The Story of the WhiskeyDaddler

For the full story, please check out the novel “Where the Whiskey Runs” here on our website!

Whiskeydaddle describes the process of moving whiskey barrels from one location to another. It was coined in the 1840s when every distillery in Peoria employed – along with mashmen, maltmen, stillmen and coopers – a team of “whiskeydaddlers.” The job of the whiskeydaddler was to transport whiskey barrels as quickly (and safely) as possible from warehouse to warehouse and to customers throughout the city.

The various distilleries were very proud of their whiskeydaddlers as they could be the difference between losing out on a sale to one of the many competitors – after all, people wanted their whiskey and they did NOT want to wait (old whiskeydaddler saying: the only person more impatient than someone drunk on whiskey is someone waiting to get drunk on whiskey). The faster your whiskeydaddlers, the greater your profits – if your whiskeydaddlers stayed ahead of the competition, so did your company.

Quite often the facial hair played a critical role especially if a barrel sprung a small leak while being transported – since speed and efficiency were key they couldn’t take any tools while they were moving the barrels (added weight equals slower speeds) so the best whiskeydaddlers grew impressive facial hair which they used to stop up leaks in the barrels as they were being moved.

And so the job of whiskeydaddler was a prized possession. Each distillery had its own methods of hiring and training their whiskeydaddlers in an effort to out whiskeydaddle each other. While there were many methods of becoming a whiskeydaddler, there were four characteristics that every great one had in common: incredible strength, outstanding speed, impressive balance and awe-inspiring facial hair.

Every summer an annual Whiskeydaddle Festival was held as each distillery’s whiskeydaddlers faced off against each other in barrel-related competitions:

  • 100-yd barrel dash (carrying a barrel 100 yards)
  • 100-yd barrel crawl (crawling through a 100-yd tunnel made of barrels)
  • the barrel dodge (precursor to dodge ball)
  • the barrel rolling competition (like log rolling)
  • the barrel burn (who can hold a freshly charred barrel the longest)
  • the whisker dunk (whose beard can soak up the most whiskey)

Eventually the job of the whiskeydaddler was phased out in the 1870s once the distilleries realized horses and wagons could do a better job. The last great whiskeydaddler was Richardiah Buttons Smithson who tragically died in 1883 while trying to fight the horse that took his job.


The Whiskeydaddle Dance

The memory of the whiskeydaddlers was briefly revived in the 1930s, when a group of Peorians – in an effort to compete with the latest national dance trends like the Lindy Hop and Charleston – created a dance called the Whiskeydaddle. The dance involved small groups of men getting together and pushing things from one end of a room to the other. While the dance failed to catch on at the time, it did serve as the inspiration for slam dancing and the modern-day mosh pit.


While the booming city of Peoria is busy turning out millions of gallons of whiskey per year, the farms that surround the city are just as busy harvesting the grain that makes it all possible.

On one of these farms lives Daisy. Daisy is the youngest in a family with three older brothers, all of whom help their dad, uncles and cousins on their family farms which are just a few miles outside of town.

She grew up working on the farm just like her
brothers, living the life of a tomboy (they
needed her to even out the sides in family
basketball and football games), and roaming the vast woodlands with her
collie, Leo. Naturally, she has a strong independent streak although feels a
deep tie to her family and their ancestral lands.

Whiskeydaddle Daisy

After she graduated high school, she decided she couldn’t stay on the farm, and yet couldn’t leave. She needed to find her own way in the world and see what she had inside herself. So, against the wishes of her parents, she pedaled into Peoria one day and, after being turned down at a couple of places, found a job at one of the busiest places in the city – the post office.

So now Daisy spends her days working in the city as an apprentice, and her nights living back at her home with her family. It’s the best of both worlds for her – and it means she has opportunities she never would have had if she just “stayed down on the farm.”