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Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Mar 21, 2005 9:33 pm

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?
by Julian P Van Winkle

I see by the papers that a brand new full-scale industrial revolution is about to bust in our face.

It goes by the name of "Automation" - a word so new it isn't yet in my dictionary.

Before Automation, it took a machinist several days to bore a new engine block.

He now punches a button. In a matter of minutes a machine with "built-in brain" carries the rough casting through hundreds of continuoud and automatic operations.

In some industries they are even inventing buttons to push buttons!

How about my specialty - old fashioned Kentucky Bourbon? When will we make our first "push-button" Old Fitzgerald?

Never, absolutely never! On that you can depend!

No machine conceived will ever replace the educated rule-of-thumb of our Master Distiller.

This is because Nature, and Nature alone, through an automation all her own, produces a bourbon no built-in brain can match.

In our family still-house you will see no machines, in fact few people.

For here Mother Nature is "on hire," changing starches to fermentable sugars in our mash tubs, working through the yeast in our fermenters, aging the whiskey in our warehouses, all silently and unseen.

Where is there "automation" as ingenious as hers?

I feel certain the friends of Old Fitzgerald would not have it otherwise.

For there is originality and depth of natural flavor in our old fashioned bourbon that brings assurance to those of us who hold that modern push button methods are not for all endeavors alike - that in the enjoyment of fine whiskey at least, the ways of our forebears are gentle enough.
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Unread postby gillmang » Tue Mar 22, 2005 4:45 am

There is a folksy period flavor to this ad copy and maybe (as all ads of any kind) it is a bit contrived but it rings essentially true. Old Fitzgerald was a great whiskey when made by Stitzel-Weller. Fermentation is a natural process although assisted by the grinding of grain and collection and propagation of yeast. Barrel making is an old art but it is technology too, just an old one. Everything is relative I guess but as I say there is a ring of truth in his statements because bourbon then, on the scale he made it, really was less automated than today and sometimes (not always) the more something is automated the more standardized it tastes. Certainly it must have been hard competing against the big companies who made whiskey as a commodity strictly and sold it on price. In a sense Stitzel-Weller was ahead of its time (which may sound odd for such a business with its history), as was Willett's, Michter's, Medley and many other small distilleries. Some found the secret (e.g. Wild Turkey, Maker's Mark) and they still make very good products. The good thing about Stitzel-Weller is that its expertise survives in the current family members. The knowledge of fine whisky was handed down to them, they know it and how to pick it and we benefit from that. Still, there must be some wistfulness when descendants of companies that have closed see the small batch and single barrels put out by the big boys. These are bourbons that those small companies made by definition. For one reason or another most of the small companies were sold or closed and now the big companies appeal to an increasing part of the market by promoting the kind of quality that was the stock-in-trade of those small companies. How ironic.

Gary
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Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:59 am

Gary,
As I was typing in this article, I was thinking about you, Chuck and John and the "Whiskey Refinery" discussion elsewhere. Pappy knew a lot of things and one was how to present his marketing. This article is just an extension of his "No Chemist Allowed" and "Always fune Bourbon" signs at the distillery.

The question here is a still a machine? If it is, then it could be asked if a pot on the stove is a machine as well. Pappy seems to argue a still is not a machine.

There are still three more articles in the booklet. Stay tuned for more interesting marketing.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby gillmang » Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:38 am

Thanks, Mike and for your work in presenting these pieces.

A still is a machine, so is a pot on the stove. There is no bright line of craft vs. non-craft. It is just that at a certain point, you get the sense with some companies that their best is (good as it can still be) a compromise, that the cost accountants have had a greater say than in a small company where people make it the way they want to and don't need to report to a higher management or public shareholders. But some whisky made by a big distillery is the best there is, e.g. that Blanton Original I had recently is one of the best whiskeys I have had anywhere anytime. I am less impressed by Jim Beam's best, Booker's is still very good but the others (including Knob Creek although I know it has many fans) impress me less these days. Well, I like Grandad 114 too, and Beam Black. Those three are still very good but Blanton Original seems to rise to a higher level for me, it tasted like something that would have been made by Willett's or Medley or S-W in its prime (or 30 others mentioned by Cecil). I can't prove that but I just have that sense.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Mar 23, 2005 10:50 am

Gary,
I think Pappy would argue that a pot is a tool, not a machine, and so is a still. It is all a matter of perception, or what you wish others to perceive. Pappy wanted an old fashioned appearance to his product and the distillery need to be perceived as being old fashioned as well. I would say that a pot is a tool, but a pressure cooker is a step toward a machine and a column still is a machine. The Bernheim distillery is Pappy's nightmare!

