A TRUE LABOR OF LOVE, bourbon aficionado
Chet Zoeller conducted years of research to uncover the complete history of bourbon distilling and distilleries throughout
Kentucky. This elegant hardcover volume is the comprehensive publication of his findings, cataloging almost 1,000 distillers
and brands across the Commonwealth—from farmhouse mashers to the major industrial concerns, and from the late 1700s
to the present day. With hundreds of rare and historical photographs, Bourbon in Kentucky is believed to be the first and
only authoritative history of its kind.
S O U R C E S O F I N F O R M A T I O N
(Excerpted from the book) BY CHET ZOELLER
first sources of information were county histories. Generally these were informative but most did not give a great deal of
information regarding my particular inquiry. In my research, I did determine that a few counties in the late 1880s had atlases
prepared which showed a number of distilleries. Further, most of the larger towns in Kentucky had city directories published
on a yearly basis. Louisville and Lexington, in particular, had directories going back to the early 1800s. Again, these were
very helpful in pinpointing the dates when a distillery started, its location and its owners. These directories were also
helpful in allowing me to determine the name changes that usually followed ownership changes.
One of my best sources
of information was the Distilled Spirits Tax books found in the Kentucky Libraries and Archive located in Frankfort, Kentucky.
These taxes started about 1880 and continued through Prohibition. Most of the information was written in hand and many of
the records were extremely difficult to read, therefore I am sure a number of names have been misspelled as a result. These
tax records would give the location, the name of the distillery or owner and the number of barrels being taxed. This source
also gave some indication as to the size of the distillery and whether it was a brandy distillery, whiskey distillery or both.
The Sandborn Fire Insurance Maps were extremely helpful. These maps started in the 1880s and continued to the 1960s.
On a periodic basis, perhaps every five to eight years, the Sandborn Company would visit a town and draw to scale, block by
block, each building located therein. The company would describe whether the building was a residence or commercial building,
and if commercial, what it was used for. Distilleries, having a propensity to burn, were of particular interest to this company.
In fact, in 1894 and again in 1910, the company published editions solely devoted to distilleries. Some counties, such as
Anderson County, were visited frequently by this company and therefore a great deal of information was learned from this source.
Other counties were visited less frequently, so less information was available—however it was still possible in most
cases to get a snapshot on a periodic basis as to who the owner was, how many bushels were mashed per day, how many warehouses
there were, and the total warehouse capacity for each distillery.
The “Coyte Papers” located at the
University of Louisville were a very helpful source. They are the results of the efforts of H. L. (Whit) Coyte of Paris, Kentucky.
Mr. Coyte did a great deal of research regarding distilleries in Kentucky, however his work was never pubished. Sam Cecil
relied heavily on this research for his book, The Evolution of the Bourbon Whiskey Industry In Kentucky. Mr. Coyte, in turn,
seems to have gotten a great deal of his information from another wonderful source, The Wine & Spirits Bulletin. This
publication can be found at the Louisville Free Public Library, and has recently been copied and rebound at the expense of
the Brown Forman Company. This was a monthly publication produced for the wine and spirits trade during the late 1800s and
early 1900s. The library’s collection spans the period from 1891 to 1915.
Other good sources of information
were the Kentucky business directories and gazetteers. These publications were printed every few years and in most cases would
give the name of the distillery as well as its location, and in a few cases the registered distillery number. These booklets
were printed by several different publishers, which has certainly caused some confusion. In instances where the ownership
of a particular distillery had recently changed, the location of that distillery might be given by one of several different
nearby small communities. Therefore there may well be some duplications of a distillery because of these changes in ownership
and different recordings of address.
There is one source that I could not find. The Internal Revenue Act of 1862
specifically gave the federal government the power to tax the distilleries. Each state was to be divided into districts and
a local federal representative would assign a registered distillery number to each distillery and collect taxes. You would
think it would be easy to find that list and thus obtain not only the number for each distillery, but its name, location and
owner. But I have looked extensively for these lists. I contacted every branch of the federal government that I could possibly
think would have been involved and many people tried to be of assistance, but all came to the same conclusion: that the federal
government did not have these records or could not locate them. It appears that these records were collected in Louisville
and probably were destroyed in the great flood of 1937 when the city was inundated. Someday, somewhere, perhaps someone will
locate these records and we can complete our list of legal distilleries in Kentucky.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
—Arrangement Of Material
—Sources Of Information
—How To Drink Whiskey
BOURBON AND THE COMMUNITY
A BRIEF HISTORY OF
—Internal Revenue Act Of 1862
—The Whiskey Trust
—"Bottled In Bond"
—American Medicinal Spirits Company
—World War II
WHAT ARE DISTILLED SPIRITS?
WHISKEY BY CATEGORY
MAKING BOURBON WHISKEY
Step 1: Selecting the Grains
Step 2: Milling
Step 3: Cooking
Step 4: Cooling
Step 5: Fermentation
Step 6: Distillation
Step 7: Maturation
A NOTE ABOUT PROOF
THE CATALOG OF DISTILLERIES IN KENTUCKY
—The 2nd District (36 Counties)
—The 5th District (17 Counties)
—The 6th District (9 Counties)
7th District (23 Counties)
—The 8th District (30 Counties)
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you can read an excerpt from the book:
BY CHET ZOELLER