A Photo Tour of the Former Old Crow Distillery

During my September visit to Kentucky, I had the pleasure of being shown around the former Old Crow Distillery by the current occupants. My thanks to Dane, Glenn's Creek Distilling's Lead Distiller for showing us around. I'll talk about Glenn's Creek's current operation in another post, but first let's take a trip through the ruins of what is left when a whiskey distillery is abandoned and left to crumble for 30 years. 

The Former Old Crow Distillery

When Beam bought National Distillers, they closed down the Old Crow Distillery. They maintained use of a majority of the aging warehouses, but abandoned the rest. They still own and use those warehouses. Above is the main campus of the former Old Crow Distillery. The remaining non-Beam owned aging warehouses are out of frame off to the right. The majority of the upcoming photos were taken as we walked through this portion.

Aging Warehouses. 

But first, we visited the remaining aging warehouses. There are currently three aging warehouses remaining on the Glenn's Creek property. One was deemed no longer safe and is in the process of being removed by reclaimers. I think all the bricks have been spoken for so I don't think you can use Old Crow bricks in your upcoming project. The wood is being used to build the aging racks to store Glenn's Creek barrels.

Overgrown Barrel Track

The brick aging warehouses are overgrown with ivy and trees. This are has been cleaned up recently, but you still need to watch your step.

Old Fuses on the Aging Warehouse

Old fuses in a fuse box on the side of a warehouse.

The Main Distillery Buildings

Across the way is the main part of the distillery. We made our way over there next. 

The Bottling and Shipping building

The building in the distance is the former bottling and shipping building. It currently houses the entire Glenn's Creek Distilling operation.

Flooded Sub Level

Old Crow once suffered a fire. After that, it suffered flooding. The lower level of this building still house some of that flood water. This is in the basement of the grain handling building.

Boiler area

This is what we visited of the boiler area. Before being abandoned, it looks to have been upgraded. There are shiny bits of metal back behind the wall and a primitive computer control board down at the end. the interesting thing is that it seems to have been actually abandoned and not mothballed. Under the dust, there are still March Madness brackets that the employees were in the process of filling out.

Mold on a window

Thirty years of distillery mold.

Pealing Paint

Thirty years of dust and pealing paint.

Between two buildings

Outside again. This is a peak between two buildings.

No Idea. But maybe try not to lick this.

Neither our host, or us, could figure out what this used to be. Mold, fungus, insulation? No idea. Probably best not to lick it though.


In fact don't lick anything. I'm going to guess that lead paint and asbestos are pretty much everywhere. This is fermenter number five. The fermenter was sealed until fairly recently. It is notable because there were yeast spores (Old Crow or wild) inside that were recoverable by the current occupants and which are used to ferment one of their products.

Fermentation Room Valves

Old valves and pipes in the fermentation room.

The Spring that fed Old Crow Distillery

The spring that supplied Old Crow Distillery with water. This water is still used by the current occupant for uses that don't need potable water.

Beer Well, now flooded.

This is a look inside the beer well. It held 62,745 gallons. Sometime in the last 30 years, it flooded and the flood waters that ran into it brought something else along for the ride. There are currently fish living in there. They seem quite happy.

Broken Window

A window just barely hanging on. This is a ruin after all.

Abandoned Materials

A large stash of abandoned material. They really just locked the doors and walked away. They allowed scrappers to come in for the still. But most of the stuff just sits there waiting to finish moldering away. In the distance are the loading docks.

Smoke stack

The grain building from behind. 

Finally we snagged just a couple more outdoor shots. We also wandered past Glenn's Creek, the creek that the distillery was named for. We saw the small diversion dam that Old Crow Distillery used to help gather creek water for themselves. We saw the back of the shipping docks where trucks that must have been much shorter than semis nowadays were loaded up to carry away bottled product. There are vague plans to convert it to a stage, but there is a lot of clean up to be done first. 

It was a strange feeling walking through the ruins of the old factory. Seeing the damage that time can wreck and yet finding tiny pieces here and there that showed that real people worked there and had fun doing it. This was once a big part of people's lives. Its nice to see that it is now in the hands of people who respect that history and hope to one day get it cleaned back up so others can see it as well. I hope they can figure out a way to make that happen.

