Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Edwin Foote, December 20, 2013

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

 

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00:00:02 - Education and background before joining the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Okay this is the Kentucky Bourbon Tales oral history project at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery on the 20th of December, 2013 and we are interviewing Edwin Foote.

Segment Synopsis: Edwin Foote talks about growing up in rural Kentucky, and the schools he attended. He talks about joining the Army after high school during the Korean War. He talks about attending Western Kentucky State College (now Western Kentucky University), and why he chose to major in mathematics.

Keywords: Breckinridge County (Ky.); GI Bill; Korean War; Math; Meade County (Ky.); Rural Kentucky; Schools; Science; Sputnik; Western Kentucky State College; Western Kentucky University

Subjects: Education; Rural schools--Kentucky; United States. Army.

00:05:11 - Beginning his career in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: So you get out of, uh, Western Kentucky in the early sixties and, uh, do you go right to work for Seagrams or did you--

Segment Synopsis: Foote talks about becoming a beer chemist for the Seagram Company, and the distilleries he worked in. He talks about some of the people he met during his career.

Keywords: Al Young; Beer chemists; Calvert Distillery; Jim Rutledge; Joe Yancy; Math; McKenna Distillery; Ova Haney; Seagram Company; Teaching; Training

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:07:58 - Job duties at Seagram

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Partial Transcript: So you, you started off as a, uh, beer chemist at the McKenna Distillery. What was that job like?

Segment Synopsis: Foote describes the job positions he held at Seagram and their duties. He talks about the various steps of quality control in the distilling process, and about analyzing samples as a beer chemist.

Keywords: Analyzing; Art; Beer chemists; Changes; Control laboratory; Distillate; Grain samples; Grains; Master Distillers; Methods; Mustiness; Quality laboratory; Samples; Science; Yeast transfers

Subjects: Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Liquors--Gaging and testing; Quality control.; Seagram Company

00:17:58 - Friends in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Okay Ed, so you were working at Seagrams for all these years and you'd already mentioned the fact that you had worked with a lot of people that are now hall of famers and the Kentucky Dis--uh, Bourbon Hall of Fame.

Segment Synopsis: Foote talks about some of the people in the bourbon industry that he has met during his career, including Jim Rutledge, Al Young, and Ova Haney.

Keywords: Al Young; Beer chemists; Bourbon industry "Hall of Fame"; Control laboratory; Dave Scheurich; Experience; Fairfield Distillery; Friends; Jim Rutledge; McKenna Distillery; Ova Haney; Seagram Company; Shipping and receiving department

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

00:23:54 - Becoming the Master Distiller at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery / bourbon industry families

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, you left Seagrams and came to Stitzel-Weller. Uh, how did that come about?

Segment Synopsis: Foote talks about how he became the Master Distiller at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, and talks about learning about distilling from Roy Hawes. He talks about the big families in the bourbon industry, like the Beams, and how many people in the industry had family connections within the industry.

Keywords: Al Capone; Beam family; Bourbon industry families; Bureaucracy; Charlie Beam; Doug Ferris; Family connections; Filson Club; Filson Historical Society; G-Men; History; Master Distiller Emeritus; Master Distillers; Mentors; Ova Haney; Roy Hawes; Stitzel-Weller Distillery

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Stitzel-Weller Distillery (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:32:11 - Duties as a Master Distiller at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery

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Partial Transcript: So, you come here, you're the Master Distiller, what, what's, what was your, uh, uh, duties here?

Segment Synopsis: Foote talks about his duties as a Master Distiller, from ensuring the quality of the grain, to fermentation and distilling, to testing the resulting distillate. He talks about the equipment used at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, including the mills, stills, and doublers. He talks more about big names in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: "Nosing" samples; Attention to detail; Barrels; Column stills; Distillation proof; Doublers; Duties; Elmer T. Lee; Grains; Hammer mills; Lou Rosensteel; Mash bills; Master Distillers; Modernized; Old fashioned; Pappy Van Winkle; Pot stills; Products; Rye; Schenley Distillers Inc.; Stainless steel fermenters; Stitzel-Weller Distillery; Thumper; Wheat; Wheated bourbon; White whiskey; World War II; Yeast

Subjects: Distillation.; Distillers.; Quality control.

GPS: Stitzel-Weller Distillery (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:46:28 - Atmosphere at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery

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Partial Transcript: The fact that the Stitzel-Weller had the sign, you know, "No chemists allowed" and several other little quirky little signs like that out there.

Segment Synopsis: Foote talks about the quirky signs at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, and why Pappy Van Winkle did not want to hire chemists at his distillery. He talks about other members of the Van Winkle family.

Keywords: Bourbon industry families; Chemists; Government gaugers; Julian Van Winkle III; Pappy Van Winkle; Quirky signs; Renaissance Man; Seagram Company; Stitzel-Weller Distillery; Van Winkle family

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.

GPS: Stitzel-Weller Distillery (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528
00:50:22 - Challenges he has faced / younger generations in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Can you speak to one of the greatest challenges that you had while you were in the industry?

Segment Synopsis: Foote talks about the difficulty of trusting new coworkers. He talks about the enthusiasm of young people in the bourbon industry. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: "Butterball" Anderson; Advice; Bourbon industry "giants"; Challenges; Changes; Distrust; Diversity; Elmer T. Lee; Enthusiasm; Joe Hall; Younger generations; Youthful exuberance

Subjects: Distillers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky