Exploring Nelson County’s abandoned T.W. Samuels Distillery

Exploring Nelson County’s abandoned T.W. Samuels Distillery

T.W. Samuels Distillery

At the end of the 19th century, Kentucky’s Nelson County was the undisputed bourbon capital of the world. No other region even came close. By 1896, roughly 26 distilleries spread throughout the county were actively distilling, aging, bottling and distributing whiskey for national consumption. But over the decades, Prohibition, consolidation of companies, changing liquor tastes and the rise of the highway would take a toll. Some 120 years later, there are just four bourbon companies headquartered in that same county today. And one of those is actually distilling in downtown Louisville, two counties away.

What’s been left behind is a number of abandoned but stunning factories that serve as dusty monuments to distilleries forged in another era. Each in a varying degree of decay and each with a long history connected to a once-beloved bourbon brand such as Old Tub and Old Charter. And, if you know just where to look, many are remarkably easy to find. Local residents will tell you that the crown jewel of these crumbling remains can be found roughly halfway between Clermont and Bardstown in the center of a tiny little community named Deatsville. Just beyond the eastern edge of the massive 14,000 acre Bernheim Forest and less than a ¼ mile north of the bustling Kentucky State Route 245 sits the T.W. Samuels Distillery and Warehouses.

T.W. Samuels WarehousesThe first thing most people notice when they approach the property is the massive collection of aging warehouses that flank the distillery. The afternoon sun reflects off the metal exterior of these old rickhouses showcasing a unique shape and design that’s been long abandoned in lieu of modern warehouses that allow for larger storage. Despite its dilapidated condition, the buildings that make up the privately-owned distillery complex are surprisingly well preserved for a location that hasn’t produced bourbon in several decades. The complex has new locks, boarded windows covering original panes and several rusted signs that clearly indicate the original function of each building. Some areas look like somebody might have just visited yesterday while others look like they haven’t been so much as dusted in years. While quiet now, these grounds were part of a long history of several once-beloved brands – all of which have been forgotten, discontinued or relegated to the back of the shelf with limited availability. However, in the dust of all the whiskey ghosts, one global brand today can trace their origin to the T.W. Samuels Distillery: Maker’s Mark.

Advertising for T.W. Samuels WhiskyThe namesake of the distillery, Taylor William Samuels established a distillery in 1844 just down the road from the buildings you can view today. The Samuels family had already been making whiskey in America for three generations, but T.W. and his son decided to make the leap from family pastime to commercial business. Success soon followed. By the 1860’s, the company warehouses held over 14,000 barrels of aging bourbon – considered to be a massive stockpile at the time. A prominent businessman, T.W. wore several hats including “High Sheriff” of Nelson County. It was during his tenure as Sheriff in 1865 that he persuaded the last remnants of confederate soldiers in the area to surrender. The father/son duo operated the distillery for over fifty years and eventually upgraded the facility by moving it down the road to the current location. Their most popular brands were the top selling Old Deatsville and T. W. Samuels bottles which carried the memorable slogan “There’s a barrel of satisfaction in every bottle.”

In 1909, the distillery and six warehouses were destroyed by fire with a reported loss that included 9,000 barrels of whiskey. Just four years later, The Star Distillery Co. from Ohio purchased a majority of the company in what would be the first of several ownership moves. During the dark days of Prohibition between 1920 and 1933, most of the buildings were razed for salvage; many of the buildings left behind today date to the “Post Repeal” period of around 1933.

T.W. Samuels Distillery and WarehousesThe Samuels name would later be intrinsically linked with another bourbon brand when T.W.’s great grandson, Bill Samuels Sr. would give up the family business in 1943 only to start his own bourbon brand ten years later in Loretto. Using a recipe that includes wheat instead of rye and bottles dipped in red wax, Maker’s Mark would soon eventually become one of the most recognized liquor brands in the country. Today, the Chief Operating Officer at Maker’s Mark Distillery is still a Samuels (Rob) and the great, great grandson of T.W. Meanwhile, The T.W. Samuels distillery plodded through the back half of the 20th century crafting low-end whiskey and even bottling spring water as recently as the early 1970’s. In more recent years, the T.W. Samuels line of bourbon has been sold under the Heaven Hill label with sporadic releases.

