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Interview with Frenchie Sweatt, March 21, 2014

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

 

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00:00:06 - Background / beginning to work at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery

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Partial Transcript: This is John Gregory interviewing Frenchie Sweatt.

Segment Synopsis: Frenchie Sweatt talks about growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, and the schools she attended. She talks about how she learned about a job opening at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery (also known as the Old Fitzgerald Distillery). She describes her first impression of the buildings and the grounds. Sweatt describes the various job positions she has held at the plant over the years.

Keywords: Accounting department; Bank; Bottling; College; Diageo North America; Eastern Kentucky University; General studies; Government compliance; Indiana Southwest University; Interior design; Inventory systems; Jobs; Nicknames; Old Fitzgerald Distillery; Plant administrator; Schools; Stitzel-Weller plant; Vancena Sweatt; Warehouses

Subjects: Diageo (Firm); Distilleries--Kentucky; Education; Louisville (Ky.)

GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:05:46 - Downsizing and resurgence of the Stitzel-Weller plant

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Partial Transcript: And when did you become plant administrator?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about why the plant was downsized, and talks about the crew that stayed to deplete the remaining inventory. She talks about Diageo's decision to turn the plant into a barrel housing headquarters, and her hope that it will continue to expand in the future.

Keywords: "Renaissance"; Barrel warehousing headquarters; Communities; Depleting inventory; Downsizing; Hope; Old Fitzgerald Distillery; Plant administrator; Plant closing; Resurgence; Selling companies

Subjects: Diageo (Firm); Distilleries--Kentucky

GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:10:20 - Bourbon industry families

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Partial Transcript: Why do you think the bourbon industry, um, has that kind of family lineage that, that you get multiple generations or you know, uh, uh spouses and siblings--

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about why people who work in the bourbon industry often have family members who also work in the industry. She talks about how the employees of the Stitzel-Weller plant formed a community.

Keywords: Bourbon industry families; Commitment; Communities; Dedication; Employees; Enjoyment; Generations; People; Word of mouth

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Families.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:14:13 - Women and minorities in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, uh, there's--I think the industry traditionally has had sort of, uh, this perception that it was a male-dominated industry.

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about whether there is much diversity within the bourbon industry, both at high-level and mid-level positions. She talks about mentoring other employees, especially about paying attention to detail.

Keywords: Attention to detail; Bourbon industry; Checking; Job positions; Learning; Male-dominated industry; Managers; Mentoring; Minorities; Processing; Standards; Teachers

Subjects: Diversity in the workplace.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

00:19:24 - How the bourbon industry has changed over time / future of the Stitzel-Weller plant and the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: So how, how have you seen the industry, the overall industry, change, um, in your time?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about the changes she has seen during her almost 30 years in the industry. She talks about her predictions and hopes for both the Stitzel-Weller plant and the bourbon industry as a whole. She talks about bourbon industry tourism, and how expansion would affect the local community.

Keywords: Alcohol taxes; Bottling lines; Bourbon industry; Cafeterias; Changes; Computers; Cycles; Distillery; Economic boost; Employees; Expansion; Fast-paced; Future; Growth; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Rebirth; Redevelopment; Shively (Ky.); Stressful; Visitors centers

Subjects: Diageo (Firm); Distilleries--Kentucky; Economic conditions; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:25:43 - Various owners of the Stitzel-Weller plant during her time there

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Partial Transcript: One thing I meant to ask you earlier.

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt lists the companies that have owned the Stitzel-Weller plant during the time she has worked there. She talks about what it was like to experience those changes.

Keywords: Changes in ownership; Closing; Employees; Experience; Expertise; Old Fitzgerald Distillery; Owners; People; Schenley Industries; United Distillers; United Distillers Manufacturing Inc.; United Distillers Production Inc.

Subjects: Business enterprises.; Diageo (Firm); Distilleries--Kentucky

GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647,-85.8071528
00:30:20 - Changes in technology

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Partial Transcript: Well you mentioned, um, when computers came--

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about her experience of working at the plant when computers were introduced to the office. She talks about how the inventory system operated before they had computers.

Keywords: "Crop books"; Accounting; Alcohol taxes; Barrels; Case goods; Computers; Inventory systems; Ledger books; Selling

Subjects: Alcohol--Taxation--United States.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Technology.

GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:33:17 - Drinking bourbon / Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project

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Partial Transcript: So, um, are you a whiskey drinker? A bourbon drinker?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about whether she likes to drink bourbon, and her opinions on how it should be served. She briefly talks about her role in the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project.

Keywords: Drinking bourbon; Government reporting; Mixed drinks; On the rocks; Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project; Paperwork; Products; Tasting; Tax and Trade Bureau; Wine

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Drinking of alcoholic beverages.; Whiskey.

00:36:36 - Mentoring Andrea Wilson

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit more about how you tried--or how you did mentor, um, Andrea Wilson when she came here?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about teaching Plant Manager Andrea WIlson about the procedures of the plant, especially those procedures that are undocumented and passed down through tradition. She talks about the importance of accuracy in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Accuracy; Administrative employees; Age; Andrea Wilson; Barrels; Crew; Government reporting; Language; Mentoring; Plant managers; Terminology; Traditions; Undocumented procedures

Subjects: Liquors--Standards; Women in the whiskey industry

00:42:27 - More on the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project / Stitzel-Weller plant archives

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Partial Transcript: Well so, uh, tell me about the, the Orphan Barrel Project.

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about how the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project began, and the consumer interest in the products. She talks about the archives at the Stitzel-Weller plant, and her hopes that someday the contents can be displayed.

Keywords: Archives; Articles; Bottles; Bourbon industry; Collections; Documents; Expansion; Forgotten; Interest; Inventory; Limited quantities; Old Forester Distillery; Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project; Pictures; Small batch whiskey

Subjects: Consumers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky--History.; Whiskey.

GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:47:41 - Mythical quality of the Stitzel-Weller plant / her contributions and legacy

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Partial Transcript: Earlier you mentioned that when you f--came out here the very first time, came through the gate, that you said there was a "fairyland" quality to it.

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks more about her first impressions of the Stitzel-Weller plant, and why the site seems special. She talks about what she would like people in the future to remember about her career at the plant and her contributions to the industry.

Keywords: "Fairyland" quality; Accuracy; Administrative employees; Ancestors; City; Contributions; Crew; Government reporting; Legacies; Limited quantities; Maintenance; Mythical; Proud; Roles; Sites; Unexpected; Warehouses

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky

GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:54:17 - More on Andrea Wilson / a story about working at the Stitzel-Weller plant

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Partial Transcript: So how have you seen Andrea grow, um, in her time here?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks more about Plant Manager Andrea Wilson and her success in the bourbon industry. She tells a story about a day at the plant when a woman received a mink coat. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: "Chosen"; Andrea Wilson; Consultants; Contributions; Eager; Families; Growth; Innovation; Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA); Limousines; Mink coats; Old Forester Distillery; Passion; Reserved

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528