James Watt Kelly is born February 26, 1844 in Waterford, Ireland.
At age 19, Kelly boards a transatlantic vessel and emigrates to Nashville, Tennessee by way of New York, New York. His travels expose him to the world’s most renowned spirits.
Kelly travels to Chattanooga, Tennessee to collect a debt and decides to stay in the Scenic City.
Kelly establishes his name in the distillery trade as J.W. Kelly & Company. He sells alcohol through at least twelve different labels.
Kelly dominates the trade and becomes proprietor of a popular saloon on Market Street in downtown Chattanooga.
Kelly dies from extended illness March 21, 1907.
Production continues until Tennessee’s Attorney General takes J.W. Kelly & Co. to court for trading alcohol in a dry county.
The first Prohibition law in the history of the United States passes in Tennessee, making it a misdemeanor to sell alcoholic beverages in taverns and stores. The market is overtaken by competitors in years following Prohibition repeal due to the deaths of Kelly’s business partners.
Distribution of J.W. Kelly’s bourbon is dormant until 2017, when the recipe is revived and resumes production.