Podcast Episode: My Favorite Whiskey Stories (2020 Edition)
Some of my favorite unused interview clips from 2020.
Listen to the Episode
What a joy it has been, interviewing some marvelous whiskey people this year. But not all of the content was able to make it into episodes. So in this episode, I'll feature some of my favorite stories from people like Al Young of Four Roses, Nelson Eddy of Jack Daniel's, Andy Nelson of Nelson's Green Brier, Elizabeth Pearce of the Drink and Learn podcast, and Robert Likarish of Ironroot Republic Distillery. Next week, I'll have even more.
And if you love the interviews, check out patreon.com/whiskeylore and sign up to get interview archives and complete interviews.
Growing up, I had a fascination with presidents, something I inherited from my father. I used to constantly try to formulate a top 20 list of presidents, while also trying to muster up a list of the 5 worst presidents.
In my twenties, it was easy. Part of the criteria used for my list would be anecdotes and or quotes I’d heard about each president or I would be easily swayed by the reverence certain historians had for a particular president. Then I’d dig a little deeper - looking at the era they lived in, was it prosperous, what was the attitude of the people, did that president help the country through a moment of great distress and strife? I felt pretty good about myself and my lists - they seemed to be sound, analytical, and well thought out.
As I grew older and lived through a couple of presidencies, I started noticing a trend - the commander in chief’s biggest contribution seemed to be in instilling his mood and temperament on the country. The laws and financial matters seemed to be more nuanced and swayed through the different branches of government.
So the grading factors became tougher. Did the president have a congress that worked with him or against him? What kind of laws, judges, and decisions did the president inherit from the previous administration? How affected were they by the election cycle? And what about the role of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve - it seemed this person had much more power over the financial direction of the country than the president did.
What I started realizing was that ranking a list of presidents was an impossible task. The job itself and all of the variables around it, that influence it, are way too intricate to even start to create a formula for placing presidents in any kind of logical order - let alone considering all of the subjective political biases that could easily sway the list.
Face it, we live in a complex world and trying to boil things down to black and white only seems to reveal either shades of gray, or exposes the filter with which people are looking through.
It’s why there are certain historians I really respect. Those who look objectively at a subject, seek to understand its impact, and point out where there may be conflicting points of view. Oh, it is nearly impossible not to apply one’s own filter when writing, but a historian that sincerely attempts to remove personal political passions from their work are truly ones to be admired.
So how will a historian rate or view the year 2020?
Well, since I am a whiskey podcaster, rather than a celebrated historian myself, I, of course, would prefer to step back a moment and look at 2020 through a whiskey glass.
And the person seeking a black and white answer might ask, is that glass half full or half empty?
I’d like to suggest that rather than overpouring a glass of whiskey, instead we take just enough, so that we can nose it, experience it, and look deeper into it for what it has to offer.
On the surface, with pandemics, murders, political and social strife, quarantines, and failing businesses it seems hard to find the silver lining in any of this. But just like tasting a whiskey you don’t like, you can change your buying habit for the next time, or you listen to others who have discovered the subtle lessons that you might be missing.
When I first tried Ardbeg 10, I couldn’t stand it. I said, that is a band aid in an ashtray. I didn’t get it. Then a friend told me it reminded him of a campfire. I started to look deeper. I started to understand the pleasure behind this whisky and then tossed away my early established bias and tossed away my filter.
It took removing prejudice and listening. And I think that is what 2020 is all about. It’s one big learning experience. It is about moving away from soundbites and 140 character responses. It’s about listening to each other, not talking at each other. It's about getting away from knee jerk reactions and the outrage of the moment, and examining our own morals and motivations.
Just like with our whisky, we need to pay attention, we need to seek to understand the nuances. We’ve learned that ratings of whiskies are subjective, not the absolute last word on things. We’ve learned to stop using blanket statements like scotch or bourbon or other categories of whisky are all good or bad. There is complexity in this world and it is beautiful and when we seek to understand it we learn and grow.
And whisky forces us to slow down and pay attention - and maybe 2020 is doing the same.
I could focus on 2020 for all the things I miss. I miss deep philosophical conversations with my mother. I miss the travels that so energized me over the last couple of years. I miss handshakes and meeting people without barriers.
