Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mark Brown, April 30, 2009

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Childhood in his parents' pub

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Partial Transcript: My name is Tom Troland.

Segment Synopsis: Mark Brown is introduced. He describes his childhood growing up in his parents' pub outside of London, England. He talks about the types of drinks they sold, their usual customers, and his own responsibilities at the bar.

Keywords: "Real ale"; "Under the bar"; America; Beer; Bourbon whiskey; Breweries; Brown-Forman Corporation; Cellars; Craft beers; Customers; Duties; English beers; Fathers; Hampton Court Palace; Jobs; London (England); Memories; Mistresses; Mothers; Parents; Police officers; Prices; Pubs; Responsibilities; Spirits; Suppliers; Whiskey; Wine

Subjects: Bars (Drinking establishments); Childhood; Consumers.; England--Social life and customs; Family-owned business enterprises.

00:09:08 - Interest in business

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Partial Transcript: As you were growing up, of course you were in or under the bar at different times.

Segment Synopsis: Brown discusses his early interest in the business aspects of his parents' pub, and describes some of their marketing techniques to promote the bar. He talks about his independent personality, and cites Winston Churchill as his personal hero.

Keywords: "Real ale"; Beer of the week; Buildings; Champagne; Cocktails; Customers; Drinking; Family businesses; Heroes; Independent; Influences; Interests; Learning; Life lessons; Parents; Profits; Success; Trends; Winston Churchill

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Small business--Ownership; Word-of-mouth advertising.

00:16:03 - Early career

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Partial Transcript: When you left the British equivalent of high school, what, what happened next in your life?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about his first job after graduating high school, and the other early jobs in his career. He talks about how he became involved with alcohol sales.

Keywords: Bars; Cider; College; Construction; East End London (England); Fathers; Jobs; Personality; Pubs; Racetracks; Racing stables; Sales; School; Suppliers; Work

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Sales promotion.

00:20:11 - Coming to America and beginning to work for Sazerac

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Partial Transcript: At what point did you come to the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about coming to America as part of his sales job, and discusses his transition to working for Sazerac Company. He describes a typical day working in New Orleans for Sazerac, and the lessons he learned from the company's leadership.

Keywords: Achievements; Acquisitions; Bill Goldring; Cider; Distributors; Exports; Future; Growth; Learning; Life lessons; Management; Married; National sales directors; New Orleans (La.); Owners; Peter Bordeaux; Sales trainers; Sazerac Company; Support; Traffic; Travel; Tulane University; Typical day; United States (U.S.); Vice president of sales and marketing; William Goldring

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Export marketing.; Sales promotion.

00:29:41 - Beginning to work in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Now at some point in your life you became interested in bourbon, because that's part of your life today.

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about switching jobs to work for the specialty brands division of Brown-Forman in 1992. He talks about bourbon's success on the global market and the overall growth of the bourbon industry.

Keywords: American whiskey; Distribution; Exports; Foreign countries; Global market; Growth; Jack Daniel's whiskey; Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky; Kentucky; Leadership; Louisville (Ky.); Most-recognized brands; Opportunities; Scotch whisky; Specialty brands division; Whiskey

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Brown-Forman Corporation; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Export marketing.; Marketing.; Sales promotion.

00:36:31 - Return to Sazerac

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk a little bit about your return to the Sazerac Company, um, later on after you left Brown-Forman.

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about why he returned to work for Sazerac after his stint with Brown-Forman. He talks about why he chose to remain in Kentucky, and discusses the "journey of discovery" they have made regarding the history of the Buffalo Trace Distillery site.

Keywords: "Journey of discovery"; Bill Goldring; Eagle Rare bourbon whiskey; Fences; History; Insecurity; Kentucky; McAfee's Benchmark bourbon whiskey; Potential; Priorities; Recipes; Research; Sazerac Company; Sites; Success; Unfinished; Whiskey; William Goldring

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Buffalo Trace Distillery.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Economic conditions.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:43:27 - History of the Buffalo Trace Distillery

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Partial Transcript: And what about the history of this place?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about the research that was conducted regarding the history of the Buffalo Trace Distillery site. He talks about their goal of preserving that history as well as the physical preservation of historical buildings on the property. He talks about the ownership of the distillery and the challenges they faced throughout the decades. He talks about some of the more modern history of the distillery, including the many awards they have won and the improvements they have made.

Keywords: Albert Blanton; American history; Architecture; Awards; Bourbon industry; Buildings; Cabins; Challenges; Changes; Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr.; Commodore Richard Taylor; Consumers; Dan Churchill; Daniel Swigert; Distillery of the Year; Documents; Fences; Founders; Frankfort (Ky.); George T. Stagg; Great Depression; History; Impact; Improvements; Infrastructure; Investments; Leestown (Ky.); Legacy; Marketing; Master distillers; People; Pioneers; Preservation; Prohibition; Quality; Recognition; Renovations; Research; Restoration; Richard Taylor; Settlements; Sites; World War I; World War II

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Buffalo Trace Distillery.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:54:01 - Growth of the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: What do you think has caused this turnaround in consumer, uh, perspective on bourbon and what role do you think Buffalo Trace has played in that turnaround?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about how bourbon has become a more popular spirit, and discusses how the standards that bourbon is held to differentiate it from other products. He talks about some of the people involved at Buffalo Trace, as well as in the bourbon industry in general, who have made an impact on their products.

Keywords: Additives; American; American products; Bill Samuels; Changes; Consumers; Culture; Education; Elmer T. Lee; Foreign; Freddie Johnson; Growth; Harlen Wheatley; Integrity; International competitions; Jimmy Johnson; Knowledge; Leonard Riddle; Mass market; Mass production; New barrels; Objectivity; People; Preconceptions; Ronnie Eddins; Standards; Tasting of Paris; Tastings

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Buffalo Trace Distillery.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

01:02:33 - Future of the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: What is--what are your thoughts regarding the bourbon industry in the future?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about the future challenges and opportunities facing the bourbon industry, including competition with Scotch whiskey, and the conflict between bourbon tourism and dry counties. He talks about Buffalo Trace's search for the best bourbon, and how their experimental collection assists in that goal. He discusses how Sazerac's acquisition of other brands fits within their strategic plan.

Keywords: "Holy Grail"; Acquisitions; Age; Barton brands; Best bourbon; Bourbon industry; Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection; Challenges; Conflict; Consumers; Development; Dichotomy; Economic impact; Experimentation; Experiments; Exports; Foreign markets; Future; Goals; International markets; Kentucky; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Mantras; Objectives; Philosophy; Product innovation; Prohibition; Recipes; Roles; Sazerac Company; Scotch whisky; Scotland; Strategic plans; Strategy; Tastes; Understanding; Variety

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Buffalo Trace Distillery.; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; Export marketing.; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

01:18:02 - Legacy

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Partial Transcript: Now there are a number of brands produced at this distillery named for people who previously worked there.

Segment Synopsis: Brown says that he would not like to have a whiskey named after himself, nor a statue built in his honor. He talks about what he hopes will be his legacy at Buffalo Trace: working with others to make progress for the next generation to become even more successful. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Brands; Business; Drinking bourbon; Favorites; Generations; Goals; History; Labels; Names; People; Renovation; Restoration; Roles; Well-known

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Buffalo Trace Distillery.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky