MONK: Hello, my name is--[audio cuts out]--student in Dr. Fernheimer's B--ah,
Bourbon Oral History course in Spring 2021. I am conducting an interview as part
of work for that class and the Women in Bourbon Oral History project. Today is
April 22, 2021 and is my--and it is my great honor and pleasure to interview
Dinah Bird, using Their Story virtually, due to the pandemic, although I'd love
to be meeting in person. Thank you so much for joining me today.
BIRD: I'm delighted to be here, Maya. Thank you for the invitation. I'm very
excited about this project.
MONK: Well, thank you. And I'm excited to learn more about your--your history
and your background in this industry. So, for our official record, um, could you
state your name?
BIRD: My name is Dinah Bird.
MONK: And when and where were you born?
BIRD: I was born in Lampasas, Texas.
MONK: So, tell me a little bit about your family background.
BIRD: Uh, I'm sorry. Repeat that question, Maya, please?
MONK: Uh, tell me a little bit more about your family background.
BIRD: Yes. I grew up on a ranch in Texas, and--which was in the central part of
Texas near Austin. It was hill country, and it was rolling hills and it was a
self-sustaining, uh, ranch. Uh, we raised almost all of our own crops. About the
only groceries we really had to purchase was flour and sugar. Uh, so, uh, it was
a great experience. We had a variety--we did mostly cattle, uh, but we had a
variety of horses to ba--horseback ride. It--we had--we--the property was on a
creek and river, uh, so we had lots of adventures fishing an--and doing camping,
um, with outdoor activities.
BIRD: Awesome. Um, when and where--what and where were your parents'
names and occupations, and where were they born?
BIRD: Uh, my mother was born in the same county, Lampasas County, uh, and her
00:02:00name was, uh, Anna Bird, uh, Anna Wiggum. And then, my dad was born in Oklahoma
and, uh, he, uh, was, uh, a rancher and my mother was a homemaker and nurse.
MONK: Awesome. Uh, when did your family arrive in the US and where did your
ancestors come from? What brought them here?
BIRD: Uh, my ancestors date back several um, or, uh--probably we think 1800s.
Uh, they were, uh, Scotch-Irish and, uh--on my mother side. And on my dad's
side, he was British, and, uh, again dates back to probably a couple hundred
years. And, uh, he was British and, uh, he was about, uh, an eighth
MONK: Awesome. I--I do believe that there was some Scotch-Irish in my family as
well, so a little connection there on my mom's side.
MONK: Um, how many siblings do you have and what are their names and ages
relative to yours?
BIRD: Uh, I had three brothers. Uh, two older brothers a--who are now deceased,
and then I have a younger brother that we were all about four years apart in
age. And I was, uh, the third child.
MONK: The third, as--am I. Um, now that we've talked a little bit about your
family background, let's shift gears and focus on your childhood. So, tell me
about your experiences growing up in Texas.
BIRD: Uh, it was a great childhood. Uh, again, as I mentioned, uh, we
lived on a ranch. Uh, it was, um, a little bit remote in terms of, um, having a
00:04:00lot of playmates, uh, but we, uh, were self-sufficient as I mentioned. So, we
did a lot of horseback riding and a lot of rounding up cattle, branding, and
breaking horses. Um, we, uh, did a lot of different things outdoors, as I
mentioned. Uh, we camped or we went fishing, hunting. Uh, as a child growing up
we, um, had a lot of work around on the ranch. We did our own hay and grain,
usually, [background ding] silage. And, um, so, it was always, uh, something to
do. I went to a, uh, school that had--my class was about 125 students, which was
one of the largest classes they had ever had in that school. So,
um,--(clears throat)--I went to the same school for twelve years. It was great.
00:05:00Uh, you--[audio cuts out]--some of those, uh, connections with my old classmates
that I grew up with. My family was from Lexington, uh, until the Civil War, and
then they moved out to be ranchers in Texas.
MONK: Awesome. So, where did you go to elementary, middle school, and high school?
BIRD: I went to Lampasas, uh, Elementary School, Lampasas Junior High, and
Lampasas High School.
MONK: All kind of on the same campus there?
BIRD: Uh, no, they had different buildings for us. They were within a few blocks
of each other. The town, uh, was about fifty-five hundred people, so it wasn't a
very large town. Uh, so, it was, uh, you know, sort of a charmed childhood
compared to maybe today. Of course, we didn't have all the social networking
and--and social tools and computers that we had, so it was, uh, a
00:06:00relatively tight-knit community--[audio cuts out]--Pardon me?
MONK: --[audio cuts out]--childhood? Could you imagine your childhood with all
BIRD: It'd be awesome. It'd be awesome.
BIRD: But having said that, uh, I think we had, instead of a lot of technology,
uh, telephones, and texting, uh, we would get together and play, uh, baseball or
basketball or something. So, I think outdoor activities--we participated in a
lot more. You didn't always have a full team, but, uh, it was--it was still,
uh--would have been nice to have the social media.
MONK: Definitely. But at least you had that one-on-one, in person communication,
a little closer than, you know, we do these days.
BIRD: Yeah, I think so, Maya. I think that's very true.
MONK: So, what did you want to be, uh, when you grew up? And what
were your thoughts on that when you were little?
BIRD: Uh, by about the second grade, I wanted to fall into my mother's shoes as
00:07:00a nurse and help people. Uh, and by the time I was getting into junior high, she
encouraged me to not be a nurse but to, uh, go into the technology side of--of
medicine. So, at sixteen, I started working in the local hospital, which was
only about, I think, twenty-five beds, a very small hospital. And I worked there
early in the morning before school and did laboratory test and, um, you know,
became knowledgeable--a little bit knowledgeable, about that part of, um,
medicine. And then, my undergraduate was uh--major was medical technology, which
was basically a, uh, a dual degree, a dual major in biology and
MONK: Did you--
BIRD: --I pursued that. And for ten years, I actually worked in--in that field
00:08:00and I, uh, worked in hospital emergency rooms at night, on weekends, to help
fund my college education. And then, I also did medical research at Temple
University Hospital and University of Penn Hospital.
MONK: Did you, um, wish that you pursued that any longer than you did? Or did
you enjoy the experience that you had while you were doing the medical sales or
BIRD: Yeah, I enjoyed it, uh, because it's what I wanted to do. I wanted to do
research. It's just once I got into it, I realized it was sort of slow. Uh, for
example, I worked on--I worked with, uh, Sol Sherry, which is a father of
thrombolytic, uh, therapy, and we worked on a protocol for streptokinase. And
what that is, it's, um, it is a, uh, technique, or strategy--a
00:09:00medical strategy that you use if someone comes in the hospital within six hours
of having a heart attack and it's caused by a clot in the heart, or, uh, near
the heart, and you can inject this enzyme from strep bacteria and it will
actually dissolve the clot. Uh, so, I worked on that protocol and it took--it
takes years, sometimes, you know, for ten, twelve years or even longer to get
something approved with the FDA. And fast-forward literally about forty years
later, it is still, uh, the protocol of choice in a hospital emergency room in
certain situations. So, although medicine moves very quickly, the process of
drug approval or, um, new techniques or--or equipment is very slow. So, uh, I,
uh, enjoyed it, but it was just kind of slow. I also got pegged into
working with radioactive isotopes because I had that experience. And it's an
00:10:00unusual experience. And, um, I kept wanting to get away from that for health
reasons, and I really couldn't. As soon as they saw it on a resume it was like,
"Well, we need that." So, uh, so, there was a couple different reasons why I
left. And, uh, I enjoyed it while I did. I still, um, keep up with a lot of
medical, um, concerns, like the vaccine that has come out in the pandemic has
been very interesting to me. Uh, but I'm glad I did that, [background ding] I
have absolutely no regrets. But, uh, [background ding] I was glad to move onto
MONK: Well, very interesting. And I just learned something there, so thank you
for sharing that. Um, let's see, here. So, with regards to that and
your schooling history, so you--you started that a little bit younger and then
00:11:00you went into school, but what other schooling passed your undergrad did you do?