UPDATE: Since I initially wrote this I've noticed that Glenn's Creek Distillery have started a GoFundMe project to help fund the restoration of the Old Crow distillery ruins. If you have the means, think about helping save a piece of history.

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Using Old Forester Birthday Bourbon to Celebrate a Serious Milestone

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is one of those releases that my wife probably shouldn’t want as much as she does. The gimmick is that it is the product of one day’s production. The good thing is that it is also 12 years old. The bad thing is that it is now $79.99. 

As it is announced on September 2 each year and both of our birthdays and our wedding anniversary follow closely behind that, the coincidence of it is too much for her. She asks for it every year as a belated birthday present. And it is a present that is getting harder and harder to get my hands on. This year I actually had to pull a few strings with a local retailer (who asked not to be named) in order to make my lady happy. Next year? No idea what will happen. 

September is a pretty good month for us. Not only do we each get a birthday present and take a trip to Kentucky to celebrate our anniversary with friends, but it is also Bourbon Heritage Month. As we are big bourbon fans, that just adds to the nice set of coincidences. 

But September has another meaning for us as well. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. It’s hard to notice the teal sometimes when the pink for breast cancer is so much more pervasive and spills over it’s month on both ends. Buying something pink feels good. Like you are making a difference. And to be honest who doesn’t love boobs? None of us would be alive if ovaries didn’t exist, but they are inside. In the parts that make boys squeamish. The parts that are near where a period happens. The parts that people don’t talk about in polite company. Right? 

Wrong. Grow up boys. 

Today my wife had her four and a half year check-up after surviving Ovarian Cancer. Once again, she is all clear. One more good check-up and the cancer doctor turns her over to a regular doctor to monitor her. This is great news. But it almost wasn’t. When she was diagnosed, it was a fluke accident. She knew something wasn’t right with her body and every doctor she talked to told her she was fine. 

A year later she ended up having a cyst on an ovary surgically removed and the doctor that was supposed to do the surgery had a family emergency and so his boss took over. His boss was one of the best gynecological oncologists in the state. Since it was her specialty, she nosed around a little while she was inside and found something. My wife had multiple tumors. Tests confirmed that they were cancerous. She was at Stage 3. She went into immediate chemotherapy and within a few months she was given the all clear. She was lucky on so many levels. She happened to have another issue in the same area, she ended up with a specialist doing the surgery instead of the scheduled doctor and she had a particularly slow growing form of the cancer. 

Today 1 in 75 women will develop Ovarian Cancer in their lifetime. And not just old women, but women as young as preteen have died of this horrible disease. 75% of those diagnosed are still alive after one year, but that number drops to only 44% at five years. Less than half of the women diagnosed will survive five years. Think about that. There are over 150 million women in the US. That means over two million of them will develop Ovarian Cancer in their lifetime and after diagnosis almost 1.5 million will be dead within 5 years.

But the good news is that in those women where it is diagnosed early, 94% survive to five years. And more and more women are being diagnosed early. Three years ago it was less than 15%. Today it is about 20%. Still not a lot, but trending the right direction. The problem is that many of the symptoms are also symptoms of other things. Bloating, pelvic pain, feeling full quickly and needing to pee are not exactly uncommon in women. And many doctors are willing to dismiss them. What we’ve learned through this is that if your doctor won’t listen to you when you know something isn’t right, find a new doctor. And keep doing it until you find one will at least check it out.

My wife was lucky, but if the first doctor had listened to her maybe should wouldn’t have needed to be. Tonight we are celebrating four and a half years clear with the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon I mentioned above. I’m thinking that we might even do two pours before the night is over.

If you want to know more about this disease, please go to http://www.ovariancancer.org. I know this is a whiskey blog. But what is whiskey without someone to share it with? My wife loves whiskey. She helps with the tasting notes and is the “silent” partner of this site. I want each and every one of you to have someone to share your whiskey with and I don’t want you to lose them or yourself because talking about “girl parts” is hard.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2016

Purchase Info: $79.99 at a retailer who has requested to be left unnamed.

Details: 12 years old. 48.5% ABV.

Nose: Warm and rich with brown sugar, pipe tobacco, apricot and baking spices.

Mouth: Sweet and oaky with brown sugar, baking spices, dried apples, and that “Brown Forman Latex Paint” note typical of their bourbons.

