The Full History of Macon & Carson Apple Brandy
The History of Macon Carson (M&C) Apple Brandy
In 1901, Benton County led the nation in apple production, producing 2.5 million bushels of apples and this community became known as the “Land of the Big Red Apple”. Many heirloom varietals of apples such as Big Ben, Brightwater, & Arkansas Black, among others, flourished across Benton, Washington and Madison county. At its apex, Benton County had a bumper crop of 5 million bushels of apples to support the primary economic engine of this region for fresh & dehydrated apples, as well as juice for the production of apple cider, apple vinegar and of course distilled spirits from local entrepreneurs!
In 1893. to capitalize on the abundance of this exquisite produce, two brothers named Emery John & Robert Gideon, Macon started and operated an apple brandy distillery right off the Bentonville square just a few hundred yards downstream on the western bank of Town Branch. Soon thereafter, their dream became the largest distillery west of the Mississippi River. Interestingly, legend says that they were the first nationally known entrepreneurs from Northwest Arkansas, predating the folks who created the “BIG BOX”, “BIG CHICKEN” and “BIG TRUCKING”!
During the apple season, produce wagons would line up for miles for the chance to have their apples used for M&C Apple Brandy. At its peak the M&C distillery produced up to 600 gallons per day and up to 215,000 gallons per year. Despite the large production, not a bottle was legally sold in town as Bentonville was located in a dry county.
Local folklore has it that the president of the powerful Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) traveled Arkansas during the heyday of M&C promoting prohibition. By 1914 only nine counties in the State were “wet”. Both she and her message were apparently well-received. Carry Nation, this famous hatchet-wielding activist, was actively involved in prohibition activities across Arkansas. She later settled in Eureka Springs, AR where she lived the rest of her life.
By 1915, the entire state was legislated as dry. Alcohol was prohibited even if prescribed by a doctor for medical reasons. Consequently, in late 1914 brandy production came to a halt with the pending “early” start of prohibition in Arkansas. The M&C distillery subsequently closed its doors and was later sold to O. L. Gregory Vinegar Company to produce apple cider vinegar. A resolution calling for a Constitutional amendment to accomplish nationwide Prohibition in the U.S.A. was introduced in Congress and passed by both houses in December 1917. By January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment had been ratified by 36 of the 48 states, making it law.
Just over a hundred years later, several townsfolk came together with a passion to resurrect their native spirit and the legend of Macon & Carson. With a shared love of Ozark apples and the incredible apple brandy it can produce, these men and women revived the original M&C brand following the inspiration of Robert G. Macon who continued the dream after his brother Emerson passed away far too soon in 1908!
We know our good taste, combined with the faint sweetness of Ozark heirloom apples, the rich flavors of caramel, honey, Arkansas White Oak and smooth bourbon will make you appreciate the Macon brother’s dream and the revived local, hand crafted, Gluten free spirit they created for us! Enjoy a Dram of M&C Brandy, taste our dream and remember….”The Apple never falls far.”
Please check out Vintage Bentonville as well for more information!