Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Chris Morris, November 6, 2013

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

 

Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Index
X
00:00:00 - Internship at Brown-Forman

Play segment

Partial Transcript: This is Al Young interviewing Woodford Reserve's Master Distiller Chris Morris on November the 6th, 2013 for the Kentucky Bourbon Tales oral history project.

Segment Synopsis: Chris Morris talks about how he began his career in the bourbon industry as an intern in the central laboratory of the Brown-Forman Corporation. He talks about what the bourbon industry was like when he began.

Keywords: Analyzing grain; Fathers; Flagship brands; Internships; Old brands; Parents; Quality laboratory; Sales

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:04:02 - Whiskey seminars / what makes a good bourbon

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well now how did these early experiences, or the previous work experiences you had in the early days of your career, uh, prepare you to be the Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve?

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about teaching whiskey seminars to address consumers' and retailers' lack of knowledge about bourbon. He talks about the five sources of flavor that he believes make a good bourbon.

Keywords: Aging; Balanced; Bourbon recipes; Cocktails; Fermenting; Grains; Lack of knowledge; Limestone water; Master Distillers; Sales; Sources of flavor; Standards; Teaching; Versatile; Warehouses; Whiskey seminars; Woodford Reserve Distillery; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Consumers.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Product demonstrations; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

00:09:27 - Age claims in the bourbon industry

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now we're sitting in a Woodford Reserve warehouse right now.

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about why Woodford Reserve and Brown-Forman do not make claims about the age of their products due to competition with the scotch whisky industry. The question is repeated.

Keywords: Age claims; Aging; Angel's share; Charred oak barrels; Competition; Controversy; Division; Flavor; Scotch whisky; Standards; Warehouses; Woodford Reserve Distillery; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Marketing.; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

00:12:37 - New products and involvement with other Brown-Forman products

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well w--now with this in mind what is in store for the future with the Woodford Reserve brand?

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about the future of the whiskey industry, and the new products Woodford Reserve is creating. He talks about other products created by the Brown-Forman Corporation that he is involved with.

Keywords: Early Times whiskey; Expansion; Finished whiskeys; Future; Malt whiskeys; Master Distillers; New products; Old Forester bourbon whiskey; Rye whiskeys; Southern Comfort American liqueur; Tequila; Woodford Reserve Double Oaked bourbon whiskey; Woodford Reserve Master's Collection; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Brown-Forman Corporation; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

00:14:57 - Bourbon sales market

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well you know, uh, we talked earlier about how the--you, uh, thought the, the, uh, state of the bourbon industry was when you first became part of Brown-Forman.

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about the bourbon industry's expansion into the global market. He talks about the popularity of bourbon culture and cocktail culture, and explains why he thinks the term "Bourbon Renaissance" fits the current trends.

Keywords: "Bourbon Renaissance"; American whiskey; Bourbon culture; Bourbon industry; Bourbon market; Cocktail culture; Future; Global market; Growth; Image; Mixed drinks

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Cocktails.; Consumers.; Flavored alcoholic beverages; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

00:18:33 - History of the Woodford Reserve Distillery

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well now I wonder if we could take a few minutes and just focus on the distillery itself here at Woodford Reserve.

Segment Synopsis: Morris describes the history of the Woodford Reserve Distillery, beginning with the Pepper family's original distilling efforts, the sale of the company to Labrot and Graham, Brown-Forman's original ownership, the sale of the land to a farmer, and Brown-Forman repurchasing the land and restoring the distillery. He talks about how the bourbon industry has changed over the years.

Keywords: Bourbon industry; Bourbon market; Changes; Closed; Distilling; Farming; Historic sites; James E. Pepper; Lebrot and Graham; Old Crow bourbon whiskey; Oscar Pepper; Pepper family; Premium bourbons; Restoration; Woodford Reserve Distillery

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky--History.

GPS: Woodford Reserve Distillery (Woodford County, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.112778, -84.811944
00:24:20 - Woodford Reserve Distillery expansion and archaeological dig

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well now as a result of that creation you've found a favorable place in the marketplace for your bourbon as Woodford Reserve.

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about the growth of both the bourbon industry and the bourbon tourism industry, which led to the need for the Woodford Reserve Distillery to expand. He talks about how the expansion led to an archaeological dig on the property. He talks about what was discovered about the lifestyle of the Pepper family through the dig.