Sign at T.W. Samuels Distillery and Samuels SpringsToday, the distillery sits idle but nine of the warehouses have been rehabilitated and are being used by two major bourbon brands to house thousands of barrels of sleeping whiskey. Occasionally, a barrel truck off-loading fresh barrels (and branded with a familiar logo) will make an appearance. Otherwise, all is quiet in the shuttered space. And the only train traffic that the once busy rail line which faithfully served the distillery carries today is My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. However, the T.W. Samuels Distillery could one day undergo a massive transformation to restore the facility to former glory like the one currently occurring roughly 70 miles away in Woodford County at the Old Taylor Distillery. For now, the sign out front says “The Olde T.W. Samuels Distillery & Samuels Springs” but it probably could say “Watch this space.”

Written by Phil Kollin – Mint Julep Tours Driver & Guide

Mint Julep Tours can create the perfect itinerary for your bourbon adventure. While the T.W. Samuels distillery remains closed at all times to all visitors, Mint Julep Tours can arrange a drive-by past the distillery (or other abandoned Nelson County distilleries) on any custom tour. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online today to begin planning your trip and to receive more information on custom experiences.

Welcoming Louisville’s Angel’s Envy Distillery to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®

Welcoming Louisville’s Angel’s Envy Distillery to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®

Bourbon barrelhead of Angel's Envy bourbon whiskey by Louisville Distilling Co.On a recent Monday afternoon, reporters, camera crews, politicians and members of Kentucky’s bourbon industry all gathered on Main Street in downtown Louisville across the street from Slugger Field to celebrate another bourbon milestone. The excitement was palpable. For many, this was the first visit to the Angel’s Envy Distillery since it had opened for operation and tours late last year. It was hard to believe that this gorgeous distillery, the result of a $27 million dollar multi-year project, was the same massive building that had housed the empty shell of The Vermont American Tool Company for decades. The big news of the day was that Angel’s Envy had officially joined The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® becoming the 10th member distillery to join since 1999.

Exterior photo of Angels Envy DistilleryMayor Greg Fischer took the podium and spoke enthusiastically of continuing to strengthen Louisville’s place as the gateway to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®. The distillery is the first new bourbon brand to join the program in over two years since The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience came onboard in 2014. The announcement comes on the heels of yet another record year for attendance for distilleries. In 2016, visitors eager to take part in the modern bourbon boom logged over 1,000,000 stops at distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour ®. With the addition of an Angel’s Envy (and the expansion of the Bourbon Trail Passports to include another page eager for a stamp) that number that is likely to increase.

Personalize your bottle of Angels Envy at the distillery with custom engravingThe excitement for a permanent home for Angel’s Envy has been building for years. The massive facility underwent a long, enormous transformation that started with a groundbreaking by then Governor Steve Beshear in September 2013. But before that, the brand itself captured the attention of whiskey aficionados and casual sippers in 2011 when Angel’s Envy entered the market offering an intriguing industry first: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that had been finished in port wine barrels for several weeks. The stunning glass bottle curved like a pair of angel’s wings certainly helped capture some eyeballs as well. Today the distillery offers tours, tastings, a gift shop and a chance to take home a bottle of their Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Rye (uniquely finished in rum barrels) and Cask Strength Bourbon. As an added bonus, guests can even personalize their bourbon with a date, message or name engraved on the bottle. Finally, a whiskey named after you!

Barrels of bourbon at Angels Envy in LouisvilleA tour of Angel’s Envy takes you through a distillery that is modern, industrial and beautiful in its simplicity. Knowledgeable guides, many of whom have extensive experience with bourbon, proudly show off every step of the distilling process from the mash tanks, to the gorgeous Vendome still and the unique finishing room. Along the way, century-old walls are adorned with graphics regarding the art and science of distilling. The distillery is open for tours Wednesday through Monday from 10:00 AM (1:00 PM on Sundays) with the last tour at 4:00 PM. Note that tour groups are usually limited to a smaller size than other distilleries, so booking online in advance is requested. Like other stops on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®, Angel’s Envy offers their own signature experience and unique take on America’s native spirit. And, of course, each tour ends with a guided tasting on the second-floor bar area. After all, what would a bourbon tour be without a bourbon tasting? As we enter a new era for Louisville distilleries not seen in over 95 years since the days before prohibition, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson summed up his new home on Main Street best: “I think we have a special place…as one of the only full production facilities downtown. But we’re just one piece of an incredible pie.”

As one of Kentucky’s top destination management company, Mint Julep Tours can create the perfect itinerary for your bourbon Adventure. A stop to Angel’s Envy can be added to any personal custom tour Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online today to begin planning your adventure and get more information on custom experiences

Written by Phil Kollin – Mint Julep Tours Driver & Guide 

Celebrate Brown Friday with a Mint Julep Tours Gift Certificate!

