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Ep. 36 - Tom Ripy and the Family Before Wild Turkey

BOURBON HISTORY // Hear the stories of Lawrenceburg and Tyrone, KY distilleries.

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Show Notes

Get ready to dig deep into the history of Anderson County, Kentucky - where today Four Roses and Wild Turkey reign supreme.

But when my guest Tom Ripy was a youth there, he lived among distilling royalty, including the Saffells, Bonds, Lillards, Dowlings, and his own family, the Ripys. Some of these names returning to shelves in liquor stores and bars.

Join me in a time machine as we hear how it was in Lawrenceburg, KY from a man who had personal connections to many of the families that helped build the legacy of bourbon.

  • The family origins from Tyrone Ireland
  • Starting as a wholesaler
  • T.B. Ripy, W.H. McBrayer, Waterfill and Frazier
  • The largest sour mash distiller in the world
  • W.F. Bond, Lillard 
  • John and Mary Dowling and the Dowling Brothers Distillery
  • Tyrone, Kentucky before Prohibition
  • Juarez, Mexico Bourbon
  • W.B. Saffell Distillery and the Saffell House
  • The Ripy Brothers Distilling Company after Prohibition
  • The connection between the Bonds and Ripys
  • The Bonds Mill Distillery, Old Joe, and Joe Louis Whiskey
  • Four Roses and J.T.S. Brown at Old Prentice Distillery
  • Agnus Fiddler Brown and the Mansion
  • Hoffman Distilling and Ezra Brooks
  • Ripy Brothers to Wild Turkey
  • Lawrenceburg during his youth
  • Industrial alcohol for the military
  • Saving stamps day and ice boxes
  • Playing in those days gone past
  • Whiskey incidents during Prohibition
  • The Sunday crossword
  • The bourbon boom
  • Bridge and bartending
  • Distilling in diapers
  • The Ripy Mansion Bourbon Sessions
  • The amazing architecture of the Gilded Age

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.

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Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:14):
[Inaudible]

Drew (00:14):
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the Interviews, I'm your host Drew Hannush the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lore's travel guide to experience in Kentucky bourbon. And today I'm going to be taking you back to the very roots of what is known as the Wild Turkey distillery. Yes. Before Jimmy and Eddie Russell. Well, there was a family known as the Ripys and in those old days, they were bourbon royalty. In fact, before and after Prohibition and Tom Ripy, who is the grandson of TB, Ripy the man who helped make that distillery. So successful. He's my guest today. And he has got a lot of stories to share, and he grew up around some of the great names in pre-Prohibition whiskey and some after Prohibition, the bonds, the Lillards, the Downings the Saffells. And we're going to get the chance to talk a little bit about the origins of the family coming from Tyrone Ireland, and then the little town of Tyrone and how it sort of came and went.

Drew (01:27):
We'll talk about Lawrenceburg before Wild Turkey and four roses. And we're going to talk about the preservation of the old Ripy mansion home that he remembers from his youth. And we'll talk about the bourbon sessions, which is a way that they are taking in donations to try to save this beautiful gilded age mansion. Now, I want to send a big thank you out to Jerry Daniels of Stone Fences Tours, because he was the guy that got me in touch with Mr. Ripy. And in fact, he's very involved in the bourbon sessions. So follow stone fences tours, or you can go on Facebook and follow the whiskey and history community that we have set up for Whiskey Lore. And you'll be able to see when those bourbon sessions are being held. But right now let's go ahead and jump into the interview with Mr. Ripy. He is a fascinating man. He's got great stories to share, and you're going to learn a lot about bourbon history and even feel like you're back in the middle of it. And we're going to start this interview off with him, telling you a little bit about his family origins and their patriarchs travel over to the United States from Tyrone Ireland.

Tom (02:50):
Well, my great-great-grandfather came from county Tyrone Ireland and 1831 and according to family history he came through the port of Philadelphia and worked for a wholesaler who supplied mercantile stores around the country. And eventually he moved to bourbon county, Kentucky work for Merck, a merchant there then came to what is now Anderson county. And in 1839, he renounced his allegiance to queen Victoria and took his oath of citizenship in the bourbon circuit court. He got married the same year. Okay. And he married a lady named Artemesia Walker. The Walkers were among the first families to come to Kentucky and her family owned most of the land on both sides of the road between here and what is now Wild Turkey. Okay. Plus some more land down in Tyrone itself, I think, but it was a marriage of some profits for him because he married into a well-to-do family and the, they had a couple of children's and he, he became a, basically a wholesaler.

Tom (04:38):
He bought whiskey and those days you would buy whiskey and it might be distort stored at the distillery where it was made and he bought and sold a whiskey. Eventually he partnered with, I think it was his brother-in-law Monroe Walker and another gentleman, and they built, or the rebuilt a distillery entire own and started to operate it, but they only operated it for about a year. And then it was sold to my great-grandfather and his partner W H McBrayer and long Cedarbrook, which is famous bourbon in a year in Anderson county. And he was about 21. When he went into the distilling business,

Drew (05:35):
They would just be legal to drink

Tom (05:37):
Well. He, he he bought out Judge McGreer after one year and he became the sole owner of the distillery in Tyrol and he enlarged it and enlarged it in large, you know, most distilleries then we're like an extended farm operation. They had cattle, lots associated with them and which is, was true of his distillery. And eventually he went into partnership with the owners of the Waterfilll and Frazier distillery, and they built an another distillery right next to the one that he had entire own. So this is

Drew (06:28):
Cliff Springs and the other one is

Tom (06:30):
A TB Ripy distillery. I think. He bought out the Waterfill and Frazier partners and kept enlarging and enlarging and large again, supposedly by the time you sold it, he was the largest sour mash distiller in the world. Wow. But it was a big plant for the time being black. And I'm pretty sure his health was failing. He had what they call pernicious anemia, and they didn't know exactly how to treat it back then. And how he died in Battle Creek, Michigan at the Kellogg clinic there. Oh, wow. After a few years after he sold out in 1899 he was like a lot of people in the whiskey business. He was either very rich or very poor bankrupt or, or or a millionaire, but today he's a multi-millionaire, but today's standard. It

Drew (07:43):
Sounds like he ended

Tom (07:44):
Pretty well. Well, he ended up well enough for my great grandmother to continue to live into the house in the house that he built long after he died. She out Leah 10 by 45 or four years. And she had a staff for the house, a large staff, it, a cook and maids and a yard man. And they had a Butler or, you know, somebody to serve the meals and whatnot. Yeah. I remember him, he would come to this doors between the parlor and the dining room and open the sliding doors and ring the chimes. And he would say dinner is being served. And that was a signal to come in and sit down and have dinner, or it was much more formal than it is now. Yeah. Much more formal

Drew (08:50):
That you remember that, that mansion and your

Tom (08:57):
Great-Grandmother is somewhere. I've got a picture of myself with my great-grandmother. It was taken down in front of the doors between the parlor and the dining room, but yeah. Oh yes. I remember my great grandmother and I remember a lot of my great aunts and uncles now. Some of them were dead before I was born, but I knew some, some of them anyway. And it was it was a big extended family and was very comfortable. I knew everybody on south main street from downtown area all the way out to the cemetery and I was canned to most of them.

Drew (09:42):
Well, and there's a lot of distilling names around this area. So and you see them when you drive down the street, cause you see that the street names, bond Saffell as you're going along.

Tom (09:55):
Well, you do. And I can tell you, I bond WF bond was my great, great grandfather and his daughter was married Jessie Johnson and the Johnson house is on that bourbon trail. His son was, it opened into steel reactor Prohibition and on the salt river, across the river from what's now four rows across the street from where my grandparents great grandparents lived his dialing hall. And that was John and Mary Dowling. She was originally a Murphy from somewhere in Western Kentucky. And he came here from Ireland. He and his brother operated a distillery in Bergen called [inaudible] brothers distilling company. And then he was part owner and eventually basically the sole owner of what is waterfall and Frazier was waterfall and Frazier distillery was down in Tyrone as well. And they were you know, he had interest in other distilleries around the county and when he died, his wife, Mary dally was executor of his will.

Tom (11:29):
Now this was before women could vote. Yeah. Yeah. But she was a very shrewd business lady. And she was fruiter than her sides, I guess. I don't know. Anyway, she was the one that really ran the business. She took care of the, they sold some of the distilleries did and they kept the waterfall and Frazier distiller and the Dowling brothers distillery. But some of the others, the smaller distilleries they disposed off. And when Prohibition came along, of course everybody had to close the house. Yeah. Tyrone at that time was almost as big as Lawrenceburg had had us. It had council, it had a mayor, it had a police department, it had lawyers and doctors and, you know, all that kind of stuff, hotels and restaurants and whatnot, but Prohibition destroyed it because nearly everybody that lived in Tyro worked in distillery because yeah, there were, or Waterfill Frazier Cedarbrook the TB Ripy distilleries the distillery on the hill, which is now Wild Turkey.

Tom (12:53):
I mean, that's where they were working. And so with Prohibition, there was nothing for them to do. So Ty's Tyrone pretty much disappeared with Prohibition, but Mary Dowling didn't. Okay. She hired one of the beams and moved her distilling operation from Tyrone to war is Mexico. Oh, okay. Yeah. And I, somewhere I have, you know, bar trays and stuff. It says a Dowling DM distilling company. Well, that's Dowling in Mexico distilling. And she had to have a Mexican involved in the ownership, which he did. And the beams operated the plant does I can't remember which one of the Beams, but one of the beams operated the plant for, and they made whiskey in Mexico during Prohibition. In fact, they were still making whiskey. I know up until the 1960s in, in war is, but in that note, she did, she had taken whiskey from medalling distillery down in Tyrone and brought it up to her house.

Tom (14:19):
And it was stored in the basement, in gunnysacks and revenue agents from Louisville trails from suspected boot Lakers then followed them from Ruleville down to Lawrenceburg and they pulled up at a Dowling House. Well, anyway, make a short story of it. There was a right. Okay. They, all of her escape and I, and I don't know how ever, how many there was over 400 gunnysacks with whiskey in it anyway, quite a bit. Yeah. Some arrests were made with criminal charges and everything. She was charged, but her conviction was overturned on a technicality, but she brought suit to get her whiskey back. And she lost in the district court and Lexington. She lost in the circuit court and since, and that, and she file for a petition, a petition for writ of certiorari with Supreme court, but it turned it down, but she went clear to the Supreme court trying to get her whiskey back.

Tom (15:44):
She was apparently quite a character, I don't know, but she was very prominent in local civic affairs and did a lot of good work with the women's groups here in Dow. Particularly they were very active in health concerns, child health. And it was before there were all the kind of service you have now, we didn't have an EMS or anything like that. We had a horse and buggies back there and, but they had a nurse that they hired the women's group to go around the county to, to survey the county for health concerns and TB and things like that. Yeah. And she was very active in that. She was she had sons and daughters. One of them was willed. Allen was a local attorney and very successful served in the state legislature. One of her daughters, Mary Dowling married my great uncle Jim bond.

Tom (17:01):
And they lived in the house right next to the Ripy house, which is now a funeral home. Game's his funeral home. And I used to go see aunt Mary cause a whole GM died, I don't know, in the forties. And she lived outlived him quite a number of years. And she was a real character like her mother. So those are the two, the bond and Lillard family and the Dowling family were at least United in marriage. Right next to them was the Saffell home. And WB Saffell had worked at Cedarbrook for Judge McBrayer. And he was quite a successful businessman. Locally. He started his own distillery called the WB Saffell distillery, and it was out right off the bypass. It was located on the Hampton's Creek out there. And the quality of his bourbon was quite exceptional. His daughters lived in that house, which again is become another funeral home. I don't know when they sold it, probably in the early sixties

Drew (18:28):
I saw on Broadway when I was driving down. It said Saffold funeral home. Yes.

Tom (18:34):
Okay. Saffell funeral home. And that was the WB Saffell home. His daughters were, some of his daughters were living there when I grew up here in town and I used to go over there. They had a cook who was a wonderful, she, she made the best white cake with caramelizing that I ever ate in my life. And she made that for my birthdays occasionally for me. So I had, I had a particular fondness for Joseph eight and I got the recipe for her icing from, from one of the Saffell descendants. So, and I was glad to get it. But then you moved on out. Sal's main, I guess the next house that's associated with bourbon is my grandparent's home, which is EW Ripy. And my grandfather was a distiller after Prohibition. He organized the Ripy brothers, distilling company was president of the distilling company until it was sold.

Drew (19:53):
He continued to work there after they sold it.

Tom (19:56):
He, his son who was also EWO Ripy worked there after it when he sold it, he retired, he, he retired, he was racing thoroughbreds. They were never very good, but he loved horses. And he did you know, a little building or round down and farming, mostly farming. He had farms scattered around all over the county. First horseback ride I ever had. He took me, he was still riding and I was little. Yeah. You know, and so he put me up in the saddle with him. But, but he was was a very exceptional person, very generous person. His wife was the granddaughter of WF bonds, although bonds. And Ripys got, that's how they got tangled up. And the house that they had there was built on some land that had been given originally to her mother as a wedding present by her father WF bond.

Tom (21:17):
And there were a lot of bond children and every one of them when they got married, got a gift of land somewhere there. And sometimes they was land at a house, but it w they were all up and down south main street. And then right next to, it was the Johnson home. Uncle Bob Johnson built a distillery on salt river across from four roses. It was later on by JTS brown and eventually by Wild Turkey, but it's been deserted and the building caught on fire, but it was built. It was called the Bond's mill distillery because it was built where there was an old mill water with a water wheel and everything. And the distillery was built in the original building where the water wheel and everything were and it was a very quaint little distillery. It bottled old Joe whiskey for a long time. You may know of old Joe and one of its famous brands was Joe Louis bourbon. Do you know who Joe was? I'm from Detroit. I know. Yes. Well, they bobbled Joe Louis whiskey and balled it. And they had a little pair of boxing gloves tied to the bottles. Wow. And that w that was part of the, you know, the promotion for it. Yeah. And four roses was built originally by J T S brown sons. Okay. Did you know that?

Drew (23:08):
Yeah. And it was, it was actually known as the, was it known as the old Prentice distillery first or the old Joe

Tom (23:13):
Distillery? It was the old Prentice discharge now. I don't know how, but, and maybe you do. I, I don't know. Yeah. But Agnes Fiddler brown ended up with title to the distillery and the mansion behind it. Hmm. Okay. She had married one of the brown sons' and they, they were all in the distillery together, but she, how she ended up with it. I don't

Drew (23:51):
Know. And this is the, what is now the four roses

Tom (23:54):
Now? Four rows. That's when it opened after Prohibition, she gone in to make an arrangement with the distiller here called his name was Gratz Hawkins a descendant of Granville bourbon.

Drew (24:17):
I love the nicknames.

Tom (24:18):
Yeah. So, but he was doing old Joe down on Gilbert's Creek road. And he was gonna do old Joe at what's now the four roses it's Delrey. Yeah. And so he moved in and they organize a corporate and they sold, you know, stock in it. I have a certificate for preferred stock in it that's worth only what the papers were, but, but the problem was Gratz hadn't registered the trademark and another distillery. I think it was up somewhere up in new England, registered the trademark and bought a trademark action against kissing. And he lost. So they couldn't do old Joel there anymore. And she sold the distillery and then it went through several hands. Seagram's had it for a long time. And then of course it ended up when Seagram's was basically dissolved. It ended up with a

Drew (25:29):
Tiffany or

Tom (25:30):
Karen brewing company in Japan owns it. Now

Drew (25:33):
It's interesting to see how well, what I find fascinating is the JTS brown name bouncing from place to place, because it was actually, was it at the distillery where Wild Turkey is now, there was a distillery there. Did they do, was that called JTS brown distillery?

Tom (25:57):
Oh, yes. After when my grandfather sold it, you sold it to the Gould brothers from Cincinnati. Okay. Now they were a Jewish family. They had some connections with Shanley and shambly. My grandfather had a contract with Shanley to sell it whiskey and old Ripy back then was all made and bottled for Shandling. Basically, they bought it and they had the JTS brown name when they bought it. And they, it became their, their major distillery then. And they bought several other distilleries. They bought what had been the bonds mill distillery they bought what had been the Dallin brothers is stereo, I think, up in Bergen. I mean, you know, they owned several, several distilleries. Yeah. But yes, it had been JTS brown. It was sold then by JTS brown. And it became Wild Turkey.

Drew (27:08):
Okay. Yeah. It's interesting because you still, there still was a Ripy brothers distilling at the same time that there was that Wild Turkey came in. Is that not cause who was making Ezra Brooks?

Tom (27:22):
Ezra Brooks was being made at Hoffman distilling. Okay. And Hoffman was a repeat brothers. My two, two of my great uncles owned and operated it that was Israel, Fiddler, and my uncle Robert or Bob Johnson. Bob, Bob Ripy. Yeah. that was on 44. Julian van Winkle was bottling down there until, I don't know, the early two thousands. Okay. Sometime I'm not sure exactly when he closed 2001, 2002,

Drew (28:05):
The Hopkins is still where you're talking about

Tom (28:07):
That, but he was bottling is his product down there, but that they had that's where as our Brooks started.

Drew (28:16):
Yeah. And so in following the JTS brown name, which comes out of the George Garvin brown brown foreman family, and now has kind of popped off into its own space. Now it's with heaven hill, I think is who has it now? So but it's interesting that when you sell off something that has your name on it, how all of a sudden, legally it becomes tougher to put out another product because with, with your name on it. Cause as we're Brooks, the story I hear behind that is that Brooks wasn't really a family name or anything like that, but the Ezra did come from the family.

Tom (29:00):
Well, see, I said, my uncle is, her was one of the partners in Hopland. Yeah.

Drew (29:07):
And so it's his name and then Brooks, any idea where that came from?

Tom (29:11):
Well, they were looking for something other than Fiddler, I think.

Drew (29:17):
So.

Tom (29:19):
I mean, it just something that was a little snappier than Fiddler.

Drew (29:23):
Yeah. So this area, when you were young, it must've just been a landscape of distilleries.

Tom (29:32):
Well all this area back here was farmland.

Drew (29:37):
Okay. So all those old distilleries that went at Prohibition, the buildings just disappeared over time or

Tom (29:43):
Well, the only ones that reopened what had been the old Prentice plat as now, four roses the Ripy brothers distillery, that's still on the hill, which is the how Wild Turkey and Hoffman. Okay. Those were the only three that opened up. Now my uncle Bob basically built the new distillery and what had been the Bond's mill you know, grain mill. Yeah. But that was the nudist area. It wasn't, it didn't exist before Prohibition.

Drew (30:17):
So what was the Lawrenceburg like then when you were growing up, did it feel like a place that was, that had lost its, its history and, and was kind of,

Tom (30:29):
No, it hadn't lost its history because so many people were still living. Yeah. That had grown up before world war one. Okay. Yeah. I'm a little bit older than you are. Okay. So I mean, I, I knew people who had, had been in world war one. I knew a lot of them. And there were, there was a vast difference in the community. For one thing, it was much smaller. The people who had been in the distilling business were still pretty well to do. And they lived in mostly along south main street. There was a I think a closeness would comes from being a very small community. I mean, everybody knew everything you did for one thing. And if you were young, you had to be very careful. She didn't get in trouble. Cause if you got in trouble, your parents found out pretty quick.

Tom (31:36):
But to remember to I, when I was young, at least I could walk down the street and not see a car. I might see a horse and buggy. Yeah. But you know, during world war two, all the plants were under the supervision of the war production board. And they were all producing stuff for the federal government. Well, all the distilleries here were too, they were producing alcohol for the military and it was used in in you know, explosive devices and whatnot. Yeah. And so it was really quite different. You had mailed delivery twice a day. Let's see. I think it cost a penny for a postcard and 3 cents to mail a letter. Wow.

Drew (32:27):
Now, now you just lick a dollar bill and stick it on there.

Tom (32:31):
Well, and it was very different. Yeah. Well, when I was, at least when I started to school Monday was saving stamps day and the kids all brought their money and you bought savings stamps. Have you got so many savings stamps, you turn your savings tab book in and get us about a bond. And that was somebody say Monday was savings stamps day. Everything was rationed and the hand scrap drives. And a lot of people were still using an ice box. Do you know what an icebox is? Yeah. Well, my grandparents had an ice box. My one set of my grandparents did and the ice man would come a couple of times a week and deliver blocks ice so they could keep their icebox cold. And it was just a different time altogether. Yeah. A very different times

Drew (33:42):
You were living almost in this area, then some elements of the really early 20th century in terms of if you're still seeing horse and buggy going down the road and well

Tom (33:55):
The unit, because there are several reasons for it. One of which was they didn't make any cars during world war II. The second was even before world war II, a lot of people didn't have a car. Yeah. And finally gas and tires were rationed. Now my grandfather, my maternal grandfather was a physician and he got a special allowance because back in those days, you didn't have an emergency management system to take people to the hospital. And a lot of the medical practice was done at their home. And he was the youngest doctor in town during world war two. And he was a world war, one veteran, but he was the youngest doctor practices, medicine, your cousin, the, the very young ones were in the military. And it was just, it was very different. You didn't see TV news because there wasn't any such thing. We had our equivalent for, it was called a path, a news. Do you know what that is?

Drew (35:18):
I've heard the name before, but RKO

Tom (35:21):
Pathe news.

Drew (35:22):
Yeah. Okay. Kind of like a radio or a film reel at the,

Tom (35:27):
It was a film reel at the movie. And that was the closest thing you had to, to you know, to kind of news. If you listen to the news on the radio, which most people did back then that was the way you got your news that and reading the newspapers. Yeah. But people didn't have so many diversion. Yeah. Kids didn't play on cell phones and iPads and whatever they, God. Yeah. What you played with was your imagination a lot and you made, or at least we made our own toys out of whatever. It might be tobacco sticks or whatever, but you, you know, you made your own toys. And we did a lot of things. Like we go hiking. One of our favorite hiking spots was called Panther rock, which was that out in the county, there were all kinds of stories about the Panther back

Drew (36:38):
To try to scare you into not going up there.

Tom (36:42):
It was basically where there was cliff limestone cliff and it was sheer. And at the bottom, there was a cave and a stream that ran out of the cave and the water was cold and clear. And we camp at the top and you could go down and you could, I guess you could drink the water we did anyway.

Drew (37:15):
You're still here to tell that I, you know, So

Tom (37:20):
Yeah. So yeah, it was, it was, it was very different than the kind of life you have to take. Yeah.

Drew (37:27):
Yeah. And you kind of had to invent your own your own fun. And and there's, there's the part of me that goes, all this technology is making us smarter, but in a way it's making us less what we refer to as street smart. You're, you're not actually getting out and doing things. You're just book learning basically off the internet. So

Tom (37:54):
Well, I think it's my feeling about education is that it should stimulate your thought and rote learning. Doesn't do that. Yeah. And I think with the technology, what we're getting is more rote learning and it doesn't, it doesn't stimulate the brain cells very much

Drew (38:19):
Well, and the other thing is nobody really wonders anything anymore. We all can get the answer in two seconds off of Google. So

Tom (38:27):
That's where you get an answer and I answer. Yeah.

Drew (38:30):
Yeah,

Tom (38:31):
Exactly. Yeah. And there is a difference.

Drew (38:34):
Yeah. So thinking back to the stories you may have heard about Prohibition and what was going on there, we hear these fantastic tales of

Tom (38:48):
You know, they always focus on the mafia and Al Capone and all that sort of stuff that was going on. What were some of the stories that were more local that you would have been hearing about here? Well warehouses, it, the ripping plant down in Tyrone we're robbed by there was basically a large group of people and they packed up trucks and everything and headed off with whiskey. Now, I think they caught them on their way to Chicago. Yeah. But you did, I mean, there were cases of that sort of thing. I told you about old Joe. Back when I was working as a lawyer, I had a situation where I had to look at the reasons for the expulsion of a member of Congress. There was a case brought to expel him, actually, I think he resigned, but his name was Langley and he was from Pikeville, Kentucky.

Tom (40:08):
And he was cute accused of violating the Volstead act, which is the poor Bishop law. And so I was reading a, he had lost in the lower courts and there was an appeal to the Supreme court. And I was reading the records and briefs of the case. And there's a transcript of the other testimony in the trial court and I'm reading along and I see Gratz brown Hawkins is a witness. He was resident of old Joe. He was, we talked about him earlier being in partnership with Agnes Fiddler out here. And but I knew the brown, I knew the Hawkins family. And in fact they were in a close neighbors of ours down on south ninth. And so of course I was interested. Well, it turns out that among the whiskeys, he was alleged to a bootleg. Oh one of them was old Joe, so that's why Gratz was called to testify. So yeah, there were some situations during Prohibition where people in Anderson county were involved in one way or another, some, some of the things that were going on. But I'll tell you what, one of the Saffell ladies and that was her name was Allie or Lowel as what grandmother always called her. She was a delightful person. And she said, I could have told them this Prohibition wasn't going to work as long as I had a percolator. But

Tom (41:57):
I said, she was saying that in chest.

Drew (42:00):
And she was right. She, we just need her up talking to Congress to get that all figured out.

Tom (42:08):
Listen, Dante is, he could have said some straight. All right. I, I, I'm an avid crossword puzzle worker. And I started working crosswords with her younger sister, Todd Bartlett, who was one of WB Savile's daughters as well, because she subscribed to the New York times and would do the New York times Sunday crossword. And she bring it up to my grandma's up here and they'd all work on it together. And I, at the point where I like to work on it with them. And and that, that got me started now. I continued to this day, I, I subscribed to the Lexington Herald newspaper because it has the New York times crossword

Drew (43:00):
Keep, keeps the mind.

Tom (43:02):
I think it helps.

Drew (43:04):
Yeah, absolutely. So are you shocked at all that after cause bourbon went through a long time period where it really was just selling to the loyal customers, but it really had kind of lost its popularity and is now everywhere. It's like, it's, it's just exploding right now. Does it surprise you that how much it's caught on again?

Tom (43:32):
Well I think it's like everything else liquor goes through cycles and that was, this was one of those, this was one of the cycles and right now it's very good for at bourbon. Yeah. How long it will last, I can't say it was hard for me to believe because I grew up in a bourbon family that it was every ever out of fashion. I learned to make a Manhattan from my grandmother because her bridge group, which included a couple of the Saffell girls would have bridge every Friday afternoon. And after bridge was over at five o'clock, they had Manhattans. And so I was the bartender for a while.

Drew (44:34):
And how old were you when you were? I can't

Tom (44:36):
Remember, but I started in the distilling business quite young. Yeah. I was not quite three when I first went to work out at Ripy brothers and it'd be warehouse a what's now Wild Turkey. There's a picture of me. And I probably had on the diaper steel sitting, sitting on the barrel run. Yeah. Wow.

Tom (45:11):
Yeah, this was before world war two, so wow. You know? Yeah. It was early.

Drew (45:16):
Yeah. So do you still have a relationship with, with Wild Turkey? Do you, and did you through the years?

Tom (45:25):
I it's been off and on, it'd been off in the home. I, I want to keep a good relationship with all the bourbon people. Yeah. And that included, I loved Al young. I don't know if, you know, Al young

Drew (45:40):
Is my first interview and he died a month after that interview. And I had so many more questions I wanted to ask you about

Tom (45:47):
Al young was a wonderful person. One of my favorite people in the industry, of course, he's with four roses and yeah. And I asked some friends at work, different distilleries around I have none, well, I have a number of other friends that work out at four roses. I keep up with it and I try to I try to taste different bourbons. And there's some, I like better than others. I put it that way.

Drew (46:21):
Do you have a current favorite or a

Tom (46:26):
Well, I, I think dollar for dollar, they, the, it's kinda hard to beat this Wild Turkey 1 0 1. Yeah. Dollar for dollar. Yeah. But heaven hill has one out that I think is pretty good and they make the Henry McKenna. The McKenna is excellent bourbon. Yeah. so I I say I taste them all. And we're we're fortunate. We've had a lot of very interesting people come to the old house including members of the beam, family, and, and others to talk to us and I really enjoyed. Yeah.

Drew (47:15):
Yeah. So, so just talk about that a little bit. Where did the idea come up to start doing these bourbon sessions to save the house?

Tom (47:26):
Well we, when we bought the house, we didn't buy it to live in, but we wanted it to be rather a community asset. So we've been trying to do things to promote it as a community asset. And this was the outgrowth of our desire to be, you said it's a beautiful place. I don't know if you've been inside it or not. We're really looking forward to it's really, it's it's a, it's a work of art. It's not just a house. The stained glass in it is beautiful. The woodwork is unbelievable. I mean, even the door hinges, take a look at them. Okay. You won't see door hinges like that anymore. Well, then you won't see doors that tall anymore either. Yeah.

Drew (48:25):
And this was, this was built in the 1870s, eighties,

Tom (48:29):
1880. It was finished in 1888. It costs $85,000 to build it in 1888. So that was a lot of money in 1888 and translated in today's dollars, it's in the millions, but it is a beautiful, it's a beautiful place. The, the woodwork is a lot of his mahogany and you couldn't replace it now. You can't get the Philippine mahogany anymore. And then there's cherry and Walnut and Oak as well. And the plaster work and when we bought it, a lot of that plaster was on the floor.

Drew (49:18):
So how long was it out of the Ripy family hands?

Tom (49:23):
It was sold in 1965. Okay. And my father had some interest in buying it. And my mother said you could, as long as I have a stamp, as big as ma'am repeat, and that put the kibosh on the idea, she said, no, I can't. There's no way I can take care of that house in that yard.

Drew (49:51):
When he built that house TV, must've been in one of his very prosperous times then.

Tom (49:57):
Well, he, it wasn't, I, I understand it didn't all get built in a day. Yeah. It was, you know, there were times when they had to stop. Cause there wasn't any money, but shortly after he finished the house, I know he was bankrupt again. Wow. And that was back. I was trying to, cause there was a whole idea of having a distiller's association. He was part of the group of, of distillers who put the idea together and was on the group that drew up the proposals for it. But then he disappeared. He wasn't part of it. And the reason was he didn't have any money anymore. Oh, okay. Yeah. I have somewhere a letter he wrote to the bank of Springfield, Kentucky wanting to settle these debts with them, with bow barrels of bourbon. He had boroughs of bourbon, but he didn't have any money.

Drew (51:06):
Well, that was the bartering a chip in probably 50 years before that time

Tom (51:12):
Is, is a father supposedly had bought a farm out here on the highway that day. It's now a big subdivision, but yeah. He bought it with whiskey. Yeah. That was just, you know, that was it. It was currency. It was current.

Drew (51:33):
So yeah. I am looking forward to seeing this. How long have you been doing the bourbon sessions?

Tom (51:38):
Well, we started about, I guess three years ago. Four. Okay. We had to take a break because of the virus. Yeah. But we've, we've had as I say, we've had some very good people. We're trying to do other things as well. We had a concert PNS, common play in the house and it was a benefit for Alzheimer's association. And we're trying to do things

Drew (52:06):
For the community as well, community

Tom (52:07):
As well. Yeah. We just had the church that's nearby. The Christian Church was right there. They had a picnic on the lawn, like I guess last weekend, I think. Yeah. And so we're trying to make it available to people.

Drew (52:25):
That's great. And that's being from Detroit originally and around that city, what still standing there from when it was the, they called it the Paris of the west back when the automotive industry was really kicking up and they built all those beautiful Art Deco buildings down there. And I think people go down there and they don't get a chance to appreciate that because they're busy on their way to this or that, or that they've come to town for some, some other reason. But you know, towns like Louisville, Cincinnati, the architecture of those towns from that late 18 hundreds era is to me, some of the most beautiful some of the most beautiful designs and also a lot of detail in those designs. So when you're talking about that house being built that way, it really was the way people were thinking back then is let's, let's build something grand times have changed times change. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I appreciate you taking the time I hope it's useful. Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Thank you.

Drew (53:38):
And if you want to learn more about the Bourbon Sessions and seeing the TB Ripy Mansion, just head to TB, Ripy home.com. That's Ripy spelled R I P Y. And for Whiskey Lore show notes, transcripts, hoodies, tasting kits, or links to whiskey, lower social media, just head to whiskey-lore.com. And if you're enjoying these interviews, make sure to tell a friend about Whiskey Lore: The Interviews help the show grow. I'm your host Drew Hannush have a great week. And until next time, cheers and slainte mhath. Whiskey Lore is a production of Travel Fuels Life LLC.

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