Keywords: Archaeological digs; Bourbon market; Building; Displays; Elijah Pepper House; Expansion; Growth; Increased production; Jobs; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Lifestyles; Original distillery; Pepper family; Preservation; Sales; Stills; University of Kentucky (UK); Visitors centers

Subjects: Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Woodford Reserve Distillery (Woodford County, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.112778, -84.811944
00:30:00 - Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well now as we know, we know that Woodford Reserve was one of the first distilleries to renovate with the tourist in mind.

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about Woodford Reserve Distillery's original efforts to promote tourism, and their future renovations. He talks about Woodford Reserve Distillery's resident chef program, and about the popularity of cooking with bourbon.

Keywords: Cooking with bourbon; Culinary arts; Friendly competition; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Renovations; Resident chefs; Visitors centers

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Cocktails.; Consumers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Woodford Reserve Distillery (Woodford County, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.112778, -84.811944
00:34:54 - Brown-Forman Corporation's philanthropy

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You know it's well known that Brown and Forman is noted for its philanthropy and civic responsibility.

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about the tradition of philanthropic efforts made by the Brown-Forman Corporation, including the $1000 Mint Julep program at the Kentucky Derby, as well as their involvement with United Way and other charities. He talks about their beliefs on giving back to the community.

Keywords: $1000 Mint Julep program; American Heart Association; Brown family; Communities; Giving back; Organic crops; Philanthropy; Restoration; Traditions; United Way; Woodford Reserve Distillery

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Charity.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.

00:37:40 - The importance of knowledge in the bourbon industry

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You know I'd like to go back to what we were talking about earlier about the need for knowledge and the need for educating the public about, uh, bourbon itself as well as other alcoholic beverages.

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about two ways he has attempted to educate consumers about bourbon and the bourbon making process, the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Academy and the Spirits Academy. He talks about why knowledge about bourbon helps the bourbon industry compete with other spirit industries.

Keywords: Bourbon industry; Bourbon whiskey; Competition; Competitors; Culinary arts; Education; Flavor wheels; Knowledge; Taste notes; Teaching; Woodford Reserve Bourbon Academy; Woodford Reserve Spirits Academy

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Cocktails.; Consumers.; Marketing.; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

00:42:23 - Other distillers in the bourbon industry / Kentucky Distillers' Association

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well you know the history of bourbon can be attacked in many ways.

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about the other Kentucky bourbon distillers he has met over the years. He discusses the Kentucky Distillers' Association, their objectives, and the change to include craft distilleries as members of the association.

Keywords: Al Young; Awareness; Bill Samuels; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bourbon industry; Brown family; Bylaws; Craft Advisory Council; Craft distilleries; Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS); Eddie Russell; Fred Noe (Frederick Booker Noe III); Friends; Jimmy Russell; KDA; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Legislation; Membership; Objectives; Standards; Value

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Kentucky Distillers' Association; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

00:50:27 - History of bourbon

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now recently, uh, you and I were on a committee to construct a historical timeline about bourbon--

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks more about the history of bourbon, and his desire for accuracy and truth when making claims about the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Accuracy; Evolution of bourbon; History; Inventions; KDA; Questions; Scotch whisky; Sour mash process; Timelines

Subjects: Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Kentucky Distillers' Association; Whiskey industry--Kentucky--History.

00:54:12 - Fame

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well now as Master Distiller not only for Woodford Reserve but for Brown-Forman you've certainly visited a lot of places in the United States and around the world to promote your different products.

Segment Synopsis: Morris tells a story about traveling to Japan, visiting a temple, and how his involvement in the bourbon industry provided an opportunity to be part of a photoshoot with a movie star. He talks about autographing bottles, and the first time his name was put on a bottle of Woodford Reserve.

Keywords: Barrels; Celebrities; Innovation; Malt whiskey; Movie stars; Nagano, Japan; Photoshoots; Signing autographs; Special releases; Temples; Traveling; Woodford Reserve Masters Collection

Subjects: Distillation.; Distillers.; Fame.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

01:00:16 - Drinking bourbon / warehouses

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well now when it comes down to it there's always one question that everybody gets asked so I have to pose that one to you.

Segment Synopsis: Morris talks about how he prefers to drink bourbon. He talks about the Woodford Reserve warehouses, how the temperature is controlled and monitored, and how they differ from other aging warehouses. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Aging; Angel's share; Control barrels; Drinking bourbon; Enjoyment; Heat; Maturation; Noises; Open rick warehouses; Patent warehouses; Steam; Stone warehouses; Temperature; Thermometers; Trucks; Warehouse C; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey.

GPS: Woodford Reserve Distillery (Woodford County, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.112778, -84.811944