Finish: Warm and of decent length with oak, baking spices and fruity latex paint.

Thoughts: This used to be a fun release to pick up on a whim back when you could find it. It was $40 or less, it was tasty enough and the gimmick was fun. Today, you could be excused for wondering why someone would pay $80 for a 12 year old bourbon. But then I’d point you to sites online where people pay over $100 for Weller 12. That said, I feel like this has reached the point where if the price goes up any further, I’ll probably find another way to celebrate my wife’s birthday each year. I like this, but the quality to price ratio gives me pause.

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Too many feels and then, eventually, a review of Wathen's Single Barrel

I had a pretty shitty weekend. It was supposed to be good. It was a holiday. I was going to spend time with my family at the family cabin. There would be drinks, cards, a fire, kids, family and friends. Everything was set up to be great. And it started out that way. 

Friday morning, I stopped off for a couple growlers of beer to take with us. As I waited for them to be filled, I thought it might be nice to have a touch of bourbon to close each night. So I looked at the bourbon selection and settled on one I hadn’t had before but could blog about. Might as well take one for the team, right? 

We were supposed to build a new fire pit over the weekend, but I noticed shortly after pulling in that my mom and step-dad had already finished it. This is going to be a nice weekend, I thought to myself. And so it seemed. That afternoon, we sat around the new fire pit and variously, read a book, played a game, or talked. It was a very nice afternoon. We had nice supper and then ended up playing cards. I broke into the growlers. Everything was going well.

It was a nice slow morning the next day. Relaxing. We ran to town, got supplies and generally enjoyed each other’s company while waiting for the rest of the group to get there. One of the highlights of the weekend was going to be the time I got to spend with my niece and nephew who were coming with my brother and his wife that afternoon. 

And everything went well until I noticed how my brother was treating my nephew (well, step-nephew, but I don’t count such things). You see he is on medication for ADHD and is suspected of suffering from depression. He is a rascal, to put it mildly. I identify a lot with what he is going through. I’m also the product of divorced parents. I also had a step-dad who met me while he wasn’t sure how to handle being a parent. I had problems with my mom, my dad, my step-dad, my step-mothers, my grandparents and step-grandparents…I was just generally an angry kid who suffered with undiagnosed depression (it wouldn’t be diagnosed until I was much older and dealing with my own teenager). I saw that I didn’t fit in in most of the “families” I had. Either I was related, but only seen every few months or I wasn’t related and was just another kid hanging about. All except my one set of grandparents. My mother leaned on them so much that my grandfather became sort of a surrogate father to me. He was the one I rebelled against, not my biological father. But he was also the one I looked up to more than anyone else.

I grew up with this hanging over my head for a long time. I was so angry. I was a good kid for the most part, but inside I was searching for why I didn’t belong. I just wanted to feel loved. And if that couldn’t happen, noticed. And when it came time for me to adopt my own daughter, I promised myself that she wouldn’t feel that way. That she would be loved and accepted by the family that I felt, at the time, had never fully accepted me. 

Guess what? I failed. I didn’t know how to be a parent at 19. I didn’t know how to take care of a teenager at 29. I didn’t know how to be the parent of a kid going through normal teenage stuff while dealing with the fact that she knew her dad had adopted her. Knowing that in order for that to happen, another man needed to have decided he didn’t want to be her dad. That’s heavy stuff. I wasn’t ready for it. I lashed out like an angry baby and, much like my step-father and I while I was living at home, we never really saw eye to eye. And to top it off, I don't know that parts of my extended family ever fully accepted her as family either. I have a sister I haven't talked to for years over some of her comments. 

So now, I see this happening with my nephew who is going through the same things I went through and then also the same things my daughter went through. And enough was enough. My brother is a father of two biological kids and can’t see he isn’t treating them the same way. My mother doesn’t realize that the things she’s saying are being absorbed and internalized by my nephew. On three separate occasions, I stepped in where I probably shouldn’t have (though my sister-in-law thanked me). I became an advocate for my nephew because I hate that I can see the same things that happened to me, and then to my daughter, happen to him. I picked two fights with my brother and one with my mother over it. I spent a lot of time alone in the camper because I was so mad I thought I’d do or say something I’d regret. 

