Evan Williams was a Kentucky settler who the company says began distilling in 1783 in what is now Louisville, Kentucky. A historical marker in Louisville (depicted in photo at right) says the site was Kentucky's first commercial distillery.
This heritage is emphasized on the bottle label of the best selling variant, the black label, which bears the inscriptions "Since 1783" and "Kentucky's 1st distiller". However, the inscriptions should not be construed as indicating that the brand has continuously existed since the time of the historic distillery. The modern whiskey brand was established in the mid-1900s and has no direct connection to the historic distiller.
Moreover, historian Michael Veach of the Filson Historical Society has stated that key details of the historical claims about Williams appear to be false. Veach said that the assertion that Williams was Kentucky's first distiller did not appear until an 1892 publication by Reuben Durrett, more than a century after the fact. He also said that the dating is disproved by a record of Williams traveling from London to Philadelphia in May 1794, showing that Williams could only have begun his distillery substantially later. Veach indicated that the true identity of Kentucky's first distiller may never really be known, since record-keeping about such matters was poor, and there are others that seem more likely as candidates for first distiller, including Jacob Myers and brothers Joseph and Samuel Davis. Records reportedly indicate that Myers and the Davis brothers both arrived in 1779.