Ed Foote was a guest at our Bourbon Society meeting last night. It was indeed a very good meeting and Ed was a very informative guest. He did not give a formal presentation, but did take time to answer many individual questions. He was also kind enough to bring some Henry McKenna bourbon that was made by him at the Henry McKenna distillery in Fairfield. It is an excellent bourbon and I will review it later today.
There were many interesting discussions with Ed. The meeting started with several questions from the group that Ed fielded with complete honesty. The nice thing about Ed is that he is retired and the Distilleries where he worked are all closed or sold. He is beholden to nobody so he can say whatever he pleases. Brenda asked a particularly interesting question about Bernheim and computerization (some later accused her of grilling Ed on the subject!). Ed told us that Bernheim was so dependent on a single system that there was one employee, an electrician with many computer training courses, was the one person that the distillery could not operate without. He also told a story about how he was walking through the distillery and a tank was overflowing. he rushed to the control room and told the operator who scrolled down the screen and stated that he was not showing any overflow on that tank! Ed assured him it was overflowing and then they had to practicaly shut down the distillery to close the valve. Ed stated that he would have rather seen individual computers at different stages of the distilling operations that worked independently. He believes that too much of the human factore was taken out of the distilling operation. I agree with him.
Ed discussed his time with Seagrams as well as his time at Old Fitzgerald/United Distillers. An interesting thing that I had not thought about is that Seagrams had five distilleries in Kentucky. It is more than a coincedence that Four Roses has five yeast strains. McKenna used the very floral strain to make the whiskey that we sampled last night. It makes me wonder which of the other distilleries was the original source of the other yeast strains.
It was a great meeting and I wish that you could have been there. I know Brenda took some photos and maybe she will post them here as well.