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Ep. 41 - Old Dominick's Master Distiller Alex Castle

BOURBON HISTORY // The return of a 19th Century brand and the journey to becoming a master distiller.

Listen to the Episode

Show Notes

It's time to head down to Memphis, Tennessee, not for specifically for bbq or Elvis, but instead to enjoy some top notch whiskey.

And my guest today is someone who has experiencing the distilling industry in both Tennessee and Kentucky. I present to you Alex Castle, Master Distiller at the Old Dominick Distillery. A distillery who picks up where its founder Dominicko Canale left off at the beginning of Prohibition.

I had the honor of meeting Alex at the Bourbon Sessions at the Ripy House in Lawrenceburg Ky a couple months back, a place she is quite familiar with - as she is from Kentucky and spent time working nearby at the Wild Turkey Distillery as well as Town Branch in Lexington.

So we're going to get into a good bit of history - from the historic Old Dominick Brand to the recreation of the Dominick Toddy, and we'll hear about Alex' experiences getting a crash course in distilling.

Here is just some of what we'll discuss:

  • The story of Dominicko Canale
  • The pack rats of Old Dominick
  • The location of the distillery in Memphis
  • The 100 year old grease burger
  • Kentucky distilleries vs Tennessee distilleries
  • How Union Avenue gets me singing
  • How Alex discovered distilling
  • That first experience with whiskey
  • Time at the University of Kentucky
  • From beer to bourbon
  • Polishing the pot stills
  • Learning to distill in 5 minutes!
  • Getting help from a scotch whisky legend
  • Pearce Lyons and Town Branch
  • Spring chicken at Wild Turkey
  • A gin I like!
  • Getting the distillery up and running
  • The misconception of blended bourbon
  • No judgment please!
  • The customized MGP mashbill
  • Tasting and waiting for the Tennessee Whiskey
  • A Kentucky girls approach to Tennessee Whiskey
  • Huling Station Very Small Batch and how small very small is
  • The history of the Memphis Toddy
  • Tasting a decades old toddy
  • Christmas in a bottle
  • The release of Old Dominick Tennessee Whiskey
  • Where you can get Huling Station

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript is available on the tab above.

For more information:

Transcript

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[drew_hannush]: Hello, there, Whisky Lore is back with another interview and today we're

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[drew_hannush]: talking to Alex Castle, who is the master distiller at Old Dominic in Memphis,

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[drew_hannush]: Tennessee, welcome to the show.

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[alex_castle]: Hello, thanks for having me

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah, this is a lot of fun because I've had a chance to come visit your

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[drew_hannush]: distillery a couple of times and so now I get to ask some of those behind the

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[drew_hannush]: scenes kind of questions. and uh and dig in a little bit deeper.

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[drew_hannush]: So,

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[alex_castle]: anything. burn. anything, been burning Since the tours.

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[drew_hannush]: um, um, no, no, I. I mean, I have lots of questions, but uh, um, I can't think

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[drew_hannush]: of any that were overly overly burning. but I, I'm sure we will cover Uh quite

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[drew_hannush]: a bit here because there's some fun stories and I I want to talk a little bit

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[drew_hannush]: about. Uh. You guys were just actually in Greenville, where I live now, Uh, at

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[drew_hannush]: the Hoggen barrel, um

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[drew_hannush]: event and you are everywhere because your your whiskey was being used in just

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[drew_hannush]: about every recipe that was going on there, which I thought was really fun and

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[drew_hannush]: uh,

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[alex_castle]: our rep for South Carolina does such a killer job with advances. He. he knows

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[alex_castle]: how to own them.

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[drew_hannush]: and he said he said, You guys ended up uh, like fifty gallons worth of of

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[drew_hannush]: whiskey that you had to get Uh for that event as massive.

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[drew_hannush]: Just give them a barrel.

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[alex_castle]: Well, he's going to get a good. He's going to get a good commission check.

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah, absolutely. so. Um, so we's talk a little bit about Uh old Dominic's

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[drew_hannush]: history, and we' talk some about your history and your path from Kentucky to

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[drew_hannush]: Tennessee, and also jump in a little bit on the story of the Memphis toddy,

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[drew_hannush]: which is a

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[drew_hannush]: a drink that I think wants people hear a little bit about it. They're going to

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[drew_hannush]: want to jump out and get it because it's the holiday season and I think it's a

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[drew_hannush]: perfect time for a Memphis hoty.

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[drew_hannush]: So so let's

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[alex_castle]: Oh, yeah. oh, yeah. it's toddy season.

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[drew_hannush]: so let's let's jump right in and and talk a little bit about the the history

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[drew_hannush]: of Old Domin and

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[drew_hannush]: the the name hearkens back to the nineteenth century and

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[drew_hannush]: a very interesting story about Um,

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[drew_hannush]: a,

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[drew_hannush]: uh, an area we don't think of a country that we don't think as supplying

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[drew_hannush]: immigrants to Memphis.

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[drew_hannush]: But but really interesting stories to tell us. A little bit of of the

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[drew_hannush]: background of old Domin

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[alex_castle]: Yeah, so um, all, Dominic is a a subsidiary of our parent company De Canalian

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[alex_castle]: Company, and the company was founded by Dominiko Canali. That's the D and

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[alex_castle]: Dominico came to straight to Memphis from Italy in eighteen fifty nine, Um. And

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[alex_castle]: he chose Memphis because he already had family here. His uncle had already come

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[alex_castle]: to Memphis from Italy, and it started a Um,

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[alex_castle]: food and uh beverage wholesale business in Memphis, And so Dominico came and

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[alex_castle]: started working for his uncle, And what's great is that building is literally

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[alex_castle]: diagonal across the street from where the distllry is today, So where we're

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[alex_castle]: just steps away from where Dominico got started in Memphis, Um,

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[drew_hannush]: is that

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[alex_castle]: but learned the ropes from his uncle, and in eighteen

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[drew_hannush]: is that the chick. is that where the chicken place is? By the way, I'm I'm

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[alex_castle]: it, Yes, so it is. There's a lot, an empty lot. You've got the chicken place,

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[drew_hannush]: trying to picture it.