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Unread postby gillmang » Wed Mar 23, 2005 12:04 pm

Well, all these things are machines I think in a broad sense, whether or not they have moving parts. A machine can be a tool of course as in the expression, "machine tool". They represent various levels of technology. We could quibble with Pappy whether his column still of the time (I wonder if is still in the standing but disused S-W facility) was a machine but the essence of his comments was true, he made a craft product that was generally superior to those that issued from the largest companies at the time. Chuck's notes on VVOF in Bourbon, Straight confirm that.

Oddly enough I never liked the older OF's as much as I did the regular one, Supreme I think it was called (the regular 80 proof available in the 1970's and 1980's). What a fine product that was, I'd give my eye teeth to have the chance to taste that today, that and the Yellowstone of that era. Those were my favourite regular expressions of the day. A close contender: regular Old Grandad from those years.

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Unread postby Strayed » Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:29 am

gillmang wrote:Oddly enough I never liked the older OF's as much as I did the regular one, Supreme I think it was called (the regular 80 proof available in the 1970's and 1980's).

That wasn't the "regular" Old Fitz, though. The green label Bottled-in-Bond was the only version available while Pappy ran the show. Julian P. Van Winkle, Sr. believed firmly that whiskey should be no less than 100 proof. Anything under that, according to him, and you were selling your customers water at whiskey prices. So it wasn't until after he passed on that they came out with the 86.8-proof Old Fitzgerald Prime. I think Old Weller came out with 90-proof Special Reserve about that time, too.
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Unread postby gillmang » Thu Mar 24, 2005 6:17 am

Prime is the word I was looking for, thanks. At this distance from the 1970's and 80's, I am not sure if that 86 proof may not have been my preferred form of OF, possibly that was the one although something tells me an 80 proof was available even then that I liked. I wouldn't have minded a BIB version of Prime, or putting it a different way, it was the age of that Prime I liked so a 100 proofer would have been down my alley. It was the extra-aged taste of the VOF (I am not sure I ever had the VVOF) that seemed not quite as good to me then as the regular expression. Of course my palate today may be different and I might have a different opinion if those various S-W's were before me for tasting.

gary
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Unread postby Strayed » Thu Mar 24, 2005 9:27 am

Hee hee, my palate differs from one week to another, let alone 35 years! :roll:
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Mar 27, 2005 5:37 pm

How the Field-Hand Got "Skun"
by Julian P Van Winkle

After a spending spree in Cincinnati. a field hand returned to our Kentucky town, sporting a diamond ring the size of a "banty" egg.

Asked if the diamond was sho-nuff real, he replied - "Effen it ain't, I been skun outa $2.49!"

In bourbon as in diamonds, there's a slight difference between imitation and the real thing. Many's the bottle of "bargain bourbon" that has skun the man who bought it.

Cheap on the shelf almost always means cheap in the bottle - a tell-tale confession that somewhere in the distilling process a money saving short-cut has made the "bargain" possible.

Our modest family distillery has never paid much mind to price tags. For more than a hundred years our Old Fitzgerald has been made in one genuine, old-fashioned sour mash manner - the most expensive known to man.

Consider our costly open-tub process where we willingly sacrifice one quart of whiskey to each bushel of grain we mash. Our fermenting method also is as slow as "four o'clock," and our whiskey is aged to a rare mellowness by Time and Nature alone.

In the matter of liquor we figure a man is better off to stretch his pennies and enjoy the best, rather than be half-pleased through a greater number of drinks.

Chances are, the man who can't afford that, shouldn't be spending his money for whiskey at all!

If you are one who values true enjoyment more than a few extra pennies per drink, we invite you to join the inner circle of business hosts who have discovered Old Fitzgerald for themselves, and find it good business to share, in moderation, with associates and friends.


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Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Mar 29, 2005 9:01 pm

What Lincoln Told the Teetotaler
by Julian P Van Winkle

Lincoln once replied to a prohibitionist's complaint that General Grant was overly-fond of his bottle.

"Find out the brand of whiskey the General uses," Lincoln said. "I would like to furnish the same brand to my other generals."

The history books are silent on the matter of Grant's favorite brand. Nor do our own distillery records list him as a customer.

But if the General was a bourbon connoisseur he reportedly exposed himself to being, it's a fair guess that he sampled many a tasty dram from our 107 year old firm.

And if Lincoln had serious intent, which we doubt, perhaps it was our whiskey which screwed the courage of faint-hearted generals that finally won the war.

All of which would have proved a boomerang to our family distillery, which was strictly "Rebel" at the time.

Be that as it may, if you'll look about today you'll find the typical customer of Old Fitzgerald, like General Grant, pretty much all man.

In shop, farm, store or office, he's the "general" who gets things done, then looks to his whiskey as rewarding diversion among family or friends at busy day's end.

Seldom the "beginning" drinker, he has tried many types and brands, and has made his last switch to Old Fitzgerald as the final choice of mature taste. Slowly savoring itd full round flavor, he drinks more for sociable pleasure than for "kicks."

