown in the flood plains, River Rat whiskey had a bold, rich, and smooth taste.
As Portsmouth grew - so did River Rat Whiskey. Many people believe River Rat Whiskey fueled the economic growth of the region from the late 1800s through the early 1900s.
Charles would later win back the bakery/gambling hall from Timathias after beating him in a card game and turn the building into one of the most successful distilleries in the MidWest. Charles built a massive fortune, became the owner of the Portsmouth Spartans and upon retiring sold the recipe to two of his apprentices;
Pappy VanWinkle and Jack Daniels. Timathias would later go onto to die from syphilis without a penny to his name.
So in honor of Charles Norris and his dear Aunt Chubby’s recipe we are proud to bring back River Rat Whiskey in tshirt form to the proud people of all River Towns.
Who knows maybe one day we will fire back up the distillery....
Long live the legend!