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[alex_castle]: an empty lot, and then a building

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[drew_hannush]: Okay.

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[alex_castle]: in it's that building.

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[drew_hannush]: okay,

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[alex_castle]: Yup, Yup, So we're right next to the chicken place,

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[alex_castle]: Um, but learned the rops from his uncle, and in eighteen sixty six decided to

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[alex_castle]: start his own food in Um, al beverage alcohol distributorship, and formed De

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[alex_castle]: Canaling company, and started on South Front Street as well, which is the were

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[alex_castle]: on Um. The Canalies all kind of stayed on the same street back in the day, and

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[alex_castle]: uh, shortly after starting his company, he decided to actually start his own

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[alex_castle]: line of whiskey. Um, And what are you going to name it? You're going to name it

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[alex_castle]: after yourself. So we called it all Dominic.

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[drew_hannush]: okay,

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[alex_castle]: you. No, he was a very creative man,

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[alex_castle]: but he would source his product from Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, He wasn't

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[alex_castle]: producing it himself. He was just getting aged product, bringing it down to

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[alex_castle]: Memphis on rail cars

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[drew_hannush]: hm,

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[alex_castle]: and then blending it and bottling it here in Memphis, Um. in a building called

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[alex_castle]: Huwling Station, It's a very large warehouse located on south Front Street. Um.

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[alex_castle]: and again, it's only about two blocks from where the distillleries Today. the

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[alex_castle]: building still stands its apartments now, Um. But the old Dominic brand was

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[alex_castle]: actually a very very popular brand in the Southeast during that time, Um, and

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[alex_castle]: that really was was the bulk of their business

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[alex_castle]: during that time. Well then prohibition hit Um. So that part of the business

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[alex_castle]: had to stop. Fortunately they had the food distributorship and the fruit and

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[alex_castle]: all of that, and so they got to continue operations. Um, and sadly, Dominico

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[alex_castle]: passed away, Um at Prohibition as well, and so our brand Champion was no longer

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[alex_castle]: alive, And so when prohibition was lifted, we didn't have our cheerleader. We

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[alex_castle]: didn't have anyone to fight to bring back the whiskey brand, And so it stayed

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[alex_castle]: dormant,

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[alex_castle]: and the parent company Deconaling Company continued operations in various

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[alex_castle]: ventures, Um, in continuous operation. To this day, Uh, they had a beer

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[alex_castle]: distributorship, Um was a budweiser distributorship that they sold off in two

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[alex_castle]: thousand ten. They also had a food distributorship that they sold off to Sarah

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[alex_castle]: Lee, and I believe it was like two thousand, nineteen, ninet nine, two

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[alex_castle]: thousand,

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[alex_castle]: and so

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[alex_castle]: fast forward a little bit to about two thousand thirteen, Two thousand

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[alex_castle]: fourteen, and the current president of De Canaling company, Chris Canly,

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[alex_castle]: junior,

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[drew_hannush]: Mhm,

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[alex_castle]: Um, is Dominio's great great grandson.

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[alex_castle]: Still, re he was. He was young at this point, still in his thirties and trying

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[alex_castle]: to figure out what his legacy was going to be. What was he going to do for his

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[alex_castle]: family's company,

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[alex_castle]: And that's where the idea of bringing backle dominate came in. They had all of

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[alex_castle]: these old whisky bottles. People were asking. Why don't you sell the brand? You

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[alex_castle]: know, whiskey was hot. Then people would have bought up any brand at that point

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[alex_castle]: and he said, No,

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[alex_castle]: I'm going to do it. And so he decided to bring back the distillery, but an even

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[alex_castle]: bigger way than what Dominicko, had. He wanted us to actually produce whiskey.

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[alex_castle]: Uh. And so he set off down the path of of bringing back the brand and building

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[alex_castle]: the distillery that we know today. Um. And so that's that's kind. of. That's

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[alex_castle]: how we got to. Got to hear.

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[drew_hannush]: that's fun. It's when you do the tour

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[drew_hannush]: at the very beginning. It has a time line so you can kind of see all that went

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[drew_hannush]: on and you could see a lot of the pictures of the old building and that, but

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[drew_hannush]: you also

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[alex_castle]: Yep,

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[drew_hannush]: have a lot of documentation down there,

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[alex_castle]: we do.

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[drew_hannush]: licenses, and that sort of stuff. Who is holding on to all of that stuff?

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[alex_castle]: I. they were pack rats, I guess. Oh no. So our family office, the corporate

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[alex_castle]: office, is, Um, I don't know about four blocks away on Second Street, And that

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[alex_castle]: is where they housed all of these ledger books. All of these photos. and we

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[alex_castle]: have. we have way more photos than what you even see on the tour. And they just

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[alex_castle]: they had em in boxes, just stored away for whatever reason.

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[alex_castle]: Um. unfortunately, building a distillery, wanting to make it a tourist thing

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[alex_castle]: and doing the tour gave us a great reason to bust out all of that. But those

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[alex_castle]: leisure books are how we know that they did get barrels from Ohio. We have a

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[alex_castle]: letter that says they were. They were transferred in Bond from Cincinnati.

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[alex_castle]: Ohio. Um. we can see ones from Kentucky and Indiana. Uh, we can see the

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[alex_castle]: different fruits that they had bought so that they could then sell again. Um,

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[alex_castle]: we even have old price lists and I love it because there are some brands in

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[alex_castle]: there that you recognize, like Old Crow

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah,

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[alex_castle]: and Um. I want to say Taylor was in there. like all these names that you know.