It’s a good thing I bought that bourbon. It wasn’t the best bourbon I’d ever had, but it was enough to calm the nerves and let me breathe when I thought I would say something stupid. Nights around the fire may have included more than I should have had, but taking a sip instead of saying something stupid worked ok to keep me sorta talking to my brother. 

That bourbon? Wathen’s Single Barrel. Once I got home, I decided to review it and pour a couple samples for my sample library. That finished the bottle off. So, even though the bourbon was a welcome relief to a shitty weekend, how did it fair in the cold light of day? 

Wathen’s Single Barrel

Purchase Info: $29.99, 750 mL, Casanova Liquor, Hudson, WI.

Details: Barrel number: 4730. Bottled on July 22, 2014. 47% ABV

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, toasted almonds, faint melon and some oak. 

Mouth: Dry woodiness. Hot in the mouth. Caramel, toasted almonds and oak. 

Finish: Lingering heat and oak fading to a bitterness that if it were paired with more than just woody flavors would be pleasant. 

Thoughts: For me? Meh. I’m not a fan of overly dry, woody bourbons. And to my palate, that’s what this is. It’s more so than I would have expect from an NAS bourbon. 

Speaking of NAS, I do have a few beefs with this bourbon. The first being just that. This is an NAS bourbon. But right in the middle of the label is a large “eight” in a a script font. Under that in smaller type is the word “generations.” This subconsciously suggest and eight-year age statement. I know because I had to keep stopping myself from thinking of it as an 8-year old over and over. And I know better. Secondly, I really wish people would use a screw cap. That photo above? That’s the cork. It broke the second time we opened the bottle. Not only is a screw cap going to keep the bourbon inside tastier if it lasts more than a weekend, but it has a much smaller chance of failure. 

So your milage may vary, but for me? I won’t be buying this again. Not even to soothe a really shitty weekend that brought back way too many feels. 

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Don’t look a gift whiskey in the mouth

My wife’s boss doesn’t drink whiskey. I hear he is a nice enough man and though I’ve never met him, I have a feeling we wouldn’t get along. I’ve heard that there are people out there worth talking to that do not drink whiskey, but I don’t know that I’ve found one. I have a hard enough time understanding folks who prefer scotch to bourbon. But no whiskey at all? That’s kind of a stretch.

Anyway, my wife’s boss received a bottle of whiskey from his daughter-in-law who got it at work. He didn’t want it so he gave it to my wife and I since he knew we liked whiskey. When we first found out he would be doing that, we were appreciative, but joked that it would probably be something like Rebel Yell. Rebel Yell being the only bourbon so bad that I couldn’t finish the bottle. (I’m even finishing the Old Crow!) 

So it was with a bit of amusement that my wife told me as she got home that, “guess what, it really was Rebel Yell.” It’s an interesting feeling being both amused and disappointed. I was as amused as she was. Because “of course it is.” But here’s the thing. As I pulled it out of the bag, I noticed something. I saw that the label had changed, reminding me of a PR email I received.

I get a lot of people asking if I want samples. I always say no even though sometimes it’s hard, knowing I might not get to taste it otherwise. Other times it is really easy. The Rebel Yell email was an easy one. The gist of my response was: “Sorry, already reviewed that one and I wasn’t nice.” I wish I had read the press release a little closer. It seems that Luxco has released a couple more whiskies under the Rebel Yell name. And the gift whiskey I got was one of those. It’s not Rebel Yell Bourbon. It is Rebel Yell American Whiskey: a blend of bourbon and rye whiskey. So I opened it up. And it wasn’t bad.

Which caused something to crystalize in my brain: 

If you’ve never had it, you never know what is going to be in a bottle until you open it. 

It’s simple and sounds obvious once you hear it, but it’s worth reminding ourselves sometimes. Too often we tend to judge a whiskey by what we “know” about it, it’s price or who did or didn’t produce it, instead of what it tastes like. In this case I almost let my preconceptions get in the way of something that seems fairly tasty. I have no idea how long that would have remained on the shelf in the closet if I hadn’t taken a closer look at the new label.

So it seems my wife’s boss and I are cool now (even though we’ve still never met). It seems that having someone in your life who doesn’t drink whiskey is an ok thing. I mean how else would I have gotten free whiskey?

(A more formal review will come once I’ve been able to spend some time with the bottle, but I was reminded of this lesson and felt like sharing.)

BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!