Starting out on the Bourbon Trail

This is the post excerpt.


I’m ready to head out on the Bourbon Trail. My wife and I have already completed the Bourbon Trail and Craft Bourbon Trail. This time we will go more in depth on these distilleries along with the countless other distilleries that are part of the Kentucky Distilleries Association (KDA). We will also visit sites that are associated with the history of bourbon in Kentucky. Stay tuned.

Cedar Brook Distillery RD#44 District 8

3.McBrayer Distillery, c1900

1844: The distillery was established by William Harrison McBrayer, better known as Judge W H McBrayer. McBrayer was a dry goods merchant before becoming a distiller and later served in the KY senate. According to a genealogy website, the land upon which the distillery sat was purchased by McBrayer from a former slave of the Ryan family. The Ryans had no heirs and had willed their farm and land to their former slave, Uncle Dave, whom they had liberated some time before their death.

Company literature dated 1916 (not shown) cites 1847 as the year in which “Andrew McBrayer” built his distillery in a “primitive little log hut”.

1888: McBrayer died on December 6 and the distillery passed to his three grandchildren: Mary, Wallace and William Moore. McBrayer’s son-in-law, D L Moore (married to Henrietta McBrayer) was named as executor and continued to run the distillery on behalf of his children.

The ninth clause of McBrayer’s will stated that his heirs could the run the distillery in his name for three years after his death, “after which time I desire that my name be entirely stricken from the business”. The heirs claimed in a suit (April 1894) that the “W H McBrayer Cedar Brook Distillery” brand was a valuable trade mark worth at least $200,000 and that it should continue beyond the three-year window permitted by the clause. The petition that was supported by the courts (The Kentucky Law Reporter, Vol XVI, 1895).

1892: Insurance underwriter records note that the distillery was built of stone with a metal or slate roof. The property included three bonded warehouses (Warehouses A, B and C), all of frame construction with metal or slate roofs, set 80 ft apart about one mile north of the distillery. A Free Warehouse of similar construction was located 305 ft east of the bonded warehouses.

The insurance records identify the owner as being the Cedar Brook Distillery Co., being operated by D L Moore.

1899: The distillery was sold to The Trust, who enlarged it and ran it until Prohibition.

Judge W. H. McBrayer



Cliff Springs Distillery RD #112 District 8

1868: The distillery was built by Walker, Martin & Co., consisting of Monroe Walker, Sam P Martin and James Ripy (Anderson News, June 1906, cited in Cecil, 1999).

1869: The distillery was sold to W H McBrayer and Thomas B Ripy (son of James above).

1870: Ripy becomes sole owner.

1890: The old still-house was replaced with a new, three-street brick building.

1892: Insurance underwriters suggest that the distillery was brick-built with a metal or slate roof. The property included a cattle barn and a shed some distance removed from the still house, and thee warehouses:
Warehouse A or No. 1 — brick, stone and iron-clad with a metal or slate roof, located 118 ft north of the still.
Warehouse B or No. 2 — iron-clad with a metal or slate roof, located 330 ft south of the still and 101 ft beyond C
Warehouse C or No. 3 — frame and iron-clad, located 118 ft SE of the still.

At the time, the distillery was being operated as “T B Ripy’s Cliff Springs Dist’g Co.” and as “Anderson County Sour Mash Dist’g Co. No 112.”

1899: The distillery was acquired by The Trust in the guise of the newly-formed Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Corp.

1920: Prohibition closed the distillery and it was dismantled.

Murphy, Barber & Co. Distillery RD #401, 5 th District

The distillery was built in 1880 by Squire Murphy, A M Barber and Calvin Brown. He notes that Brown was a whiskey salesman, while Barber was a teacher from the east. Murphy was a local.

The property originally was the site of the Murphy Barber Distillery and sat adjacent to a rock quarry owned by the legendary bourbon distiller, Jim Beam. Beam purchased the defunct distillery in 1920, just as Prohibition was going into effect.

After Prohibition, Jim, his son Jeremiah, and his nephew Carl Beam renovated and rebuilt the plant in a mere 120 days, razing most of the old Murphy Barber buildings and constructing new ones.

On an early spring day in 1935, the Beams proudly hosted an open house for the local community; after a 17-year break, they were back in the bourbon business.

“My family had been making bourbon for more than 100 years before the distillery opened,” said Fred Noe. “Prior to the Clermont location, we had distilleries in Bardstown and before that, in Washington County. This one was the special one though because this is where we got back to work.”