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[alex_castle]: They're in the these price guides from before prohibition.

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[alex_castle]: and like a courtrd of bourbon was like fifty cents or something.

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[drew_hannush]: and and they, I mean, Bourbon was popular at the time, but uh yeah, inflation

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[drew_hannush]: has has done a number of oururban prices. That's for sure.

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[alex_castle]: it really has.

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[drew_hannush]: So what? what is the building that you're in? Now? What was its history?

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[alex_castle]: so. Uh, the building we're now was originally actually three separate

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[alex_castle]: buildings. They just kind of got merged together. Um, and each one was built at

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[alex_castle]: different times, and I don't think we've ever been able to identify when each

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[alex_castle]: building was was completed. But the prior owner was Memphis Machine works. Um.

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[alex_castle]: And so they did a lot of machining in this building, but they vacated it.

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[alex_castle]: stopped using it years before they've even sold

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[drew_hannush]: Mhm,

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[alex_castle]: it. Just because it was too much space. They needed a smaller workshop. Um,

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[alex_castle]: and so it sat, It's at unused fur. I don't even know how long, Um. Before they

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[alex_castle]: finally decided to to pull the trigger on selling it, and the Canalies had been

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[alex_castle]: looking for a building for I think over a year and just couldn't find anything

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[alex_castle]: that was quite right. And then they finally landed on this building.

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[drew_hannush]: It couldn't be any better because you're just a couple blocks from Beel

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[drew_hannush]: Street?

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[alex_castle]: Oh, location is absolutely fantastic. We're one block off of South Maine, which

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[alex_castle]: is a really great spot in downtown Memphis. You know a lot of residents, but

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[alex_castle]: also a lot of tourists go there. Bell Street's not that far away. We're really

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[alex_castle]: close to Fedx form the Redbird Stadium. all of it, and Front Street now is also

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[alex_castle]: being revitalized. We were in the first new business is to come in and really

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[alex_castle]: do something. And now

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[alex_castle]: every everywhere around us is being revitalized so even Front Street's becoming

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[alex_castle]: a a great place to be.

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[drew_hannush]: Well and I even took a walk around the block before my tour started, and went

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[drew_hannush]: down towards the river, and very easy to walk down there and see the

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[drew_hannush]: Mississippi and the the whole river front. That's that's developing down

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[drew_hannush]: there. It's really really nice.

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[alex_castle]: Oh Riverside is fantastic, Tom Lee Park. Know that's where Memphisis may

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[alex_castle]: happen. So Wh, street music fast barbecue has all that happens down there. And

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[alex_castle]: what's great is it's actually getting uh renovation right now as well, so

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[alex_castle]: that's going to be even better in the future.

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[drew_hannush]: So how much did you know about Memphis before you moved there?

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[alex_castle]: nothing.

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[drew_hannush]: Nothing.

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[alex_castle]: uh, My first time in Memphis was for my interview. I had never been here. Never

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[alex_castle]: really gave it Much thought. you know. I knew Elvis. That was about

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah,

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[alex_castle]: it in Bell Street. I had heard of Bell Street. Uh,

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[drew_hannush]: had you seen the firm? The the firm is how I knew Memphis, just because I.

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[drew_hannush]: It's

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[alex_castle]: I think that's how everyone knows,

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[drew_hannush]: running all over town. Yeah, I'm like. Okay. Yeah, go walk out to the island

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[drew_hannush]: and see the pyramid.

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[alex_castle]: But yeah, I had never been to Memphis. My husband had never been to Memphis.

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[alex_castle]: Um,

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[alex_castle]: so we kind of just well'll see what it's like at the interview and go from

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[alex_castle]: there,

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[alex_castle]: but we've been here six years now and it's it is such a great city to live in.

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[drew_hannush]: And and what's fun about it? is that by knowing that when you first came to it

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[drew_hannush]: that it was kind of an out of the way place for you,

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[drew_hannush]: it showed you the challenge that you were going to probably have in starting a

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[drew_hannush]: distillery out in West Memphis, where all the distilling in in Tennessee was

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[drew_hannush]: really located down around. You know,

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[drew_hannush]: ▁lynchburg area. and uh, some in Nashville was starting to kick up, and a

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[drew_hannush]: little in Chattanooga, but you guys were kind of out there by yoursels.

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[alex_castle]: Yes, we're on an island complete, ly. Um, to where when it came time to do the

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[alex_castle]: buildout,

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[alex_castle]: we have amazing pipefitters, some of the best work I've ever seen. They had no

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[alex_castle]: idea what they were do, as far as doing a distillery. What it is to move grain?

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[alex_castle]: and no, you don't want to do that with your pipe, because it'll cause issues.

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[alex_castle]: so just knowing that all of the labor we had all the work we had, we were

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[alex_castle]: having to educate them from the ground up on on everything that we did. and

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[alex_castle]: then, same with staffing. hiring a production staff in in west Tennessee is

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[alex_castle]: almost impossible because we have. I have no talent pool to pull from.

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah, so, um, barbecue joint. What's your favorite one?

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[alex_castle]: It depends on what you want, right, like Central Barbecue, some of the best

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[alex_castle]: smoked turkey out there, Uh, in delicious pork grinds, you go to one and only

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[alex_castle]: for the ribs.

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[alex_castle]: So yeah, it just depends on what you want And then like Tops barbecue, everyone

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[alex_castle]: says barbecue you go to Tops. barbecue for the burger

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[drew_hannush]: Okay? Okay?

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[drew_hannush]: Have you had one of those Uh, the hundred year old greasce burgers? I forget.

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[drew_hannush]: what? the the? The name of the It's

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[alex_castle]: Dires.