You went to grad school, didn't you?
BIRD: Yes. Uh, while I was doing medical research, I went ahead and got a
master's degree in zoology. And I actually worked with fish hormones and
published papers on a bioassay or a hormone called melanin-concentrating
hormone, which in certain fish help them, uh, turn color so they can camouflage.
And I did the analytical, uh, analysis of that hormone in terms of its size--the
molecular size, if there's a positive cation or, uh--uh, anion and, um, did some
different tests on it, and published that information. Uh, while I was doing
research work, though, at the University of Penn Hospital, I had the
opportunity to, uh, attend Wharton Business School. I got accepted, and I, uh,
00:12:00went to school there for a, uh, couple years and really liked the business
aspect. And so, um, I decided to transition into, uh, business. And I ended up
getting transferring to the Drucker School of Business and studying under Peter
Drucker, the father of management science. And I finished up a second master's
and PhD from Claremont Graduate School in Southern California.
MONK: So, you've got a lot of those under your belt here--
MONK: --a lot of school experience. Awesome.
BIRD: And then since graduating with a PhD, I have completed the Certified
Financial Planning, uh, program, and that usually takes at least three years, as
well as the Certified Investment Management Analyst, uh--uh, designation,
so, um, I've--I've continued. I've also had, uh--passed about five or
00:13:00six or maybe seven different SEC license certificates. So, uh, Series Two, Six,
Sixty-Five, Seven, uh, Twenty-Nine, uh, Twenty-Three, and Twenty-Four. So, uh, I
continued my education at least in the area of investments.
MONK: Well, and your career did not stop at just your educational successes. You
continued to get involved with what you're doing now. So, what was your first
memory/encounter with the industry that you are now a part of?
BIRD: Uh, I worked, uh--after finishing up my PhD, I went to work for an
investment management company. And I worked with clients globally,
high net-worth individuals in about, oh, fifteen different countries. So, I
00:14:00would travel all--[audio cuts out]--all over visiting and working with these
clients for their personal investments. And then, after doing that for about 10
years, I worked for Barclays Bank, a subsidiary of Barclays Bank out of London,
but I reported to the subsidiary's office in San Francisco. And we had the
opportunity to wine and dine, uh, clients in Napa and I thought, "Well, gee, I
could do this." I grew up on a ranch. I knew a little bit about agriculture. I
had taken horticulture classes in college as an undergraduate. And, uh, so, I
enrolled in some special classes that UC Davis in California, uh--uh, offer for
viticulture. And UC Davis is probably the first or second best viticulture
school in the world. And, uh, I had the opportunity to take a lot of
vacation time and--and, um, remote courses that I took for viticulture. And, uh,
00:15:00also, about that time, Kentucky and Ohio was expanding their viticulture, or
their wine, or, uh, the number of wineries that they had. For example, in,
uh--uh--before prohibition, Kentucky was the fifth largest grape producer in the
United States. A lot of it was table grapes. Uh, we lost all that knowledge
during Prohibition. And then in 1990, the State legislation--latures passed, uh,
regulations that small farm wineries could exist, which are wineries that
produce less than fifty thousand gallons a year of, uh, wine. And so in 1990,
we had one small farm winery in Kentucky. By 2000, we had ten. And I
00:16:00came on--[audio cuts out]--by then I was number forty-eight. And today we have
over eighty bonded wineries in the state of Kentucky, and it's almost doubled in
that period of time in Ohio. I think they're pushing almost three hundred small
farm wineries. So, there was just more of a awareness of wineries. I also had
the fortune on moving or planning on moving into Kentucky, and, uh, the oldest
commercial winery in America came up for sale. So, uh, I purchased it, uh,
because it was going to be bulldozed to widen the highway. But it was on the
National Registry of Historic Places, so I was able to prevent that from
happening. And, uh, so then it was a process of I needed to restore the building
and have, uh, cash flows to do that, so that I started making wine
and working in the local vineyards, uh, for growing grapes. And, uh, so I had
00:17:00that, uh, sort of side business going because, uh, I also worked full-time in
the banking industry in investment management. So, it turned out, we named the
winery after the founding, uh, or the person who built it in the 1850s. Uh, his
name was Abraham Baker, so we named it Baker-Bird. And, uh, it is the largest,
oldest wine cellar in America. It's the only winery to have survived the Civil
War battle and it is on the National Registry of Historic Places, as well as the
vineyard land about seventy of the original acres are on its own National
Registry of Historic Places. Uh, once we named it after the family,
it got on ancestry.com and the family descendants started coming back bringing
00:18:00us records--[audio cuts out]--was built in the 1850s but the man who built it,
Abraham Baker Jr., his grandfather had, uh, been born in Brandenburg, Germany in
1748. At thirteen years old, he came to America on a ship called The Chance. He
landed in Philadelphia. He became an indentured servant in Virginia, and, uh,
supposedly the family history is that his master taught him how to distill. Uh,
he married, uh, the master's daughter, uh, Elizabeth Clor (??), in the Hebron
Lutheran Church in Culpeper County, Virginia, which is, uh, one of the oldest
continuously-running Lutheran churches in America still today. And, uh, he
fought in the--[audio cuts out]--. By 1783, he was on the tax rolls
of Pittsburgh, which is Washington County, as a distiller, and pa--[audio cuts
00:19:00out]--so, he had a lot of land by then. We assume he was very successful. Uh, he
went through the Whiskey Rebellion and then sold the land and moved to the site
where the winery is today. And, um--he moved to Augusta in 1797, and the deed
to--to the property where the winery is is 1798. And it turned out the family
helped us, but, uh, his, uh, recipes for bourbon had been documented in the, uh,
county courthouse for over two hundred years just eight miles away. So, we
decide--I decided, Well, it'd be a shame not to, you know, take advantage of
that history. So, that--I built a small distillery, found a local distiller,
and, uh, was, uh--finished my federal and state license the last day
of December of 2018. So--[audio cuts out]--since then and making bourbon and a
00:20:00little bit of brandy.
MONK: That's--a lot of questions right there that I got answered all in one, so
thank you so much for that. And where is it located and how did it end up in Augusta?
BIRD: Uh, the winery is located in Augusta, Kentucky, which is on the Ohio
River. And, um, it--the winery is actually about a mile from the river, so it's
not on the flood plain. Uh, so, and it's located in Augusta. But, uh, in the
eighteen, uh--early 1800s, uh, Cincinnati, uh, had a lot of Germans moving to
that area because it was, um ,a prominent city and a state in the
United States at that time. It wasn't as heavy--heavily populated in--[audio
00:21:00cuts out]--as, uh, the Eastern Seaboard, and it was just a western expansion.
So, in 1840 Cincinnati, uh, five percent of their per--population was German and
by 1850 fifty percent of Cincinnati's population was German or their first-born
American children. So that as, uh, Germans moved into Cincinnati, very similar
to, for example, to St. Louis, and, uh, and then, uh, they would move out and
spread out into the countryside--many of them were farmers--so that all along
the, uh, Ohio River Valley, in the general area of--of Cincinnati there is a lot
of Germans. And in our county, there's a lot of German heritage. So,
that, uh, it wasn't unusual that John Baker, uh--um, the distiller, moved to
00:22:00Augusta. In fact, a lot of distillers moved to Kentucky after the, uh, Whiskey
Rebellion, uh, because they, uh, wanted to escape paying taxes. And Kentucky is
very hilly and it was a little bit more sparsely populated, so it was harder to
collect, uh, the taxes and people could have stills everywhere. Uh, Kentucky
became a state in 1792, and at that time it was estimated there were about five
hundred stills already in the state. And by about 1805, 1810, I think, there
were over two thousand stills in the state. So, that whiskey was a very common
product. Uh, that's one reason why there was a Whiskey Rebellion, because it was
such a common product, uh, and to be taxed, uh, was a very unpopular type
of tax. So, a lot of those distillers like the Beam Brothers moved
to, uh, moved to Kentucky. Now, many of them settled in the flatter part of the
00:23:00state, which is down near Frankfort or, uh, Lawrenceburg, that area,
and--because they could grow more corn in a flat space instead of, kind of, the
rolling hills that we have up in the upper Bluegrass part of the state, uh, near
the Ohio River. So, uh, it wasn't uncommon that the, uh, distillers moved here.
Once they got here, it was like the motherload of natural resources in that
Kentucky had, um--uh, a lot of oak trees that Kentucky is still the third to
fifth largest oak provider, of--hardwood producer in the United States. Uh,
Missouri, Minnesota, some of those states lead Kentucky, usually. So,
they found a lot of the white oak trees that we use for making barrels and--and
for cooperage, for bourbon, and just in general products, and--and today wine.
00:24:00And, uh, they found, uh, filtered water that would filter through the limestone
and, uh, remove some of the iron and the types of, uh, chemicals that you don't
wan--or elements that you don't want in your whiskey or bourbon. And then, uh,
the climate we have is very important in that we have what's called a
continental climate, so that there is not any large bodies of water, like the
oceans or we're not close enough to the Great Lakes to get a strong enough
effect to where--what happens in our climate here is that when it gets hot, it
gets hot. When it gets cold, it gets cold. And we don't have the large bodies of
water to mitigate that. So, that's what you need for bourbon. And so,
they found that. Now, we didn't use the word bourbon until about 1820. I think
00:25:00the first mention of brown spirits being sold that was aged was in Maysville
newspaper about 1820. Now, uh, so most people were actually just making whiskey
which is you pull it right off the still and--and you drink it so you don't age
it. And especially in, uh, those early years of a new country, a new republic,
like, uh, the United States, uh, would be--would have been because you need some
economic stability before you can put some of your whiskey away and age it. So,
obviously we were settling the United States, uh, especially the Midwest in this
part in that period of time, so that the distillers typically just made white
whiskey, or corn whiskey, moonshine. If you make it during the day, you call it
day shine. But, uh, so, that aging wasn't--wasn't so common. But
00:26:00then, again it was--[audio cuts out]--bourbon industry, we, uh, [background
ding] give a lot of the Scotch-Irish, uh, credit for the distilling and
especially in the central part of the state. But the truth is that in Europe,
cognac and many distill--distilled spirits were made and aged. Uh, so, it wasn't
like, "Wow, the people in Kentucky came up with this unique idea of let's age
whiskey." Uh, scotch, obviously, is--is a distilled spirit that's aged, uh, with
a long history, uh, centuries of history behind it. So, that, uh, I think what
the Baker-Bird, uh, Distillery illustrates is that it wasn't just Scotch-Irish
that, you know, contributed to the distilling in the state. It was
also Germans, French, and, uh, other Europeans in particular, that had a history
00:27:00of that. So, I don't think--[audio cuts out]--his 1805 recipe that we have is
whiskey, white whiskey, or moonshine, but by 18--[audio cuts out]--barrels. So,
again, that's before we called bourbon--bourbon. Uh, he made about seven barrels
a year is what the records indicate. And, uh, the techniques have certainly
changed a great deal. The stills have changed remarkably during that period of
time. But, uh, I think, again, there are a lot of different nationalities or
types of people that contributed to distilling. And, uh, the reason that it's
located in Augusta, I think our Mr. Baker settle there was because, uh, it was
just the Western movement. It was on the river. He was, by then, a little bit
older. Uh, he would have been in his, uh, mid-fifties or--or later fifties,
so that it would have been just eas--[audio cuts out]--from
00:28:00Pittsburgh area, and relocate instead of going more inland. Uh, and again, in
this county, we ha--Bracken County is the county that Augusta, Kentucky is
located in, and it has a lot of German heritage. Now, what puts Augusta on the
map today is--I'm sorry to say, is not the Baker-Bird Winery or Distillery,
hopefully someday. But, uh, Augusta is a charming little village of about
fifteen hundred people. Uh, it is--it dates back to the late 1700s. Uh, Mr. John
Baker was one of the first, um--bought one of the first lots of the city, and in
1797. Uh, but it has had a ferry, uh, at that particular place running before
1797, and is still running today. Obviously, not the same boat, but
00:29:00it's one of the longest continuously running ferries in America. And we use it,
you know, today, cars and trucks and--so, we--we even use it as transportation
today across the river. Uh, so, the ferry, no doubt, had some impact. Augusta
had a history of, uh, very staunch abolitionists. We had a, uh, Methodist
college here, and a lot of the abolitionists that were so, um--um--very strong
abolitionists were kind of run out of the seminaries in Cincinnati, so they came
to the seminary or the college here in Augusta. And, uh, so, that contributed a
lot to the history of the Underground Railroad history, which the distillery or
winery, to our knowledge, was not involved in that, uh, but was important. Uh,
we did--Augusta did have a Civil War battle, which is unusual in
Kentucky. Kentucky stayed as a neutral state--[audio cuts out]--And, um, also,
00:30:00more recent history is that Rosemary Clooney lived here, and George Clooney, her
nephew, uh, grew up here in Augusta. And, uh, George's parents still live here
actually. Uh, so, besides that, Augusta has been known as--or--or considered
the, uh, tenth or eleventh most historic place in the state of Kentucky. So,
that, uh, it's because of the history behind it, and it's also been rated by USA
Today, uh, newspaper as one of the--as the most picturesque city in--or town in
the state of Kentucky. It's on the Ohio River and it's very, very pretty.
MONK: Is it on the Bourbon Trail?
BIRD: Uh, no. The Bourbon Trail, actually, is in more the central part of the
00:31:00state, in Bardstown and Lawrenceburg area, uh, and in that part of the state,
Frankfort, in that part of the state, uh, which is more central. So, we're up on
the Ohio River. However, the Kentucky Distillers Association has branched out
and we do have a bourbon trail that is called the B-Line that is, uh, a series
of several distilleries here, uh, in Northern Kentucky. So, it's the b, like the
leather--letter b dash line, and the, uh, the winery is actually on the, uh,
B-Line as a complimentary service because, uh, I was one of the first to ever
submit a label to the federal government for bourbon barrel-aged
wine. So, that we do have, uh, again, a bourbon trail that includes the Old
00:32:00Pogue, which is fifteen miles on the Ohio River in Maysville that dates back to
about, uh, 1872, I think, all the way up to the New Riff and a couple of more
modern distilleries closer to Cincinnati. So, uh, so, we do have the--we do have
a bourbon trail but it's not, we'll say, the big bourbon trail that's in the
central part of the state.
MONK: So, so getting to know some of the Baker relatives living, do you know any
of the connections that Mr. Baker might have had, um, with people in the
industry back in his time?
BIRD: Yes. Uh, records from 1800s--I'm sorry, 1700s, uh, show that
Mr. Baker would have been a competitor to the Beam Brothers that started Jim
00:33:00Beam here in the state. Uh, obviously, Jim Beam who was, uh--carried on the
tradition on in the family, was much more successful than the Baker family in
continuing to distill, uh, because that's such a huge distillery today. Uh, but,
uh, the--in terms of distilling, again, it was usually white whiskey or
moonshine. Almost, uh--well, many, many people made, uh, whiskey. If you stop
and think about it, it wasn't until the Civil War that--or about that period of
time, that we had many drugs that were available. So, imagine in the late 1700s
that Kentucky was a very rural state--we're still a rural state, but
a very rural state--and, uh, it was a very hard life. You had to clear forest.
00:34:00Uh, you had to clear boreal forest, which trees was not uncommon to be, uh, you
know, many feet wide in terms of the trees to clear. Uh, it was an enormous
task. Life was hard on the frontier. And, uh, whiskey was one of the few, uh,
so-called drugs that would be available and--and regularly available because so
many people made it. Now, that doesn't mean it was very good whiskey. It was
probably pretty poor quality, uh, and there was probably a very large range of
skill as distillers. But everyone--well, not everyone, but many farmers made
whiskey because, uh, if they had a surplus of corn, they could, uh, convert that
corn into moonshine and it was more profitable product for them than
selling corn by the bushel and it was more portable. So that you could--for the
00:35:00price, you could--[audio cuts out]--a lot more whiskey than you could, uh,
they--than corn. So, a lot of farmers made it. And again, uh, on the early
frontier, it--it was--it was, kind of, a necessity. I mean, people had
arthritis. They had accidents. We, uh, didn't have drugs like chloroform or
things like that for surgery. So, um, it was a very common, kind of--it was your
medicine chest go-to in general. Hot toddies, I mean even as a child growing up,
uh, if we were sick with a cold or something we could have, uh, a little hot
toddy, which is hot tea, lemon, uh, and, uh, honey with just a little bit of
whiskey, uh, or bourbon added to it. So--so, it was just a medicinal
type of product, um, as well as, obviously, it was drunk as an alcohol type of,
00:36:00uh, product too.
MONK: So, now that I've learned a little bit of the family history, um, do
they--do you still keep in touch to this day with relatives? Do they come and
BIRD: Yes. We've had family reunions at the winery. It turns out that, um, Mr.
Baker, uh--John Baker that moved there in 1797, it turned out that he had
several children, uh, the--uh, and he brought them with him when he came to
Augusta. Um, Abraham Baker Senior, uh, we have a copy of his marriage bond from
1799 and he married a local girl, Polly Bowman, and they had several
children. And their oldest son was named after the grandfather, John Baker, but
00:37:00--[audio cuts out]--died. Their next son was Abraham Baker Junior, and he's the
one that built the winery. And, uh, so, Polly and Abraham Baker Senior had, uh,
I think, five or six children. I think a couple of them died. And then, um--uh,
they weren't just a very big family. So, it turns out that the Clor family, who,
uh, A--who John Baker married into in Virginia, the Clor family has kept records
and have had a few people that--in that family that are big genealogists. And
the Clor family is actually the family--a part of the family that has stayed in
touch the most and helped me most with the records. But having said that,
I've had a few of, uh, the, like, great-great-great-great, uh, you
00:38:00know, grandchildren, uh, come to visit, uh, the winery--the descendants, uh, of
Abraham--of actually, John Baker. Abraham Baker Junior that built the winery in
1850s, he didn't marry until 1852. So, he was--he and his--he married a local
girl, Jane Sharp, and Jane and him never had children, but they raised three of
her sister's children. And so, they do come back also to visit occasionally. But
the Baker family really wasn't very big. And it's actually been the in-laws of
Loves and the Clors who have been most active in the genealogy of the family.
MONK: And are some--and are some of them still in Augusta or--[audio cuts
out]--little bit elsewhere?
BIRD: No, none of them live in Augusta. One--one of the Clor types of
family, a couple of them live in, uh, Louisville. One lives in, uh, Indiana. And
00:39:00I think one very, very distant somehow-relative lives in Georgetown, Kentucky.
So that's about all the relatives I know. Occasionally, I'll get a call from,
like, Utah or Seattle or someone saying, "Oh, I think I'm related." Or I had an
email from, um, from someone in Maine the other day that was thinking they might
be related. But--but it really wasn't a very big family. That was actually--
MONK: Well--[audio cuts out]--now in the middle to help connect some of these,
like, histories together with people as well, and they're contacting you to, you
know, "Hey, I think I'm in the family." That's pretty cool that you're now in
that loop as well.
BIRD: Yes. And they've been very helpful. I mean, people bring back--and even
the locals, even though there's no one locally that's been associated
with, uh, any family, uh, the locals have been very nice to br--[audio cuts
00:40:00out]--uh, that's related to the--more specifically to the winery. But, uh--and
the courthouse, since the--our courthouse was burned--Bracken County's
Courthouse was burned during the Civil War, but, uh, there were--the documents
were taken out of the courthouse because we--because they knew that the r-- uh,
th--uh, Rebels were on their way marching from Lexington to--to--to hit
Brooksville and Augusta. And so, they took the records out. So, we're lucky in
this county that we have records dating back to the 1700s, uh, all the
indentures and the contracts, as well as birth certificates, which came much
later, but marriage license and marriage bonds and things like that. We're very
lucky, so that's been very helpful. We--uh, Bracken County has a huge
historic--or, very strong historic society that has retained those records and
00:41:00taken good care of them. So, we're lucky in that regard.
MONK: That's nice. And I know that you are on the National Registry of Historic
Places. What other achievements and awards has the winery received?
BIRD: Uh, the winery has received many. Uh, the wines have received, uh--the
wines that we have at the winery, uh, are all made from Kentucky-grown grapes
except one. And so, the wines have done very well in international competitions.
Um, I have probably about a hundred and fifty different medals from
competitions, uh, some of them are internationals. And some the international
ones I've had double golds or best red in the class. So that, uh, for six years
now, uh, two or three of my wines have taken silver medals
consistently every year in the San Francisco Chronicle's Wine Competition, which
00:42:00is the lar--[audio cuts out]--in the world and it's usually between seven
thousand to eleven thousand wines each year, uh, maybe judges from thirty-five
different countries. So, the wines have done well. And the bourbons that we have
launched and the brandy has been taking gold medals in international
competitions too, uh, very competitive international competitions. Uh, so, uh,
the products that we have are very, uh--have been acknowledged, uh, with
international--internationally. Uh, the winery itself has garnered, uh, The Best
Winery in Kentucky, uh, according to, uh, the New York International Wine
Competition for a few years. Uh, we have been, um--USA Today has noted us as one
of the top ten wineries in America for the best tours. Uh, we have
been cited by Wine Enthusiast as one of the nine--[audio cuts out]--that is
00:43:00keeping wine history alive. And, uh, we have received, uh, the Ida Wilder, uh,
Historic--Heritage, uh, Award from the Heritage Council in Kentucky too. Uh, we
are also--the winery was just placed this last year on, uh, the Lewis and Clark
Trail, uh, the Ohio River Valley Trail. So, we've had many accolades, uh, mostly
for historic preservation of the winery more specifically, but, uh, the
distillery is relatively new and it's, kind of, just an extension of history
with the winery.
MONK: So, what has been your most honorable mention thus far?
BIRD: Uh, I think surviving and staying in business eleven years.
--(laughs)--Business is tricky.--(laugher)--And I have been very fortunate
to--to have survived the pandemic. And we also made hand sanitizer during the
00:44:00pandemic, uh, and sell it. But, uh, I think business is very difficult,
especially women typically, uh, are more conservative, and so we are more
cautious and--and won't take as much risk usually. And that is a determinant in
success of companies. Women, uh, typically have only 5 percent of the venture
capitalist that's available in--in the United States. So, we--we usually don't
get any support from--from, uh, funding. Uh, there's really no funding for, uh,
historic preservation, so that women in particular, uh, struggle, uh, usually in
companies. Today, I was just reading some of these statistics recently, but, uh,
today 40 percent of all small businesses in the United States are
owned by women. We contribute about $1.8 trillion to the, uh--uh, GDP of the
00:45:00United States. Uh, we still have a long way to go. We're only about 24 percent,
uh, representatives in the House of Representatives and--and only 23 percent
represented in the Senate of the United States. Uh, so, that, uh, we have a long
way to go. And, uh, that's why I'm really delighted to participate in the study,
so hopefully over the years you can look back and say, "Wow, it was a little bit
tougher then," so, uh--then it is hopefully in the future to have a comp--uh,
uh, uh--to have a company. And the spirits industry, there's not very many, uh,
distilleries that are owned, uh, by--completely owned by women, uh, in this
state or anywhere. There are a few. Uh, and so, I'm just really glad
that we're able to record some information. So, uh, I've been very fortunate to
00:46:00have many accolades, uh, f--for--[audio cuts out]--uh, Kentucky Colonel, uh, and
things like that. But again, I think just surviving and staying in business, uh,
is probably my best achievement, an--and restoring the building. The, uh, winery
in particular would have been destroyed. None of this history would have ever
probably come out, so that, um, today we have five or six thousand visitors,
and--and, uh, most--the majority of visitors have never been to Augusta before.
And research shows that all over the u--all over the world that for every dollar
spent in a winery, four dollars is spent in the community for gas, for lodging,
for food. So, uh, having that many visitors then, uh, has a multiplier effect
and--and helps the local community. I'm--oddly enough, although I
employ people part-time, I probably have, uh--I, uh, probably rank in the top
00:47:00ten, uh probably maybe--[audio cuts out]--in this county in terms of the number
of people that we hire. And I do hire teenagers, uh, students that are sixteen
years old, uh, to help at the winery, so that gives some opportunities that's,
uh, not many jobs in this county for that type of--for--for teenagers. So, some
of this--[audio cuts out]--economic development of the area.
MONK: And you mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic. So, how was that or how has this
past year been for you?
BIRD: Well, this time last year--we're--we're in April--we were, uh, selling
hand sanitizer. And, uh, the state passed--Kentucky passed, uh, a very
forward-thinking regulation at that time that you could sell by the curbside,
uh, distilleries and wineries and cocktails to go. So, uh, we
were--we were doing that. And, uh, that helped us through--[audio cuts out]--lay
00:48:00off any of my employees. Again, they're all part-time. Uh, what we did, we built
some extra decks, and, uh, we had a lot of painting, uh, and a lot of cleaning
that we did, some landscaping, preparing to reopen again an--and have more
people outside, uh, although I have very big, airy, kind of, uh, tasting rooms.
Uh, so, that worked out very well and we were able to open up again in mid-June.
So, from about mid-March to mid-June, the distilleries and wineries were closed
and then we could open up to 25 percent capacity. And so, uh, we've been very
fortunate because we haven't had much competition. There's no theaters, there's
no ballet, or--or not many entertainment venues. So we've had,
actually, uh, a lot of guests that have come just to, kind of, have--[audio cuts
00:49:00out]--and visit Augusta, maybe--maybe have a picnic or--or do lunch with the
eateries in Augusta. So, that we've been very fortunate during the pandemic, and
I didn't have to lay anybody off. So--so, uh, I--uh, but, uh, I'll be glad when
it's behind us that's for sure.--(laughs)--
MONK: Definitely. So, could you, um, explain a little bit more about the work
environment at Baker and Bird?
BIRD: Yes. We have over the years developed specific positions. Uh, having had
these positions, though, the rule of thumb is flexibility. And that we feel at
the winery and distillery, that 50 percent of what we sell is just hospitality,
uh, that people just want to get out and they want a new adventure, something
different. And, uh, so, it's what we would call Southern hospitality,
and just being gracious to--[audio cuts out]--. Um, another 25 percent of what
00:50:00we sell is actually, uh, history because was ma--that is what makes our winery
and distillery unique is the history and the documentation that we have, uh, for
that story. And then finally our products are only 25 percent, the bourbon and
the wine, or the bourbon barrel-aged wine or the brandy. So, that, uh, we have
developed, uh, positions around hospitality, so we have, uh, younger, uh, high
school students that are greeters that will check people in. And especially with
COVID, we need to get your contact information, uh, and we need to make sure you
have your gloves and your mask. Uh, then, uh, we have people who give
tours, and again sometimes they're high school students, uh, that we have three
00:51:00different tours and we're working on a fourth one. So, we have a tour called "A
Guided Visit," that shows you how they made wine in the 1850s. Then, we have
just a historic tour about the family and the documents we have collected about
the winery and the distillery. And then we have a bourbon tour that focuses on
the oak trees and the agricultural part of, as well as the history of the
distillery. And now, we're working on a culinary, uh, tour that we can pair
different types of foods with bourbon and with wine. Uh, so, we have people who
do that. And then we have, uh, people who go through the STAR training that
actually serve at the bar. And, uh, we have a distiller. I tend to make the
wine, uh, or have other people help me with making the wine. So, uh,
we have a variety of different people that work at the winery, but the people
00:52:00who serve the wine or the baristas, they can all do tours too and help. So, we
just all--it's a small business so it's flexibility what you do there.
MONK: So, how many bottles or--and or barrels would you say you produce annually
and what are some of your brands?
BIRD: Uh, yes. Uh, we meet the state regulations in that we produce six barrels
of bourbon a year or distilled products a year. Uh, one of those, we produce
about a barrel of brandy a year now, uh, so, and the rest is bourbon. Then, we
have, um, about four hundred cases of wine that we produce a year. And we
produce maybe, like, uh--uh, fifty--a hundred cases of brandy a year.
So, we're what you would consider a boutique. So, we're at the opposite end of
the continuum as, you know, the very large distilleries, uh, like Jim Beam and
00:53:00Woodford Reserve. In fact, we're probably the smallest or about the smallest,
uh, distillery in the state in terms of capacity. In terms of wine, uh, again,
we do produce, uh, at least two hundred and sixty gallons of wine a year.
MONK: So, how do you fill your time when you wait for barrels to age?
BIRD: Uh, we--just like many distilleries, we started out, uh, with, uh, you
know, with only a two-year bourbon and then we're aging from there. But since I
didn't get a license until 2018 the very last of the year, then, uh, that's
given us a couple years to start producing and--and aging. So,
will--we will have a four-year, uh, old bourbon, an--and older as time goes by.
00:54:00With wine, uh, we--we do age wine for about eighteen months usually, but a lot
of our wine is--is, uh, wine made in stainless steel tanks so that, you--it
takes a cycle about six months, eight months, nine months.
MONK: So, how have you seen the industry change since you have been in it?
BIRD: Oh, the industry has changed so much. Uh, the wine industry and the
bourbon industry has changed so much. Uh, we'll focus on bourbon. Um, bourbon,
even when I, uh--since I'm not originally from this state, I didn't move here
until about twelve years ago--eleven, twelve years ago. And I would just go to
the bourbon tours because, again, I was making wine and in--in the hospitality
industry and, uh, you know, they had some tours. The tours were nice,
but they have really ratcheted up to--to world-class. Uh, so, just the
00:55:00hospitality component of--of the distilleries have change--changed remarkably.
Now, I think this is the thirtieth year of the, uh, bourbon, uh--of the Bourbon
Festival, so it's been going on for a while. But, uh, the hospitality component
has changed significantly. The, uh, awareness of bourbon has changed
significantly because, again, ten years ago, uh, people were just beginning to,
kind of, get into the brown spirits. Uh, the bourbon and the brown spirits went
through a really dark ages, let's say, in the 1970s--eighties, and it wasn't
until 1990s that a few craft distilleries and the bigger [background ding]
distilleries started picking up. Um, so, that, uh, much, much more
awareness. I mean, uh, younger people, your age, uh, you know --[audio cuts
00:56:00out]--to being twenty-one and can drink are much more knowledgeable about
bourbon. My generation, which were the Baby Boomers, were much more familiar
with wine, uh, so that--that was our generation was wine. I think your
generation, the Millennials, are more the brown spirits, like bourbon or scotch.
And bourbon being the only American spirit has a lot of, uh, I think, internal
appeal to people. Um, so, uh, the awareness of bourbon has increased
significantly. And the profiles of bourbon has changed radically for a few
different reasons. One reason is that, uh, when Mr. Baker was making bourbon, or
making whiskey, he had to do it all by taste and just from knowledge.
And now, we have gauges, uh, that tell us the exact temperature that--[audio
00:57:00cuts out]--off the still. Uh, he didn't have that back then. We have, you
know--we measure specific gravity. We have all flame photography. We have all,
uh, different things that you can do, uh--flame chromatography. All the
different things that you can do to help us better classify bourbons. Uh, we are
now--actually, uh, our distillery's participating in a study that the University
of Kentucky is doing in Lexington on mapping the white oak genome. So, we're
trying to better understand agricultural products. So, with the interest of
bourbon, uh, the expansion of, well, let's offer heavier wheated bourbons or
heavier, uh, you know, rye bourbons. Or now,[background ding] we're trying
to--some people are experimenting with aging bourbons for, you know--instead of
just fifteen years maybe twenty or thirty years because you can age
00:58:00Scotch thirty years. You can Brandy actually for fifty years. So, uh, we're
experimenting with that. So, there's a lot more experimentation. And the
agricultural component has remarkably changed because, uh, back before the 60s,
uh--1960s farmers used, uh, corn that was non-GMO. Uh, today, most of our--a lot
of the corn is genetically modified, uh, for better production, for less weeds,
et cetera, like that. So, that, uh, those flavor profiles are a little bit
different. So, we're thinking that probably, uh, the bourbons from the fifties,
forties, whatever, are going to have a different profile. Now, that--that's not
to say some farms--some distilleries don't still use non-GMO. They do,
but far fewer. Uh, you know, most craft distillers, like myself, uh,
use whatever source is--is available. And a lot of times, that is GMO types
00:59:00of--of corn. Also, we're having a much better understanding from scientific
analysis of the--of the oak and the white oak and, uh, the profiles or what are
the, uh, you know--oak from Missouri, oak from Kentucky, oak from Minnesota,
Texas, how that affects profiles. Uh, so, it's changed remarkably. One in terms
of hospitality. Two is in terms of awareness and an increase in--in, um, people
drinking, uh, bourbon. Uh, three is in terms of just the technology that we have
today. And four is the agricultural technology that has really affected the
industry. Even again, just in the last decade you can see remarkable changes.
MONK: So, what was it like for you to be a woman in the spirits and alcohol
01:00:00tourism industry back in the 2000s to now?
BIRD: Well, the wine industry is just now beginning to say, "Oh, well, we like
women,"--(laughs)--and--and setting up scholarships and things like that for
women to go into the industry. Typically, there's only about--I think in the
United States about 5 percent of--of wine makers that are women. And with
bourbon--and with craft distilleries this state has been, uh--specifically with
bourbon, has been very pro, uh--we have, I think, three or four distilleries,
uh, that are, at least I know of one other one besides myself that is
woman-owned. Uh, I'm--I'm a certified, uh, uh, woman-owned business enterprise.
So, I'm a sole owner. And, uh, I was used to having just three brothers and no
sisters, so I was used to that from a psychological point of view,
from a child being the minority. And then, the investment--[audio cuts
01:01:00out]--operated for thirty years as a career is--is--is still male-dominated,
there's only about 15 percent women. And so, to me, this is just like, Well,
it's just like anything else you do. Uh, so, there's no doubt when you're in a
room with all distillers and you're one of the few women in the room, you know,
you might notice it. But again, it's, uh--what I like about Kentucky and the
bourbon industry much more so than the wine industry is that it's a very
tight-knit group, so that we all help each other. Gender is--is not such an
issue. I'm sure as a woman I won't have the capital to be as big as some of the
distilleries. But, uh, I definitely, certainly, uh, do get a lot of support from
the Kentucky Distillers Association and from the industry in general.
And again, in our industry--[audio cuts out]--that, you know, you can know some
01:02:00of--world famous distillers and you can be sitting next to them in a meeting.
So, it's really a great position to be in. Any woman that would like to pursue a
career in--in distilling, I highly recommend it. Uh, it's--if you want that, or
would enjoy that, go for it. You're going to have challenges, but you're going
to have challenges in any career that you choose. Uh, and I do think women have
an advantage in hospitality because of just a gender bias, uh, toward that.
We're raised more, I think, to--to be listeners. And I think in terms of
actually distilling process, uh, research has shown that women have as good if
not better palates than men. So, that I think there is also, uh, many different
facets that women can actually succeed in. And if you look at some of
01:03:00the larger distillers--distilleries like Woodford, uh, they have, uh, you
know--the, uh, associate, uh, distiller is--is a woman. And several of the
larger distilleries have women that participate in all levels of the company.
MONK: So, do you see, maybe, a future of it being--[audio cuts out]--of
fifty-fifty between men and women owners? Or--
BIRD: I kind of doubt that because, uh, again, as the statistics that I just
quoted earlier, 40 percent of small businesses are women. But women typically,
uh--in 1980 there was no, uh, woman, uh, that was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company
in the United States, today 10 percent. So, we're talking about, you
know, thirty, forty years later. So, just due to--[audio cuts out]--capital and
01:04:00that women have access to, due to, uh, the fact that we're not as big of risk
takers, uh, usually, then I think it will be a long time before we see 50
percent of distilleries owned by women. Now, uh, today, 50 percent of law
students and 50 percent of medical students graduating are women. But a very
small minority, are, again, at leadership positions in those industries. So, I
think we'll see more women coming into the industries and gradually, decades,
hopefully. Now having said that, uh, research shows that in the 1600s, uh, that
the majority of--of the, uh, brewers were women, uh, so that was more
of a home type of, uh, cottage product. And so, I think if--[audio cuts
01:05:00out]--maybe some distinctive advantages. But, uh, just due to some other
factors, uh, and societal factors, I don't see that we'll be fifty-fifty women
distillers or own distilleries or even be distillers, uh, in--within many, many
decades. I hope I'm wrong.
MONK: So, you kind of answered this question, --[audio cuts out]--audience of
bourbon to and from women, from a market perspective?
BIRD: Uh, yes. The women I have found that are interested in bourbon are very
much interested, where guys it's like, uh--I was talking to my, uh--uh,
physician recently, uh, and he said--I said, "Well, do you like bourbon?" He
goes, "Well, I drink it on a social level. It's like if I'm with
everybody and they're drinking bourbon, sure I'll drink bourbon." But the women
01:06:00who like bourbon--again, I think this is due to the fact that women typically
have better palates, uh, that--or can have better palates then, uh--or as good
of palates, anyway, then, uh, I think the women bourbon--being a member of the
Bourbon Women's Association, those women like bourbon. So--so, there are--there
is that part of the population. From a standpoint of marketing, uh, I certainly
welcome all those women and that's why I'm a member of the Bourbon Women's
Association. Uh, but I would not be able to survive just serving, uh, bourbon to
women, so to speak. Now, I can have a preference for them, but, uh, but, you
know, only about forty--most bourbon sales, [phone rings in background] 60
percent is men and, uh, who buy bourbon, the consumer, and 40 percent
are women. A lot of times, women were buying it for--[audio cuts out]--. So,
01:07:00from a marketing standpoint, I'm going to market broadly to everybody, and I
certainly appreciate my sisters that are interested in bourbon, though.
MONK: So, when did--[audio cuts out]--leadership roles within the industry and
has that been important?
BIRD: Sure. It's always important, those first, uh, first leaders to be role
models for us to make us believe it's true. Again, uh, I'm--being a Baby Boomer,
I've seen a lot of things happen in gender in the workplace. Uh, I've actually
done research work on--and published it on a, um, academic level on gender in
the workplace, or gender spillover is what I'd say in the workplace.
But definitely. And today, we have many women in the industry, uh, some of them
01:08:00are not so--[audio cuts out]--as being maybe the head distiller, or--or the,
uh--but we definitely have some very talented women in the industry. And, uh,
so, that's great to see. And, uh, it's great to try to support each other for
that. I'm thinking for example, Hannah Lowman that's at New Riff, is, uh,
operations manager there. [background ding] Uh, I'm thinking about Woodford
Reserve. Uh, so, several different--several different--many different
distilleries have women that are becoming in leadership positions.
MONK: So, being, um, a part of the women in bourbon, so you've made a lot of
connections through that. But before that, um, what other connections, like--how
were you able to get to know other women in the industry?
BIRD: Uh, well, in the wine industry, it's been happening for about four years.
01:09:00--[audio cuts out]--awareness of it, and there are actually national
conferences. Uh, and the bourbon industry, it's, uh, you know, just beginning
to, kind of, get there. And again, I think it's due to, um--I want to give
credit to the Kentucky Distillers Association and their leadership. And, um, it
was--for example, I don't think there was any qualm at all that I was a
woman-owned distillery and we'd be considered as a membership there. Uh, so, um,
I think we're just now beginning to realize that it is a changing--and in the
past, bourbon was based very heavily on tradition because we didn't have that
equipment and we didn't have the technology. So--so, if you had a master
distiller, then it sometimes got even passed down to the next generation
as a master distiller because it was, you know, as a--yeast was a
family, uh--the yeast we use was--[audio cuts out]--. So, uh, so, that it was
01:10:00based on tradition. But now that we have, you know, a lot of technology, women
can learn that technology just as easy as men can. And so, uh--um, I think that
will make a big difference too. It's becoming a less traditional type of, uh, industry.
MONK: So, how do you like to incorporate a diverse, um, community around your,
uh, establishment at Baker-Bird?
BIRD: Well, I believe in diversity in the workplace, uh, tremendously. It's very
important. So, I hire--I don't care if you're a Martian. If you have the skill
level or the potential, I'll hire you. Uh, and so, uh, we have, uh, you know--I
tend to have more women because it is a hospitality industry--[audio
01:11:00cuts out]--to that. But I'm proactive in hiring, uh, uh, men, too. So, whoever I
can get to fill the spots, is, uh--your gender doesn't matter, your race doesn't
matter to me, your--your sexual bias doesn't matter to me. I don't care. If you
can do the job, then you're hired. So--so, I try to be proactive, but I am in a
very rural community. And, uh, so, my job, um--my employment pool is somewhat
limited. But no, diversity in workplace, whatever type of diversity, research
shows over and over again in corporations that diversity is--is a very, uh,
good, uh, harbinger of success of a company. So, you don't all think alike.
You see different points of view.
MONK: Exactly. So, --[audio cuts out]--bounce over again and, um, just ask you a
01:12:00more personal question here. What is your favorite wine?
BIRD: Um, I have a question asked a lot, actually. And it depends on the
situation--(clears throat)--and maybe the food or if you're not eating
food.--(clears throat)--I think my favorite wine is actually a sweeter wine.
It's a rosé that sitting on the back porch overlooking the Ohio River and
sitting in the rocking chair with a--a wine I have called Ruby Hawk Rosé with
strawberry shortcake and my best friend--it's not going to get better than that
on a beautiful, sunny day. Uh, but in the winter when it's cold and by the
fireside, uh, I like drinking, uh, my bourbon barrel-aged wine with maybe a
heavy stew, uh, and enjoying company there. In terms of distilling,
uh, the brandy. I really do like the brandy a lot that we make. I understand
01:13:00now--[audio cuts out]--it's made in warmer climate--colder climates
like--(clears throat)--pardon me--Northern France and Germany because it seems
to be much more warming than bourbon. And my favorite bourbon is Kentucky, uh,
Statehood, which is my flagship bourbon. Uh, it's a very smooth bourbon. It's a
touch of rye in it. And again, it's based on Mr. John Baker's recipe from 1808
and, uh, is, I think, very nice, uh, sipping bourbon.
MONK: So, is it situational for you to decide if you're more of a wine drinker
or a bourbon drinker? Which is your preference?
BIRD: Uh, well, I probably gravitate to bourbon more in the winter,
personally,--(clears throat)--and more wine in the summer. But I'm kind of
unique. Like I said, most people have a preference for it, well, I'm
a bourbon person. But it's just due to my background that I had the wine. And
01:14:00again, my generation was probably a little bit more--our--our alcoholic drink of
choice was usually wine. So, it just has to do with my background. Uh, but I
think most people would say, most women that are in this industry say, "Oh, no.
Bourbon definitely." And bourbon's a much more complex product to create too, so
I appreciate it much more from that point of view.
MONK: Do you plan to incorporate more bourbon at the winery at any point?
BIRD: Yes, uh, you know, again, a new distillery, it's not uncommon that you
grow over time with products. And hopefully the markets will grow that--that my
products are distributed in, and so yes. Um,--(clears throat)--since Mr. Baker
was a patriot, he fought in the American Revolution, we name our bourbons, uh,
and products after, uh, sort of, more of a patriotic view. So the
first, our whiskey that comes right off the still is called American Revolution.
01:15:00--[audio cuts out]--you're not going to age anything. You're going to just pull
it off the still and drink it as fast as you can probably. Uh, our first bourbon
was a Kentucky Statehood. And we will have a bourbon for the Battle of Augustus,
since the little town I mentioned did survive a, uh--and actually, the winery
structure was involved in that battle. Uh, so, we'll have a, uh, bourbon for
that. Uh, and then, I would like to make a bourbon called Prohibition and--and a
bourbon called Freedom. So, we'll see what kind of profiles we come up with. So,
definitely we will be expanding our line of bourbon.
MONK: Awesome. So, what makes you different than Woodford Reserve or Four Roses?
BIRD: Uh, I think the historic, uh, uh, component is, you know--our recipes are
based going back over two hundred years. Woodford Reserve has a rich
01:16:00history--um, Jim Beam, all of us have, I think, a rich history. It's just each
one of us, how that history came to play out. And, uh, obviously, the bigger
distilleries have a lot more, uh, have been through Prohibition, they've seen a
lot more, and survived during those periods of time. So, you know, I'm just a
very nascent company, just very small, very new, more entrepreneurial. And so,
uh, but I think the history, uh, that we have is unique. Uh, there's not many
whiskey, uh, uh, places that we can--can pinpoint where it was actually made,
and we can with this--with my products because we have the deeds from 17--[audio
cuts out]--of that property. So, a lot of the distillers would've been along the
riverbanks of the Ohio. And due to, um, civil engineering those--the
01:17:00river has increased because, uh, it has risen because of dams, so those original
sites are probably gone. Uh, so, it's probably just a unique type of history.
And bourbon really didn't take off until the Civil War. It was a Civil War
and--and the war itself and bourbon being used as a--medicinally as well as,
uh--I think, uh, uh, medicinally in terms of depression, probably, being in a
civil war. Uh, that--and we had the railroads to get it out of Kentucky. And
then, bourbon played a huge role in Prohibition and bootlegging. Uh, and
Kentucky was huge in that--played a huge role because we had such quality, um,
uh, spirits coming out of here. So, uh, you know, bourbon has a really very
recent history compared to scotch or cognac, so I think we have a lot
of growth to do along the way. And--and just like any new or--[audio cuts
01:18:00out]--there's going to be a lot of different players that come in that offer,
again, new techniques, new types of profiles along the way.
MONK: So, since you are a master distiller yourself, what is your favorite
winery and distillery that you've been to and which is your favorite visit, or favorites?
BIRD: --(clears throat)--Well, I like to take a whole day and visit lots of them
because, uh--and wine as well as bourbon because we're all different. So, uh, I
like to take friends that to-- Some of my favorite ones would be the Old Pogue,
Castle & Key, Woodford, uh, Wild Turkey. I really don't have exactly a favorite
distillery. And the same would probably be true for wineries. Uh, on
the occasions I get to go to upstate New York to the wine country, or Long
Island--[audio cuts out]--uh, Napa, Sonoma. So usually, I like to see as many,
01:19:00uh, and taste as many different experiences I can once I'm in a specific region.
So--so, I really don't have a favorite. I guess my favorite is to see as many as
MONK: I'll add them all to the bucket list.--(laughs)--
MONK: So, what wine do you recommend as someone who might be new to tasting?
BIRD: Uh, probably--we're a nation of Coca-Cola drinkers and, uh, so, we grew up
on sweet drink--sweet drinking products. And, uh, so, I usually, uh, it's not my
recommendation per se, but it's just natural that you normally start gravitating
to the sweet wines. Uh,--(clears throat)--then--then, uh, I see it
01:20:00all the time in my staff you, kind of--with wine, you gravitate to the dryer
wines. Now bourbon, I think, is more of a acquired taste. And I think, again,
uh, younger generations like the Millennials versus my generation are more
experimental, and they acquire a taste for spirits, uh, a lot faster than my
generation did. So, that, uh, with bourbon and even with wine, I think the
number one, uh--or--or a couple of rules of thumbs I like to live by is that
one, try everything. You know, even if it sounds kind of funky, try it, uh,
because, you know, you're training your palate to know what is good bourbon,
what is not so good, or good wine or bad wine because there is bad wine out
there and bad bourbon out there. But you're training your palate. And
two, my second rule of thumb besides explore everything, is two, drink what you
01:21:00like. Uh, and again, I think some of the spirits as well as wine can be very
seasonal. So, drink whatever appeals to you at that time. And third, be
responsible when you're drinking. Again, having worked in hospital emergency
rooms, I've seen some really bad car accidents from people that were
intoxicated. So, I do want to say maybe--not maybe, but for sure is drink responsibly.