In short, he's the master of his bottle, seldom its slave.

In my sixty-six years in this business I've observed that the cut of a man's jib somehow matches the choice in his glass. In the matter of bourbon, brand fits the man.


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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Apr 10, 2005 10:57 am

How to Live a Hundred Years
by Julian P. Van Winkle

Granny Dilworth, the gray-haired, pipe smokin' centenarian of our Kentucky town, was never seen abed with the "misery".

Asked e, she once replied, "Cause I was bo'n a long time back!"

If you ask why our special kind of old-fashion bourbon seems so satisfying, my answer might be the same. It was "bo'n a long time back."

The original Kentucky distillers a century ago, piling trial on top of error, happily arrived at the process they called "Sour Mash."

No other bourbon seemed to partner so well with the fragrant mint that grew lush along Kentucky's spring-fed branches, or went down so pleasingly with a bit of the branch water itself.

It made little difference that the process called for extra grain, because grain was so plentiful, and cumbersome to transport except in liquid form.

Nor did they fret that the process was tediously slow. Folks then had plenty of time, too... all the time there was.

One such sour-mash pioneer was old John E. Fitzgerald. His was a natural knack with bourbon that other Kentuckians had with horses.

John's home-made bourbon - what little remained after his thirsty friends and neighbors were cared for - traveled up and down the Ohio, winning him fame and custom wherever the river boat touched shore.

Today in our modest country distillery, we still hand-make Old Fitzgerald on John's private recipe.

Grain is costlier now, and time less plentiful. But our place is still unhurried, and our whiskey grows round and mellow in the original Kentucky Sour Mash way.




This is the last article in the booklet. I hope you have enjoyed these as much as I do. They show a master salesman at work, using humor to sale bourbon.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby Brewer » Sun Apr 10, 2005 11:27 am

Mike,

Thanks for sharing those words. It was interesting to read the words of the "Master"!
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Unread postby Strayed » Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:40 pm

Mike,

I want to thank you, too. You've compiled a small collection of some of the most important work Pappy Van Winkle did, and made it available to bourbon enthusiasts half a century later.

I don't want to upset anyone who feels my views aren't respectful of a much-venerated figure in the history of bourbon, so y'all please understand that I have only the deepest respect for Julian Van Winkle, Sr.
But the fact is, Pappy didn't make the bourbon.

Sometimes it's easy to forget that many new bourbon enthusiasts, reading what we say about "the old Stitzel-Weller whiskey, in Pappy's time", don't realize that there never was any "Pappy Van Winkle" Stitzel-Weller bourbon. The fine master distillers who made that whiskey were Will McGill, Andy Corcoran, Roy Hawes, and others, but we never discuss them. I don't know why we don't - they're the ones responsible for Old Fitzgerald, Old Weller, Cabin Still, Rebel Yell. Pappy didn't tell those fine men how to make whiskey. Pappy DIDN'T KNOW how to make whiskey, and frankly he didn't really care, either. Pappy knew he had good whiskey, and he knew how to SELL good whiskey. And he did so with humor, and bombast, and an ability to tell a story that both entertained his listener and also taught them why they should buy his product.

These are the same qualities that distinguished Booker Noe decades later, but we have only the memories of Booker speaking; Pappy left a small portion of his genius in those articles and thanks to you we can "hear" him today. By the way, for anyone who would like to see these columns as they were printed, the book "But Always Fine Bourbon", by Pappy's granddaughter, Sally Campbell, has them illustrated.

So while I'm on the subject of alienating all my friends who revere Pappy Van Winkle, I need to add something about his grandson. With his recent move into the Buffalo Trace organization, which values and utilitizes his input into the process of creating the whiskey he wants to bottle, Julian III has come the closest of any Van Winkle to actually being a distiller. In fact, I'm not so sure that he doesn't deserve the title "master distiller" for new ORVW product every bit as much as Jim Rutherford or Jerry Dalton for theirs. But we won't taste that whiskey for many years. All we've known about Julian III has been as a selector and bottler of quality whiskey he did not make. Which is really what his grandfather and father did. And I would, without hesitation, put Julian III's mastery of those skills ahead of both of them.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Apr 10, 2005 1:36 pm

John,
I agree that Pappy was not the person in still house every day making the whiskey. I too doubt that he got his hands into the mash on a regular basis. I will say that I believe that Papy Van Winkle knew how to make whiskey. You don't spend sixty some odd years in the industry and owning a distillery, and not learn how to make whiskey. He probably forgot more about making whiskey than I will ever know. The most important thing is, he knew good whiskey and how to hire the best people to make it for him.

Now as far as making whiskey, I guess I never told you about the big strike in the early 1960's where the whole Van Winkle family was in the distillery making whiskey, bottling whiskey, and shipping whiskey for over a year.

Sorry John, But I have to say that Pappy knew how to make whiskey.

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