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[drew_hannush]: diers? Yes, Yes, Yes,

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[alex_castle]: of course,

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[drew_hannush]: Yes, And and what do you think? It's like? eight?

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[alex_castle]: no, no stop on Beal is complete without a diers burger.

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[drew_hannush]: We, we talk about aged beef. Have about aged greasce?

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[alex_castle]: It is so good. those burgers are amazing.

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah, fried hamburgers. It's uh, It's it's creative. I will. I will definitely

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[drew_hannush]: give them that.

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[drew_hannush]: So, now that you are in Memphis, I, I have this thing between North and South

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[drew_hannush]: Carolina. Because we're just talking about Ashville, Then that's where I grew

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[drew_hannush]: up and now I live in Greenville, South Carolina. So I did the North Carolina,

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[drew_hannush]: South Carolina thing, And when I lived in North Carolina, I always looked at

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[drew_hannush]: at South Carolina like. Yeah, whatever you know, I' I'm really happy I live in

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[drew_hannush]: North Carolina, but now I live in Greenville, South Carolina, I look up at at

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[drew_hannush]: at North Carolina. I'm like. Yeah, you know, I'm kind of happy. I live here.

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[drew_hannush]: It's kind of like you got that that transition in and then you're rooting for

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[drew_hannush]: the home team now. all of a sudden, So you came from Kentucky, which is

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[drew_hannush]: bourbon rich, And now you come down to Tennessee, which has its own history,

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[drew_hannush]: But it's really only a a history that is reviving

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[drew_hannush]: over the last

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[drew_hannush]: ten twelve years. So

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[drew_hannush]: how is that transition gone for you? Are you ra rah Tennessee down?

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[alex_castle]: You know Ira ra tennesse, because

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[alex_castle]: Tennessee doesn't take itself too seriously when it comes to its whisky,

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[alex_castle]: because it is really so new outside of Jack, and outside of Georgeickle, there

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[alex_castle]: really no tene whisky brands. And so we' all kind of getting to come in and put

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[alex_castle]: our own stamp on what Tennessee whke is. It's a little bit harder to do that

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[alex_castle]: when you' making Kentucky, ▁urban, because it's there's an expectation. There's

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[alex_castle]: this hardcore tradition around it and it's fantastic tradition.

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[alex_castle]: but you're up against some really big names and so you can't go too crazy if

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[alex_castle]: you' Makingentuckyurbon,

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[alex_castle]: So I love and respect Kentucky what they're doing up there, but I think we have

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[alex_castle]: a lot more fun with

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[drew_hannush]: H.

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[alex_castle]: it here in Tennessee.

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[drew_hannush]: So I have done forty distilleries in Tennessee now, so I've done as many

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[drew_hannush]: distilleries in Tennessee as I've done in Kentucky, and I wrote a book on

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[drew_hannush]: Kentucky distillery. So Um, and I can tell you that my original plan was to do

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[drew_hannush]: all of these tours so that I could write another book and do one on Tennessee,

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[drew_hannush]: in the same way I did this one, which is kind of a guide through. And and

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[drew_hannush]: here's what you get when you go here, and here's what you get when you go

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[drew_hannush]: here. And here's the personality of this and the personality of that. and

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[drew_hannush]: you're absolutely right that in Tennessee, I really couldn't write the same

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[drew_hannush]: kind of book because every distillery kind of has its own personality. Where

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[drew_hannush]: to a a Kentucky distillery And you expect that they're going to have a

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[drew_hannush]: glencaaring glass for you when you're done and the tasting and it's very

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[drew_hannush]: formulaic. You end up in Tennessee, and sometimes it's just you walk in the

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[drew_hannush]: place and they go. Oh, you want to do a tour? Oh, okay, yeah, let me walk

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[drew_hannush]: around and you, you may have the Master distiller walking you around the

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[drew_hannush]: distillery. So it goes everything from Jack Daniels and George Dickle, very

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[drew_hannush]: formulaic. down to Um, you know bootleggers where you just kind of stop by the

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[drew_hannush]: stand and talk to the owners, which is which is really

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[alex_castle]: Yep.

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[drew_hannush]: cool.

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[alex_castle]: And and it's not uncommon for your tasting instead of the fancy Clli, care that

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[alex_castle]: you are so used Kentucky, especially out East Tennessee. they're using

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[alex_castle]: communion cups.

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah, yeah, and that's the challenge too. Is I went through while covet was

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[drew_hannush]: going on, whereas I didn't when I wrote that one and so things have had to

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[drew_hannush]: adjust And it's you know,

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[alex_castle]: Yes,

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[drew_hannush]: The the glasses disappeared for a while because of that too. but um it. it

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[drew_hannush]: definitely has been an interesting experience. I

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[drew_hannush]: I love uh, going tennesse distlleries 'cause they're close to home too, So

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[drew_hannush]: that that helps. It's only a

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[alex_castle]: it's easier,

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah, except for Memphis, but the reason I went to your distillery the first

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[drew_hannush]: time was because, Uh, my brother lives in Texas, so it's a natural drive

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[drew_hannush]: through for me to uh, hit through Memphis. And so I've gotten to know the town

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[drew_hannush]: too. And and it went from. Yes, all I could think of with Memphis was that Uh,

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[drew_hannush]: Mark Cone song Walking in Memphis, which I sing every time I walk by a street

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[drew_hannush]: sign that

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[alex_castle]: Yep,

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[drew_hannush]: says Union Avenue. Um, you know, but uh, So that was part of it and the other

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[drew_hannush]: part was. Uh, it was Elvis, but beyond that and then all of a sudden, Um, you

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[drew_hannush]: know so much rich history there and an interesting story. And actually, it was

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[drew_hannush]: at your distillery that I got to talking to Uh, someone about Boss Crump and

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[drew_hannush]: all of the uh fun history of Prohibition, and what Memphis was doing at that

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[drew_hannush]: time. So it makes sense that you know, unless you had somebody passionate

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[drew_hannush]: there at the dislery to fight for, I mean, Uh, Lemotl had that join Congress

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[drew_hannush]: to be able to get Jack Daniels back to the Steing, So it was going to take

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[drew_hannush]: some effort.

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[alex_castle]: when, especially in Tennessee, Because Tennessee enacted prohibition. What was

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[alex_castle]: it? thirteen years before the rest of the country And then I think we were in

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[alex_castle]: the last states to repeal it, So we also just had a much longer time period? Um

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[alex_castle]: of prohibition. And so yeah, you did. You had to just climb mountains in order

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[alex_castle]: to get past it.

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah,

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[drew_hannush]: so now that you are in Uh, Tennessee, we' going to actually take a look back

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[drew_hannush]: at your beginnings in Kentucky. And so, um, let's talk a little bit about what

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[drew_hannush]: drew you into the whiskey industry?

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[alex_castle]: Yeah, um, so up until I was about fourteen or fifteen, I knew for a fact I was

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[alex_castle]: going to be a marine biologist, knew it,

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[alex_castle]: and I took biology my freshman year in high school and it was the worst thing

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[alex_castle]: I've ever experienced,

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[alex_castle]: So so at that age I'm having midlif crisis, because now I, I don't know what I

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[alex_castle]: to do with my life,

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[alex_castle]: so move on to other sciences. I find chemistry. I find physics. Um, I find

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[alex_castle]: calculus and I love all of them. Um, really, enjoy the subjects. Helps. I had

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[alex_castle]: really great teachers, Um, but trying to figure out what to do with those, Um,

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[alex_castle]: outside of teaching, and my mom was reading up on up and coming college majors

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[alex_castle]: and career path. things like that and she said Well, you can do chemical

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[alex_castle]: engineering. Okay, that sounds right. What do you do with the chemical

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[alex_castle]: engineering degree

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[alex_castle]: and

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[alex_castle]: she have first jobs out of her mouth where you can make beer and be a

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[alex_castle]: brewmaster, or you can be a masters stillller and make Buurbon,

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[alex_castle]: and I said, Done. I'm going to do it. I don't know why I still, to this day

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[alex_castle]: have no idea. what about that made me like What hooked

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[drew_hannush]: Yeah,

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[alex_castle]: me? Uh. but I loved it and it was like this is. this is what we're going to do.

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[alex_castle]: And so that's I. I decided to do that. I went to the University of Kentucky.

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[alex_castle]: Um, studied chemical engineering and got my degree there and haven't haven't

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[alex_castle]: looked back since.

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[drew_hannush]: did did you have any family members that worked in the distilling industry?

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[alex_castle]: No, So we grew up in northern Kentucky, So like literally just south of

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[alex_castle]: Cincinnati, Ohio, So we weren't even in like real Bourbon Country. You know.

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[alex_castle]: That's Louisvill, That's Lexington. That's bars home. So we weren't even in

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[alex_castle]: that realm. Um. and the only only history of distilling in my family goes way

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[alex_castle]: way back to Uh. My grandmother's family in Alabama, who were moonshiners, Um,

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[alex_castle]: but no, no one in our family was in the industry at all. The most my parents

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[alex_castle]: did was they were really into education. And so they took my brother and I to

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[alex_castle]: Uh makers Mark, when I was like five years old.

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[alex_castle]: I don't know why they chose that because neither of one of them drank buurbon

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[alex_castle]: at

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[drew_hannush]: Y.

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[alex_castle]: the time. Um, and my mom still doesn't so I don't know why they thought it was

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[alex_castle]: good to take us there. Um. at that age.

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[drew_hannush]: some? What? What is there out in that area? I'm surprised they were doing

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[drew_hannush]: tours at that time, actually, because tours are still somewhat of a new thing.

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[alex_castle]: Yeah, they were doing tours because I remember my dad sticking his finger into

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[alex_castle]: one of the firmaners in eating the fierminent mash. Thought that was the

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[alex_castle]: grossest thing I've ever seen,

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[alex_castle]: and then they gave us chocolate, you know, because of course my brother and I

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[alex_castle]: are too young to drink, and so they just gave us chocolate. Well, it wasn't

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[alex_castle]: plain chocolate. it was bourbon fudge

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[drew_hannush]: Oh,

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[alex_castle]: As a five year old, it was terrible.

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[drew_hannush]: did you?

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[alex_castle]: it. it was like a cruel joke.

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[drew_hannush]: did you walk out a little woozy? After that?

354
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[alex_castle]: I just remember hating it. I have no idea. I think my parents found it

355
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[alex_castle]: hysterical, though,

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[drew_hannush]: I think it's funny that people's first experience with whiskey usually is not

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[drew_hannush]: a good experience

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[drew_hannush]: And you wonder how they somehow turn it all around and find a love for it

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[drew_hannush]: somewhere down the road.

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[alex_castle]: absolutely I, looking back, I don't know how I ever came. My, my distaste of

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[alex_castle]: the fermentation room like smill.

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[drew_hannush]: So when you were at University of Kentucky, because I know you know Louisville

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[drew_hannush]: has plenty of opportunities around to learn about distiing, Did they on that

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[drew_hannush]: chemical engineering track? Did they have classes in there that maybe had some

365
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[drew_hannush]: kind of a lean towards distilling,

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[alex_castle]: No, Um, So when I was going through the program I was one of the first students

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[alex_castle]: within their memory that said, On day one, This is what I want to do and I like

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[alex_castle]: I. I had one professor who just thought I was stupid. Like Why are you wasting

369
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[alex_castle]: your time doing this degree if you want to make beer or whatever? Uh, So the

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[alex_castle]: only only distillation course I had it was. it was literally a distillation

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[alex_castle]: course. There was a semester of just disstillation, but it was a focus on

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[alex_castle]: Um, like chemical distillation, so petroleum. I definitely not beverage

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[alex_castle]: alcohol. Uh, none of that came until long after I. I graduated. Yeah, they

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[alex_castle]: weren't even talking about the James B Beam institute when I was there. That

375
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[alex_castle]: was. I was long gone by that point. Um. so yeah, they, they didn't. They didn't

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[alex_castle]: really have a bourbon

377
00:23:32,560 --> 00:23:37,200
[alex_castle]: program going. They, they hadn't realized that that was an avenue that they

378
00:23:37,280 --> 00:23:39,280
[alex_castle]: should be opening up to their students.

379
00:23:38,314 --> 00:23:44,394
[drew_hannush]: Yeah, Yeah, well, they probably weren't seeing the explosion we've had here

380
00:23:45,114 --> 00:23:50,394
[drew_hannush]: over the last ten twelve years either, So, um that you wouldn't get that smirk

381
00:23:50,634 --> 00:23:53,194
[drew_hannush]: from a professor these days? I, I have a feeling a

382
00:23:52,740 --> 00:23:53,740
[alex_castle]: No,

383
00:23:53,194 --> 00:23:56,154
[drew_hannush]: lot of a lot of money to be made in the ▁urban industry. So

384
00:23:57,140 --> 00:23:58,140
[alex_castle]: absolutely

385
00:23:58,154 --> 00:24:00,314
[drew_hannush]: so how did you because you first

386
00:24:02,794 --> 00:24:09,754
[drew_hannush]: opportunity to be around whiskey was in Lexington at Al Tech, which is I know

387
00:24:09,914 --> 00:24:13,114
[drew_hannush]: better as town branch, and whiskey fans probably know his town branch.

388
00:24:14,154 --> 00:24:16,074
[drew_hannush]: So how did you end up Uh, getting there?

389
00:24:17,760 --> 00:24:23,760
[alex_castle]: yeah. So I, um, was looking to do a coop during school, and Uh, at the time I

390
00:24:23,920 --> 00:24:28,320
[alex_castle]: saw and decided between beer and and whiskey, and uh was leaning towards beer.

391
00:24:28,560 --> 00:24:33,200
[alex_castle]: And so I had actually interviewed an Anheiser bush, Um, And then at the same

392
00:24:33,440 --> 00:24:37,920
[alex_castle]: time, Um, the woman in our our coop office who was supposed to help us find

393
00:24:38,160 --> 00:24:42,160
[alex_castle]: these different businesses to talk to. Uh. She's a hundred percent German and

394
00:24:42,240 --> 00:24:45,040
[alex_castle]: so when I said I want to make beer for a living, she was a hundred percent on

395
00:24:45,120 --> 00:24:48,720
[alex_castle]: board like she was going to help me find a job one way or another,

396
00:24:47,354 --> 00:24:49,514
[drew_hannush]: You got a fan now? Yes,

397
00:24:50,400 --> 00:24:56,000
[alex_castle]: And so she found all tech um. and at the time their main thing was animal

398
00:24:56,320 --> 00:25:01,360
[alex_castle]: nutrition supplements, um, animal feed, And then also they owned Kentucky ale.

399
00:25:01,840 --> 00:25:07,280
[alex_castle]: the beer, Um. And so that's what made her bring it to me, as she knew they had

400
00:25:07,360 --> 00:25:12,720
[alex_castle]: this small brewery, And so I went. I didn't get the job at the brewery. I got a

401
00:25:12,800 --> 00:25:17,680
[alex_castle]: job in engineering at headquarters. Uh, working for Mar Kaufman. He was my

402
00:25:17,534 --> 00:25:18,534
[drew_hannush]: okay,

403
00:25:17,840 --> 00:25:22,080
[alex_castle]: boss, Um, and people now know him as the master distiller at Town Branch,

404
00:25:21,854 --> 00:25:22,854
[drew_hannush]: very nice.

405
00:25:22,960 --> 00:25:27,920
[alex_castle]: And so I got there was doing engineering projects. but Mark knew that I wanted

406
00:25:28,080 --> 00:25:32,080
[alex_castle]: to be at the brewery, and so like every other Friday when they bottled beer, I

407
00:25:32,240 --> 00:25:36,080
[alex_castle]: got to go down and and help bottle Um. And so that was his way of helping give

408
00:25:36,240 --> 00:25:41,040
[alex_castle]: me some exposure for the time being. Well, A couple months in, I start hearing

409
00:25:41,680 --> 00:25:43,680
[alex_castle]: talk about this distillery project.

410
00:25:44,880 --> 00:25:48,560
[alex_castle]: No one's give me any information like I'm I'm on the outside of it, but I'm

411
00:25:48,720 --> 00:25:53,120
[alex_castle]: hearing it well. next thing I know, they have two pot stills being delivered

412
00:25:53,280 --> 00:25:58,960
[alex_castle]: from Scotland and installed into the brewery. Um. And it, it looked very

413
00:25:59,120 --> 00:26:02,560
[alex_castle]: different back then it does today. It was a very cramped space,

414
00:26:02,254 --> 00:26:03,254
[drew_hannush]: yeah,

415
00:26:02,660 --> 00:26:03,660
[alex_castle]: Um.

416
00:26:04,880 --> 00:26:09,120
[alex_castle]: but they. uh. My first exposure to this stilllls was after they were installed.

417
00:26:09,520 --> 00:26:13,200
[alex_castle]: They wanted to clean them and polish them. Um. Because they were going to do a

418
00:26:13,200 --> 00:26:16,480
[alex_castle]: ton of media and press conferences and things, they have to look really pretty.

419
00:26:17,120 --> 00:26:20,800
[alex_castle]: And so me and someone else from the engineering department had to figure how to

420
00:26:20,900 --> 00:26:21,900
[alex_castle]: clean copper

421
00:26:22,880 --> 00:26:26,320
[alex_castle]: and polish them. And if you can picture how tall those stools are, we had to

422
00:26:26,380 --> 00:26:27,380
[alex_castle]: get top to bottom

423
00:26:26,954 --> 00:26:28,154
[drew_hannush]: Oh, wow. So

424
00:26:28,400 --> 00:26:30,160
[alex_castle]: it was. it was not good.

425
00:26:30,074 --> 00:26:31,594
[drew_hannush]: what? what do you clean those with?

426
00:26:32,640 --> 00:26:37,040
[alex_castle]: Uh, we tried about a million different things, some of which probably were not

427
00:26:37,120 --> 00:26:41,200
[alex_castle]: the right thing to do. Um, I think the one we stuck with most was a a citric

428
00:26:41,360 --> 00:26:46,400
[alex_castle]: acid solution, so that was a lot of fun dealing with acid. Um.

429
00:26:47,600 --> 00:26:51,120
[alex_castle]: it's terrible, but it got me exposure. Um.

430
00:26:52,400 --> 00:26:56,240
[alex_castle]: and they finally fired up the stilllls and realized they didn't have anyone to

431
00:26:56,240 --> 00:27:01,680
[alex_castle]: run them And so Mark comes to me and say, Do you want to observe a distillation

432
00:27:02,160 --> 00:27:06,160
[alex_castle]: Said, Absolutely, you know, I've been waiting for this, so we planned the day.

433
00:27:06,400 --> 00:27:11,040
[alex_castle]: I go down to the brewery distillery and meet them there, and he says, I forgot.

434
00:27:11,200 --> 00:27:13,760
[alex_castle]: I have to take the boys to the dentist. I have to go.

435
00:27:14,800 --> 00:27:18,080
[alex_castle]: Ah, crap, so I get to go back to the office and twiddle my thumbs. That'll be

436
00:27:17,700 --> 00:27:18,700
[alex_castle]: fun.

437
00:27:19,360 --> 00:27:23,600
[alex_castle]: Instead. he ran through the entire distillation process. What to do? what to

438
00:27:23,680 --> 00:27:28,400
[alex_castle]: look for in about five minutes and said, Here you go. it's like In worse case

439
00:27:28,560 --> 00:27:31,200
[alex_castle]: if you need, if you need to shut it down, just shut it down. Don't

440
00:27:30,894 --> 00:27:31,894
[drew_hannush]: Wow?

441
00:27:31,280 --> 00:27:33,200
[alex_castle]: worry about it. And then he left.

442
00:27:33,534 --> 00:27:34,534
[drew_hannush]: Oh, man,

443
00:27:35,274 --> 00:27:40,474
[drew_hannush]: and here you are alone with. I mean, I mean, I don't know if you could take a

444
00:27:41,274 --> 00:27:47,354
[drew_hannush]: uh, Kentucky Bourban distiller and put them into that room be cause the the

445
00:27:48,074 --> 00:27:51,834
[drew_hannush]: Scotch process. This, the Scottish way of making whiskey is different.

446
00:27:52,740 --> 00:27:53,740
[alex_castle]: It's very different

447
00:27:52,874 --> 00:27:58,154
[drew_hannush]: Uh, yeah, from from dealing with Coolumn stills and pots. I don't think

448
00:27:58,394 --> 00:28:01,754
[drew_hannush]: really. I think that they were probably some of the first po s

449
00:28:02,794 --> 00:28:03,834
[drew_hannush]: back in Kentucky

450
00:28:05,514 --> 00:28:07,354
[drew_hannush]: know, probably since Prohibition, I would think

451
00:28:08,400 --> 00:28:12,320
[alex_castle]: outside of Woodford, Foodford Reserve has always had pot stills, but outside of

452
00:28:12,320 --> 00:28:17,040
[alex_castle]: them, I don't think any of the distlleries really went that route. Um for a

453
00:28:17,120 --> 00:28:21,360
[alex_castle]: long time. So yeah, it. that was a fun day. but I also, I don't think I stopped

454
00:28:21,440 --> 00:28:25,520
[alex_castle]: smiling that entire day. That was. That was the moment I knew that I didn't

455
00:28:25,540 --> 00:28:26,540
[alex_castle]: want to make beer.

456
00:28:26,094 --> 00:28:27,094
[drew_hannush]: yeah, yeah,

457
00:28:26,640 --> 00:28:30,240
[alex_castle]: Beer wasn't enough. I I needed to make distilled spirits.

458
00:28:30,494 --> 00:28:31,494
[drew_hannush]: that would have been.

459
00:28:31,060 --> 00:28:32,060
[alex_castle]: Um,

460
00:28:31,674 --> 00:28:33,594
[drew_hannush]: that. Would me crazy. So, um,

461
00:28:34,794 --> 00:28:39,674
[drew_hannush]: how did you feel after you got done where you like? Uhh? I hope I hope this is

462
00:28:39,374 --> 00:28:40,374
[drew_hannush]: good.

463
00:28:41,600 --> 00:28:43,520
[alex_castle]: Yeah, I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like.

464
00:28:45,280 --> 00:28:49,680
[alex_castle]: No, fortunately, I wasn't even thinking about that that day, but fortunately,

465
00:28:50,640 --> 00:28:55,440
[alex_castle]: um, shortly thereafter they actually brought a retired distiller from Scotland

466
00:28:55,680 --> 00:29:00,800
[alex_castle]: over Harry Coburn, Um. he's helped do a lot of distilleries in the States. Um.

467
00:29:00,960 --> 00:29:04,080
[alex_castle]: so I actually had to spend two weeks with Harry learning

468
00:29:03,934 --> 00:29:04,934
[drew_hannush]: Wow,

469
00:29:05,040 --> 00:29:10,960
[alex_castle]: the ends and outs and what to do what not to do. Um, and it was very, very

470
00:29:11,280 --> 00:29:15,840
[alex_castle]: archaic, almost because our steam valve was manual, so literally, just standing

471
00:29:16,000 --> 00:29:19,200
[alex_castle]: by the still and Harry would just be like You. Do you know how do you know how

472
00:29:19,200 --> 00:29:22,000
[alex_castle]: to tell when it's ready we were about to boil or everything I said? Now what do

473
00:29:22,080 --> 00:29:24,320
[alex_castle]: you do? and he literally just puts his hand on the stove,

474
00:29:26,240 --> 00:29:29,760
[alex_castle]: And you just you. That's how he taught. It was like you know fine or that heat

475
00:29:29,840 --> 00:29:33,280
[alex_castle]: is, and that's you can gauge where you are At that point it was like, and

476
00:29:33,220 --> 00:29:34,220
[alex_castle]: you'll learn to be really

477
00:29:34,094 --> 00:29:35,094
[drew_hannush]: yeah,

478
00:29:34,400 --> 00:29:35,920
[alex_castle]: fast. That'll come a time.

479
00:29:37,040 --> 00:29:41,120
[alex_castle]: Uh, you know, and just learning it that way and he' like, Have you tasted the

480
00:29:41,200 --> 00:29:44,080
[alex_castle]: product yet? I said No. he's like. Well, you need to taste it like you do not

481
00:29:44,160 --> 00:29:48,400
[alex_castle]: get to stand up here and not taste it. And so Just getting those two weeks with

482
00:29:48,480 --> 00:29:52,720
[alex_castle]: him and getting that super handans on experience from someone with that kind of

483
00:29:52,800 --> 00:29:58,080
[alex_castle]: pedigree. It was phenomenal Um to where. After after he left, I, I felt

484
00:29:58,320 --> 00:30:00,480
[alex_castle]: confident that as long as I did with me

485
00:30:00,814 --> 00:30:01,814
[drew_hannush]: yeah,

486
00:30:01,840 --> 00:30:03,760
[alex_castle]: then we we were going to have a really good product.

487
00:30:04,074 --> 00:30:09,994
[drew_hannush]: so he actually was production director. I think at Uh, Bomore in uh on Ia. At

488
00:30:10,154 --> 00:30:11,834
[drew_hannush]: one point, and uh,

489
00:30:11,380 --> 00:30:12,380
[alex_castle]: Yes, yes,

490
00:30:12,074 --> 00:30:15,914
[drew_hannush]: so coming from the oldest distillery in Scotland, or now, I'm going to get

491
00:30:16,074 --> 00:30:17,834
[drew_hannush]: myself in trouble with that statement. Um,

492
00:30:19,274 --> 00:30:22,474
[drew_hannush]: there's always that controversy about who is the oldest. Um,

493
00:30:22,620 --> 00:30:23,620
[alex_castle]: oh yeah,

494
00:30:23,354 --> 00:30:27,994
[drew_hannush]: yeah, but um yeah, so I mean that that must have been something. And then,

495
00:30:28,474 --> 00:30:33,674
[drew_hannush]: actually, for people who don't know about townm branch, um, pierce, not Pierce

496
00:30:33,834 --> 00:30:37,834
[drew_hannush]: Lions, they may actually recognize that name. and he was the one who had had

497
00:30:37,994 --> 00:30:42,154
[drew_hannush]: this dream of uh, coming from Ireland, because he had worked from at Uh,

498
00:30:42,394 --> 00:30:43,594
[drew_hannush]: Jamieson, I believe,

499
00:30:43,620 --> 00:30:44,620
[alex_castle]: yes,

500
00:30:44,554 --> 00:30:49,914
[drew_hannush]: and then now he had had a distillery in I, uh, Dublin, and then wanted to open

501
00:30:50,154 --> 00:30:54,074
[drew_hannush]: this one up in Kentucky. So did you have much interaction with him while you

502
00:30:53,854 --> 00:30:54,854
[drew_hannush]: were there?

503
00:30:55,360 --> 00:30:59,280
[alex_castle]: I. I was fortunate enough to get some some interaction with him, especially

504
00:30:59,440 --> 00:31:02,320
[alex_castle]: when the Dislly Project started and really off

505
00:31:03,360 --> 00:31:08,000
[alex_castle]: got to interact with him from time to time And he was such a fantastic person,

506
00:31:09,280 --> 00:31:13,840
[alex_castle]: so full of life, so full of just ideas and dreams. Mean he started the animal

507
00:31:14,160 --> 00:31:19,200
[alex_castle]: nutrition supplement side, But then he, I want to own a brewery. Howed, Disry,

508
00:31:19,340 --> 00:31:20,340
[alex_castle]: just kept going.

509
00:31:19,894 --> 00:31:20,894
[drew_hannush]: Yeah, yeah,

510
00:31:21,934 --> 00:31:22,934
[drew_hannush]: nice.

511
00:31:22,400 --> 00:31:26,240
[alex_castle]: You never knew what he was going to do, but he, no, he was anly fantastic,

512
00:31:26,540 --> 00:31:27,540
[alex_castle]: fantastic person.

513
00:31:28,560 --> 00:31:32,880
[alex_castle]: In the fact that he trusted Mark, Turn trusted me with with that project.

514
00:31:34,800 --> 00:31:36,720
[alex_castle]: I can't think either of them enough.

515

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