MONK: Always. Have you made any trips ever to the Talon Winery here in Lexington?
BIRD: Uh, y--I'm sorry, can you repeat that, Maya? I'm sorry, I didn't catch
that. Which distillery?
MONK: Yeah. The Talon Winery.
BIRD: Oh, yes. Yes, yes, uh, yes. I have. We'er--we have a professional
connection with them. Yes, yes. That's a big one--[audio cuts
out]--in Lexington, yes.
MONK: Yes. I've been--[audio cuts out]--Do you hold celebrations like that at Baker-Bird?
BIRD: Yes, --[audio cuts out]--weddings. We have a cellar that, again, the
oldest, largest wine cellar that makes for a very unique venue. Uh, so, yes,
Talon is a very beautiful, uh, vineyard and winery. And Will Mullett, the
winemaker there, is really nice. And Jill, the hospitality, and, uh, John that
worked there, yes. And Harriet, who started it, yeah it is a--it's a--it's a--a
world-class winery. And--[audio cuts out]--
MONK: I had a feeling--I had a feeling you might have a connection there.
BIRD: Yeah, yeah. It's a very good--it's a very--and it's relatively old here in
Kentucky too, very well established.
MONK: So, what advice would you give to students trying to enter the industry?
BIRD: Uh, go out and be proactive. Uh, you know, the old Ni--or the
Nike, uh, tagline, "Do it." You know, uh, just, if you're interested--[audio
01:23:00cuts out]--call up a distillery and just say, "I'm a intern--I'm a college
intern and I'd like to--to find out who the HR person is." And call the HR,
email HR, and, you know, expect rejection. But I think now, University of
Kentucky has a very good internship program or has implemented, uh, you know, a
program for it--for producing future distillers and things like that. So, uh,
so, so, just if you're interested in it, pursue it. Uh, like, I took those
college classes in viticulture for years before I ever actually opened it. And,
uh, you know, see if you like it. You might not like it. Like my first career, I
really loved it, but I moved on to something different.
MONK: So where do--[audio cuts out]--industry in about five, ten years?
BIRD: That has a lot to do with the tariffs. Um, you know, Kentucky was on
01:24:00the--[audio cuts out]--on the, uh, verge of trying to--to displace some of
scotch. Because if you're outside the United States or even in the United
States, uh, you know, you go to a bar and you think, Well, what am I going to
order? And you're not a--you're not a wine drinker, you're a spirits drinker,
you say, "Oh, give me a scotch." Scotch and water, or something. And so, our
goal was with, I think, Kentucky, was to try to--at least in Europe--to displace
a little bit of sales of gin and--and, uh, scotch. But then the tariffs hit and
that's really hurt our industry significantly. So, I'm hoping we get this tariff
thing under control. Uh, Japan is a huge, uh, uh, imbiber of, uh, bourbon. So,
it is possible to--to have a very strong presence. Uh, what I see
happening in the industry, I hope we get over the tariff hump and we can become
01:25:00more--more, uh, uh, well-known in the world. Although if you were to go to
Germany and you say, "I'm from Kentucky," they'll say, "Bourbon and horses." So,
we do have some of that, uh, brand awareness.--(clears throat)--What right now
is happening in the United Sates is, uh, bourbon is the only American spirit.
Um, so, that we have a lot of other states that are beginning to make bourbon.
And for example, Texas, uh, is coming on pretty strong there. But I think
Kentucky bourbon is unique in that, uh, you know, in theory, we make 95 percent
of the world's bourbon now in Kentucky. To put that in perspective as big as
California is, California only makes 15 percent of the world's wine. So, so,
think about if California was 95 percent of the wor--world's wine.
So, bourbon we have a very dominance in in Kentucky. But places like Texas, uh,
01:26:00which is coming on strong, the bourbons will be different because, again, uh,
even if you use the same barrels, you use the same formula, the climate is
different in Texas. And having grown up there, it's a lot more humid, especially
in the southern part. We don't have the--the, uh, the extreme cold or the
extreme heat you get like you do in Kentucky. So, that their bourbons are a
little bit different in their profiles. So, I hope that we maintain in Kentucky,
being here, a--a distillery in Kentucky, that we maintain that Kentucky
dominance with bourbon, at least.--(clears throat)--
MONK: So, what are some of your--[audio cuts out]--and aspirations, um, that you
wish to become a reality with the next generation that will be entering the industry?
BIRD: I think that, again, we hope that diversity in the industry,
01:27:00uh, continues to expand, and, uh, that we become a responsible in terms of
drinking. And I think, uh, market demands will take care of the rest. There's a
demand there, there will be distillers that meet that demand. So, I hope that we
continue to grow the Kentucky bourbon brand awareness and that it will, uh,
continue to be a very strong, uh, industry in our state, uh, as well as, uh,
world awareness of it.
MONK: So, now that we're coming to the end here, I'd like to ask you, what is
something that you've learned now that you wish you knew when you had started
out in the industry?
BIRD: --(laughs)--Okay. If I knew what I was getting into, I would
have never bought a winery.--(laughs)--I would have never gone into the
distilling business. --[audio cuts out]--in many ways, but anyone that's going
01:28:00to start a distillery or even a winery I say, "You just have no idea." I think
it's the same analogy as raising children. Everyone tells you, "Well, when you
have your first child, the world's really going to change a lot. Your priorities
will change. Uh, and it's a life-changing experience." And the same is true for
any business owner. It's not just distillery or wineries. But I do see people
that say, "Oh, this looks really great. I can do this." It's like, well, you
know, that's why 95 percent of most companies never make it more than five years
is because they're just so under--, uh,--capitalized. So, uh, it's a great
industry. Hospitality is a great industry, although we've seen with COVID that,
uh, you know, economically it can fall off the table. But all industries are
challenging. And if you want to go into the business, great. I
encourage that. Um, --[audio cuts out]--I knew what I knew now, I would have
01:29:00just probably taken my cash flows and put it in the stock market. I'd be a lot
wealthier in some ways. In terms of experience, it has been a very wealthy
experience. I've learned a lot. It's been very interesting, sometimes stressful,
uh, sometimes a lot of fun. Uh, so, I'm proud at this point in time to be able
to say that I have a winery and a distillery. Uh, so, and I encourage everyone
to come out and visit all your wineries and distilleries, and, uh, again, have a
great time but drink responsibly.
MONK: Well, is there anything else that you would like to add to the official
BIRD: Well, I'd like to say, thank you, uh, Maya, for your time and your
preparation. I thought you did an excellent job having taken an oral history
class myself in college and graduate school. So, thank you. I
appreciate being invited, and I'm so glad that the University of Kentucky is
01:30:00doing these oral histories because they can be very rich in information and give
us a lot, uh, into the future. So, I really appreciate that, and, uh, I hope our
industry will continue to grow. And, uh, I wish you the best of luck in--in your
graduating, a senior this year, and your endeavors. And again, I just want to
thank you for being able to participate in this particular program.
MONK: Well, thank you so much Dinah. And it's been a pleasure to meet you and
get to know more about your life and your history and your successes with
Baker-Bird. I hope that one day I can come by for a tasting and get the whole
experience. So, again, thank you so much for your time, and I hope to talk to
BIRD: I'll look forward to it, Maya. Thank you. And you have a good day now. Bye-bye.
MONK: You too.
[End of interview.]