But instead of dwelling on that, I want the struggles of 2020 to have a purpose - and I want to seek to understand what that purpose is. And I want to celebrate. Celebrate all the wonderful people I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard over the last year. I want to celebrate the whiskey lovers I’ve talked to over direct messages on social media, people who have become friends. And I want to celebrate whiskey, for making me slow down from my busy life, to take a few moments to listen, appreciate, respect, and understand - not only the complexity of it all, but the joy of discovery.
For me, my whiskey journey has been an excellent metaphor for how I should live life.
Before I bring you the season finale in a couple of weeks, I want to thank you for listening during 2020 by providing you with two new episodes filled with additional excerpts from my interviews that I’ve conducted over the past year - stories and anecdotes I wasn’t able to fit into any particular story or episode and that haven’t made it into any x20m episode. Yes, almost all of these clips will be new to you.
I’ll be welcoming people like Richard Paterson, Andrew McKenzie-Smith, Wally Dant, the late Al Young, and more. I hope you enjoy these clips and find your own way to celebrate 2020. From James Allerdice to Uncle Nearest in two weeks, it has been a great pleasure to bring these stories to you. Look for all new episodes in 2021.
Take a trip with me back to season 3 episode 5 where we met Nelson Eddy, chief historian for Jack Daniel’s Distillery.
If Lynchburg churches were mostly open to whiskey money, how about church-folk up north of Nashville? Andy Nelson of Nelson’s Green Briar Distillery retelling a story he heard from a local.
Back in season 2, I had the chance to talk with Elizabeth Pearce of the Drink and Learn podcast about New Orleans and its connection to the name bourbon. But while we chatted, she related a funny story she had read about a certain incident that took place between Windsor, Ontario Canada and Detroit, Michigan during Prohibition.
Elizabeth Pearce of Drink and Learn Podcast
And if the name Sam Braufman sounds familiar, he was the head of Seagrams when they had purchased Four Roses. And of course, back in season 1, we recounted the whole situation where Mr. Sam, as they called him, started buying up Kentucky distilleries. In fact, his purchase of Athertonville, Henry McKenna, and others is the reason that Four Roses has five distinct yeast strains. If you’re looking to taste that yeast’s influence, you won’t actually find it in Henry McKenna, but as an element of Four Roses and Bulleit Bourbon. Confused yet?
Well, while I had a chat with the late Al Young, brand ambassador and distillery manager for Four Roses, he told me about two other labels that were once owned and actually started by Seagrams that he and Jim Rutledge oversaw at the Four Roses Distillery.
A fancy way of saying it would get you drunk. By the way, I was curious about those two brands mainly because they are now owned by Sazerac and produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.
With their bourbon’s 5o year absence from the American store shelves, I spent some of my conversation with Al talking about Four Roses introduction of what had to be fairly new concepts to the bourbon market, products labeled as single barrel and small batch.
As Whiskey Lore Patreons at the Scholar level are finding out, I had a very detailed 2 hour conversation with Ironroot Republic’s co-owner and distiller Robert Likarish about his experiences of making Texas whiskey using French techniques. And during that conversation, I also found out about how they ended up in London, England.
If you’ve listened to Whiskey Lore at all, you know I’m a stickler for dates and claims - and Nelson and I talked about Jack Daniel’s claim of being the oldest registered distillery in America. Was the distillery registered in 1866? There have been several alternate dates tossed around. Even Jack’s own date of birth is in doubt. Our discussion jumped into the reasoning why distilleries had to be registered in the first place.
Whiskey Lore is a production of Travel Fuels Life
Research, stories and production by Drew Hannush
If you enjoyed this episode, and want to start hearing more in-depth interviews, check out our Patreon page where I’ll be loading up more episodes of x20m and complete interviews over the next few months as well as more whiskey education materials. Stop by whiskey-lore.com to find the link on the home page or go to patreon.com/whiskeylore.
And I want to remind you that next week, I will have another episode filled with interviews - going through all of these and finding bits to share has been a total pleasure. I’m thankful to all the great guests who have appeared on the show and thank you for listening in 2020. Two more episodes to go. And until next time, have a great week. And Cheers and Slainte Mhath.
All based on interviews with guests.