Hoffman Distillery RD#406 District #8

The Hoffman Distillery was built on the banks of the Salt River in 1880 by S.O. Hackley. Soon after the distillery was built, he teamed up with Ike Hoffman and from there grew two well-known brands at the time; Old Hoffman and Old Spring. By 1912, Hoffman was the sole owner and went bankrupt. In 1916 the distillery was brought by L.&E. Werthheimer. The distillery was closed and torn down during prohibition. After repeal, the distillery was re-built and the new owners hired Robert and Ezra Ripy to run the distillery. Robert and Ezra were two of the sons of Thomas Ripy who was one of the most famous distillers in the late 1800’s. Thomas’s other two sons founded the Ripy distillery that would eventually become Wild Turkey as we know it today.

During the subsequent years at the Hoffman Distillery, Robert and Ezra, along with the Wertheimers and Frank Silverman created a new brand of bourbon; Ezra Brooks. Rumor has it that the team liked the Ezra portion of the name but didn’t want the Ripy name on the label so they created Ezra Brooks. By this time, the distillery was producing Ezra Brooks, Old Hoffman, and Old Spring at the rate of 300 bushels per day. With the rise of the Ezra Brooks brand, the distillery was renamed in 1968 to the Ezra Brooks Distillery.

Along the journey and rise of Ezra Brooks as a popular brand of bourbon, there was a large bump in the road. That bump was named Jack Daniels. In 1960, Jack Daniels brings a lawsuit against Hoffman Distilling Company for trademark infringement for the packaging and advertising methods that, in their terms, mimicked Jack Daniels Black label. Ultimately, the court decided that there was no evidence of trademark infringement by Hoffman and that both brands have such a clearly defined and different labeling that there is no likelihood of confusion by the consumer and therefore the consumer could not be deceived. Considering the size and stature of the two companies, this had to be considered one of the great underdog legal wins in the history of whiskey and sprits lawsuits.

Like much of the entirety of the bourbon industry, the 70’s and 80’s presented hard times for most. It was during this time frame that the Ezra Brooks distillery was purchased by Medley, who was then acquired by Glenmore. The Ezra Brooks brand was eventually sold around and ended up with Luxco, although it has never regained the type of recognition and popularity as it had in the mid 1900’s.

In 1979, the Hoffman Distillery was shut down and with the shutdown was the end of the Hoffman Bourbon brand. The distillery sat for four years until a gentleman by the name of Julian Van Winkle III purchased the distillery and transformed it into a bottling facility for his Old Rip Van Winkle product. In 1981, the Van Winkle family cut ties with Stitzel-Weller and needed a place to bottle their aging whiskey. From 1983 until 2002 the Van Winkle’s bottled their famous product out of this old Hoffman Distillery. In 2002, the Van Winkle’s went into a partnership with Buffalo Trace and the Hoffman Distillery was left abandoned.

T.W. Samuel’s Distillery

The Samuels Distillery, RD#145, 5 th District, Nelson County, KY (1844-1920)

1844: Taylor William Samuels turned his father’s farm distillery into a commercial operation known as T. W. Samuels & Son. The son’s name was W I Samuels.

1892: Insurance underwriter records note that the distillery was of frame construction with a metal or slate roof. The property included two bonded warehouses, both iron-clad with metal or slate roofs:
Warehouse B — located 220 ft north of the still.
Warehouse D — located 220 ft north of the still and 46 ft from Warehouse B.
There was also an old Free warehouse, of frame construction, and there was a detached railroad depot. The insurance records show the distillery was being run as T W Samuels.

1898: T W Samuels and W I Samuels both died, leaving the distillery in the hands of W I Samuels’ son, Leslie B Samuels.

1909: The distillery and six warehouses were destroyed by fire with a loss of $100,000, including 9,000 barrels of whiskey. Their brands were “T. W. Samuels” and “Old Deatsville”.

1913: The Star Distillery Co. of Cincinnati purchased control of the company, buying out the Samuels’ family interest. Leslie retained his share of the company and remained as manager until the plant closed in 1920.

1920-1933: During prohibition most of the buildings were razed for salvage.

1933: The company was reorganized as the T W Samuels Distillery Co. with Robert Block, president, T. W. Samuels, VP, and Leslie B. Samuels, manager. A new plant was built with 600 bu capacity and 19,000 bbl warehouse capacity.

1936: Leslie died and his son, T. W. Samuels (Bill, Sr.) assumed the position of manager until 1943 when he disassociated himself from the firm.

1953: Bill Samuels re-entered the distilling business with the purchase of the former Burks Spring plant near Loretto on Star Hill Farm. He restored this plant to operation as Makers Mark. (History is from the Coyte Papers, cited in OASG)

Hermitage Distillery

3rd & the Kentucky River

The Hermitage Distillery was organized in 1862 by Gaines, Berry & Co. The distillery was actually built in 1868, on the Kentucky River south of Frankfort. One assumes that the name “Hermitage” was a reference to President Andrew Jackson’s home of that name in Nashville, Tennessee.

The company was reorganized and incorporated in 1868 as W. A. Gaines & Co.
Although the name of W. A. Gaines was most prominent, Hiram Berry was the principal owner and president of the original firm, and in the background was E. H. Taylor Jr., who financed and ran many central Kentucky distilleries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The 1868 reorganization was primarily a way to increase capitalization (always a challenge in the whiskey business) and brought in Sherman Paris, Marshall J. Allen and Frank S. Stevens, of New York. Paris became president and the company’s main offices were there. Berry continued to be the main “man on the ground” in Frankfort, running the distillery part of the business.

Taylor withdrew in 1870, Gaines died in 1872 and Paris retired in 1882. He was succeeded in New York by Marshall J. Allen. Berry continued as vice-president and his son, George, became corporate secretary and his father’s understudy in running the local operation.

By 1887, W. A. Gaines was the largest American whiskey company.

The Hermitage Distillery itself was converted into a chair factory during prohibition. There was talk about reviving it after repeal, but nothing came of it and the facility was razed in 1945.

Gaines, Berry & Co. (1868), W A Gaines & Co. (1884-1919)

Main, SW cor Ann (1868), office: 313-315 Main (1884-1908), 231 W Main (1910-1919)

Frankfort, KY.

This is Berry Hill Mansion, in Frankfort, Kentucky. It was built by George Berry, who made his fortune as vice president of W. A. Gaines & Co., makers of Old Crow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Old Crow Bourbon was first made by Dr. James C. Crow when he was master distiller at what is now Woodford Reserve. His whiskey was so famous that when he died suddenly in 1856, it seemed like a good idea to keep selling it anyway. A company was formed for that purpose, which after a couple of iterations became known as W. A. Gaines & Co. Hiram Berry, George’s father, was one of the original investors.
The money was in New York, so was the company’s president; but the distillery was just outside of Frankfort and Berry was the senior executive on the scene. He wasn’t a distiller. We don’t know for sure but he was probably more like the general manager. He was also a major shareholder. It made him a very rich man. He built the mansion he called Juniper Hill in 1900. In about 1910 he added a music room, the home’s most spectacular feature.

Today, Berry Hill Mansion is owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is meticulously maintained and beautiful, inside and out. It is open to the public and also used for conferences, weddings, and other events. W. A. Gaines & Co. ceased to exist as anything other than a name at Prohibition. Today, Old Crow is made by Beam Global Spirits & Wine.

Colonel E. H. Taylor Jr

E. H. Taylor, Jr. got his start with the distilling firms of Gaines, Berry, & Co. and W. A. Gaines & Co. In 1866, Taylor made a grand observation of European distilleries; in 1868, while employed by the latter, Taylor oversaw construction of two Frankfort distilleries, Old Crow and the Hermitage (now lost to urban sprawl in Frankfort), before finally purchasing the Lee’s Town Distillery from the Swigert family around 1870.

Commonwealth Distillery RD #12

Stoll, Clay & Company (1880-1885)

Commonwealth Distilling Company (1885-1899)

Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company (1899-1915)
In 1880, Stoll, Clay & Company converted the old cotton mill[1] in Sandersville into a whiskey distillery. The plant was located three miles northwest of Lexington. The firm was composed of James S. Stoll, Richard P. Stoll and Henry C. Clay.

In 1881, Richard P. Stoll and Robert B. Hamilton (which see) established Stoll, Hamilton & Company to wholesale whiskey produced at the distillery. The distillery produced their proprietary brands Owl Club Whiskey and Elkhorn Whiskey as a “tenant leasee.”[2] This firm also traded in bulk whiskies.

In August 1885, the relationship between the Stoll brothers and Clay deteriorated and the partnership was dissolved. At a public auction on August 11 the assets of the partnership were sold.

James S. Stoll

1855- 1908

Distiller and Banker

James S. Stoll was born in Lexington in 1855, the third son of George J. Stoll, Sr. In 1881 he invested, along with his brother, in Stoll, Clay & Company. In 1891, Stoll and Sanford K. Vannatta established a partnership, known as Stoll, Vannatta & Company, to wholesale whiskey. At the time of his death in 1908, he was President of the Stoll & Company (distillers) and Vice President of Stoll, Hamilton & Company (whiskey brokers).

He was also a real estate investor. He was the owner of the “Meadows,” a two hundred seventy three acre farm on the Bryan Station Pike outside the city limits. Stoll was one of the largest stockholders in the Lexington City National Bank, serving as a director (from 1890s to 1908) and as President (1903 – 1908). He died in Lexington during 1908.