Celebrate Brown Friday with a Mint Julep Tours Gift Certificate!

Mint Julep Tours Gift Certificates

We’re putting our own bourbon spin on Black Friday with a special Brown Friday deal! On November 25th, with every Mint Julep Tours Gift Certificate purchased, we’re giving an extra 10% towards the value of your purchase! There are no promotional codes or coupons, once purchased we will update your gift certificate with an additional 10%.

Mint Julep Tours Gift certificates are ideal for the holidays, birthdays, or any special occasion. They can be purchased in any amount and are good towards Public Bourbon Tours, Exclusive Experiences, or any Custom Tour you can dream up!

You can purchase Gift Certificates online by clicking below!

Click here to purchase a Mint Julep Tours Gift Certificate

 


Scroll down for more information on our different tour types:

Mint Julep Tours Gift CertificatesPublic Bourbon Distillery Tours

Learn the art, history, and craftsmanship of “America’s Native Spirit” as you travel through Bourbon Country visiting two historic bourbon distilleries for guided tours and tastings with a third stop for a tasting only!  We’ll also stop for a local lunch along the way. Tour departure times vary, prices ranges from $119 – $139 per person. Click below for more information.
Public Bourbon Tours

 

Mint Julep Tours Gift CertificatesCustom Tours
Whether it’s a Corporate Outing, Bachelor/Bachelorette Party, Special Occasion, or VIP Transportation; you’ll work one-on-one with one of our Bourbon Country Tour Experts who will help you create a personalized itinerary that allows you to depart and travel privately with your guests. Mint Julep Tours enriches the experience with knowledgeable drivers, enthusiastic guides, and clean and comfortable vehicles. Click below for more information.
The Fun Starts Here!

 

Mint Julep Tours Gift CertificatesExclusive Experiences
Mint Julep offers some incredible Exclusive Experiences that you won’t find anywhere else! Whether it’s the Heaven & Evan Tour where guests receive tastings with Master Distiller’s as they pull straight from the barrel.  If culinary is your passion, then Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs is a must. This exciting opportunity let’s you be a part of the live studio audience for the taping of WAVE 3’s “Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs.” Click below for more information on these experiences and more!
Exclusive Experiences


Give the gift of a Mint Julep Tour! Whether you’re traveling with us through Bourbon Country, or joining us for an Exclusive Experience; each tour we offer is created by our inspiration and commitment to sharing Kentucky traditions. We have a love and passion for Kentucky that we are excited to share!
 

You can purchase Gift Certificates online by clicking below!
Click here to purchase a Mint Julep Tours Gift Certificate

 

Buffalo Trace unearths ‘bourbon Pompeii’ of 1873 distillery on Kentucky River

During some recent renovation at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY a discovery was made of huge historical significance. What the workers unearthed were the foundations of an old bourbon distillery dating back to the 1800s.

It began earlier this year in April when they found brick pillars and remnants of walls, and then in June what they believed to be a cistern.  More digging revealed parts of the first floor and a row of brick structures.  Louisville historian Carolyn Brooks and bourbon archaeologist Nicolas Laracuente have joined in the efforts to fully grasp what the discovery entails.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon Pompeii
Photo Credit: Charles Bertram – Lexington Herald Leader

What they found were almost completely intact 11,000-gallon fermenting tanks built by the legendary Col. E.H. Taylor as a version of his O.F.C. Distillery.  According to Laracuente, this find is “very rare”, mainly due to the fact that most distilleries are destroyed by fire.  In 1873 Taylor rebuilt his first O.F.C Distillery on the same site, Laracuente believes that it was this rush to rebuild and the fact that he built on top of the existing structure as the likely reason for the preservation we’re seeing today.

There are currently plans for this area to be included in tours open to the public sometime in Spring of 2017.  As the recognized leader in bourbon adventures, Mint Julep Tours will be offering those tours when they become available. Please follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for tour information and industry news.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/article108222782.html#storylink=cpy

Mint Julep Tours is the only dedicated tour company focused on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.  Based in Louisville, Kentucky we offer Custom and Public Bourbon Distillery Tours as well as unique Exclusive Experiences, Horse Farm Tours, Culinary Tours, and Louisville City Tours. As a truly one-of-a-kind tour and destination management company, Mint Julep Tours also offers transportation and event planning services with a focus on Special Events, Corporate Outings and Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties.

Specialty horse and bourbon-related gifts are available at the Mint Julep Tours retail store inside the Galt House on the third floor of the Rivue Tower at 140 North 4th Street Suite 326, Louisville, KY 40202. 502-583-1433 Ext. 106.