Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Boswell, July 31, 2014

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

 

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00:00:00 - Childhood at Independent Stave Company

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Partial Transcript: This is John Gregory interviewing John Boswell of Independent Stave Company on July 31st, 2014 for the Kentucky Bourbon Tales Oral History Project of the University of Kentucky Libraries' Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.

Segment Synopsis: John Boswell is introduced. He talks about growing up in Missouri, playing in his family's stave mill. He talks about the history of the company, which began with his grandfather, T.W. Boswell. He describes his father and grandfather, including their hobbies and personalities.

Keywords: Barrel factory; Building; Businessman; Commitment; Company history; Construction; Engineers; Family business; Fathers; Flowers; Football; Gardens; Glenmore Distillery Company; Grandfathers; Greenhouses; J.E. Boswell; Mechanical engineering; Sawdust; Schenley Distillers Inc.; Seagram Company; Shannon County (Mo.); Stave mills; T.W. Boswell; University of Missouri

Subjects: Barrels; Childhood; Coopers and cooperage; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; Lebanon (Mo.); Sawmills; Staves and stave trade

00:06:14 - Starting to work in the family business

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Partial Transcript: So, um, tell me a little bit more about growing up, uh, literally in the business.

Segment Synopsis: Boswell talks about his father allowing him to observe negotiations with customers as a child. He talks about when he began working in the family business, the jobs he held, and what it taught him. He talks about traveling with his father to visit customers, and tells a story about meeting Harry Bloom of Jim Beam.

Keywords: Bodyguards; Customers; Employees; Factory; Growing up; Harry Bloom; Heaven Hill Distilleries; Independent Stave Company; Jim Beam (Brand); Jobs; Kentucky; Math; Mules; Negotiation; Road trips; Stacking staves; Summers; Teaching; Traveling; Working

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Childhood; Coopers and cooperage; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Staves and stave trade; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:11:20 - Path from college to running the family business

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Partial Transcript: So what about--(coughs)--as you're getting older, you're--you said you went to college.

Segment Synopsis: Boswell talks about attending the University of Missouri to obtain a degree in engineering. He talks about working after graduation for a company that made weapons during the Vietnam War. He talks about owning his own business and why he came back to the family business.

Keywords: Calculus; English; Family business; Fathers; Graduation; Growth; Learning; Math; People skills; Science; Vietnam War; Walnut bowl factory

Subjects: Coopers and cooperage; Education, Higher; Engineering--Study and teaching; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Staves and stave trade; Universities and colleges.; University of Missouri

00:17:54 - Relationships with customers

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Partial Transcript: Um, so what were the, the first few years like for you being at Independent Stave?

Segment Synopsis: Boswell talks about relationships he had with several of his customers, including Booker Noe, Joe Winkler, and Max Shapira, and describes their personalities. He talks about what he has learned from his customers over the years.

Keywords: "Honey barrels"; Bear hunting; Bears; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Businessman; Cheap; Curiosity; Customers; Drinking bourbon; Flasks; Flavors; Independent Stave Company; Joe Winkler; Max Shapira; Negotiation; Stan Bershaw; Tasting; Teaching; Unions

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Barrels; Coopers and cooperage; Distillers.; Quality of products.; Staves and stave trade; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

00:23:33 - Changes he made when he became head of the family business

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Partial Transcript: So once you took over the business what kind of changes did you make? How did you grow the business?

Segment Synopsis: Boswell talks about his contributions to the family company and the industry, including a focus on machinery and technology, productivity, and an international perspective.

Keywords: Assembly lines; Australia; Changes; Chile; Contributions; Efficient; Engineers; Europe; Expansion; France; French oak; Growth; International; International perspectives; Machinery; Mothers; New Zealand; Productivity; South Africa; Spain; Taking over; Technology; Traveling; Wine industry

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Barrels; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Coopers and cooperage; Family-owned business enterprises.; Staves and stave trade

00:29:12 - Differences between the bourbon industry and wine industry

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Partial Transcript: How does, uh--what are the different relationships like between working with people in the bourbon industry versus say, working with the wine industry?

Segment Synopsis: Boswell discusses how the bourbon and wine industries differ, and the misconceptions surrounding both industries.

Keywords: Bourbon industry; Flavor profiles; Jim Beam (Brand); Personal relationships; Refined; Science; Uniformity; Volume; Wine industry; Wine tastings

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Barrels; Coopers and cooperage; Product demonstrations; Staves and stave trade; Whiskey industry

00:32:43 - His son continuing the tradition of the family business

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Partial Transcript: So back to the family, when, when did you start to involve your children in the business?

Segment Synopsis: Boswell talks about introducing his son Brad to the family business as a child like his father had done for him. He talks about taking his son on road trips to visit the family's stave mills around the world.

Keywords: Brad Boswell; Children; Family business; International travel; Jim Beam Distillery; Negotiations; Perspectives; Stave mills; Timber; machinery

Subjects: Coopers and cooperage; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; Staves and stave trade; Whiskey industry

00:35:22 - Bourbon as a product of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: What do you think it is about Kentucky and bourbon? Why, why has it been such a strong traditional bond?

Segment Synopsis: Boswell talks about why he thinks most bourbon is made in Kentucky, including the abundance of limestone water sources and the changing seasons.

Keywords: Corn; Fred Noe (Frederick Booker Noe III); Kentucky bourbon; Limestone water sources; Seasons; Temperature changes; Warehouses

Subjects: Barrels; Distillation.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:38:38 - How being a family business affects relationships with customers

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Partial Transcript: Um, another aspect of, of Kentucky bourbon is this multigenerational family connection.

Segment Synopsis: Boswell discusses how being a multi-generational family business helps build stronger relationships with customers.

Keywords: Business relationships; Closeness; Consistency; Customers; Expectations; Family traditions; Friends; Generations; Marketable; Problems; Working relationships

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Coopers and cooperage; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Quality of products.; Staves and stave trade

00:43:12 - Accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: So, so looking back over your entire career what would you say are your proudest accomplishments? Your biggest accomplishments?

Segment Synopsis: Boswell talks about his Christian faith as his greatest business accomplishment and discusses how religion affects the way he conducts business. He talks about building a chapel for his employees at the factory in Salem, Missouri. He talks about how he feels about being inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame.

Keywords: "Silent partner"; Accomplishments; Atmosphere; Bible; Bourbon Hall of Fame; Bourbon industry; Business; Business operations; Chapels; Children; Christianity; Drinking; Employees; Flavors; Honors; Prayer; Salem (Mo.); Spirits; Wine; Working environment

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Barrels; Coopers and cooperage; Family-owned business enterprises.; Religion; Staves and stave trade; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

00:48:46 - The next generation in the family business

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Partial Transcript: So what do you--what are your hopes for a fifth generation of Boswells in the company?

Segment Synopsis: Boswell talks about the continuation of the family business through his grandchildren. He discusses why he enjoys working at a family business. He talks about his business relationship with Bill Samuels. He talks about how he prefers to drink his bourbon. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Bill Samuels, Jr.; Bill Samuels, Sr.; Bonds; Bourbon industry; Brad Boswell; Children; Distillers; Drinking bourbon; Employees; Family business; Flavor profile; Generations; Identity; Multigenerational; Products; Proud; Sons; Traditions

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Barrels; Coopers and cooperage; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; Staves and stave trade; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.