Richard P. Stoll

1851 – 1903

Distiller and Attorney

Richard P. Stoll was born in Lexington on January 21, 1851, the second son of George J. Stoll, Sr. He attended Kentucky University, graduating in 1868. In 1875, Stoll was elected to the Kentucky Legislature (serving one term). In 1877, he became the Deputy Director of the Internal Revenue Bureau in Lexington and the next year Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Bureau for Kentucky. He oversaw the collection of the Federal excise taxes.

In 1881, he formed the Stoll, Clay & Company, that rebuilt the old cotton mill at Sandersville into a distillery. Also in 1881, Stoll and Robert B. Hamilton established a partnership to wholesale whiskey. This firms would later become Stoll & Company. This interest would later pass to his sons. The firm was disposed of by Prohibition.

In the 1890s, he was a director of the Kentucky Distillers Association. In 1883 Stoll became the President of the Lexington City National Bank, serving until his death in 1903. He was prominent in Republican politics, being nominated in 1900 for the U. S. Congress.

He died in March 1903. At the time of his death, he was President of the Lexington City National Bank, Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders Association (the Red Mile), Lexington Gas Company, Stoll, Hamilton & Company and Stoll & Company. He was the Treasurer of the Lexington Street Railway Company. He was also a director of the Security Trust Company, Eastern State Lunatic Asylum, Lexington & Eastern Railway, Belt Electric Line Company, Central Electric Company, Lexington Brick Company, Hercules Ice Company and the Passenger & Belt Railway Company. He was stated to be the wealthiest individual in Lexington at the time of his death.

Henry C. Clay

1839 –


Henry C. Clay, known as H. C. Clay, was born in 1839, a nephew of the Henry Clay (Kentucky Senator and Statesman). He was also related the Grimes family of Grimes Mill (and later married one of the Grimes’ cousins). In 1880, he became one of the principals in the distilling partnership of Stoll, Clay & Company (that built the Commonwealth Distillery). During 1885, the partnership was dissolved because of his financial problems. He also secured a note to C. W. Foushee, whiskey broker, with the gristmill on Boone Creek, at Grimes Mill Road. The mill was later sold to cover the debt.[i] He continued in the distilling business owning the Grimes Distillery.

Commonwealth Distilling Company:

In January 1883, the Commonwealth Distillery Company was formed with Richard P. Stoll (President) and Isaac Strauss (Vice President). In addition, Charles H. Stoll, James S. Stoll, Solomon Pritz and Benjamin Pritz were also appointed directors. Richard P. Stoll was the primary stockholder. The firm was capitalized at $100,000.[v] In 1885, the firm assumed the operations of Stoll, Clay & Company. This firm produced Commonwealth hand made copper whiskey.

Charles H. Stoll

1858 – 1948


Charles H. Stoll was born in Lexington in 1858, the fourth son of George H. Stoll, Sr. He graduated from Transylvania College and in 1886 entered the practice of law. Stoll was one of the founders of the Electric Street Railway Company, George Stoll & Sons (with his father – traded in bonded whiskey). In 1886, he became associated with the Kentucky Union Railroad and negotiated its sale to the Carley interests. After the sale, he became its principal attorney and oversaw the extension into Eastern Kentucky. In 1888, he became one of the organizers of the Belt Line Companies, which organized the electric streetcar lines in Lexington. As their attorney, he was one of the “Generals” in the Railroad War with his former client, the Kentucky Union Railroad Company.

In 1880, Stoll was one of the organizers of the Kentucky Distillers Association in Louisville, Kentucky. In the late 1890s, he was a principal organizer of the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company (the Whiskey Trust). He continued as legal counsel for the Whiskey Trust until 1907.

Stoll developed the Hampton Court subdivision in Lexington. He served as a director of the Lexington City National Bank from the late 1880s until the late 1890s.

At the turn of the century, he relocated to New York City to represent the Whiskey Trust. He returned to Lexington in 1904 and became the President of the Lexington Hydraulic and Manufacturing Company (the forerunner of the Lexington Water Works). He was reelected to the board of the Lexington City National Bank. In 1907, he moved to Mississippi and later to Bristol, Tennessee, where he died in 1948.

In December 1899, the Commonwealth Distillery was deeded to the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company.[vi] Production was shifted to other plants of the Whiskey Trust and the distillery at Sandersville was demolished in 1905. The warehouses were used for storage until 1908 as the Lexington Public Warehouse (bonded storage). In 1915, Hillenmeyer & Sons purchased the property for a nursery. The Hillenmeyer’s farm was adjacent to the plant, and for years their cattle were fed the spent grains. The original brick warehouse remains today and is used for storage.

Warehouse at Hillenmeyer Nursery