This week I was reminded why I love bourbon so much. It has this ability to bring people together to share stories and life experiences like no other alcohol. Case in point, I posted an old whiskey ad featuring Joe Louis bourbon back in May of 2013. A little over a year later, Chuck L. found the post while doing an Internet search and left me the following comment on the post:
Pops, I found your article during an Internet search. I was talking to a person this morning about my grandfather who was manager at Bonds Mill / Old Joe / DSP-KY-35 during the 50s. This person told me that Joe Louis Whiskey was bottled there. (I can’t remember if he said distilled.) I will be finding out more and will let you know what I find if you are still interested.
I responded that I’d love to learn more should he dig up additional information. I pleasant but short exchange that once completed I admit I totally forgot about. That is until this week when I received an email from Chuck L. with the following:
Joe Louis bourbon was made at Old Joe / Bonds Mill Distillery (DSP-KY-35). What’s left of it is just across the Salt River from Four Roses in Lawrenceburg. If you are the FR gift shop parking lot, facing the gift shop, just look down to the river on your rig ht. What’s left of Old Joe is right there at the bridge on the other side of river. (Take a left out of FR, cross the bridge, take a left, and it’s there on your left.) Also, the warehouses on the hill opposite FR were once Old Joe’s.
Only one building remains at Old Joe. The bottling house caught fire in 2014. In Oct 2014 when I was in Lawrenceburg, the site was razed except for the one building that held my Grandfather’s office. He was manager at Old Joe from 1951 to 57/58.
Tom B. Ripy IV describes the Joe Louis bourbon in his interview with the Kentucky Bourbon Tales Oral History Project. He mentions my grandfather, Holman Bryant.
While I was in Lawrenceburg in Oct 2014, my Mom and I met individually with Jimmy Russell and Tom B. Ripy IV to talk about my Grandfather. After Old Joe, my Grandfather went to work for JTS Brown (57/58 – 61). Jimmy Russell was at JTS Brown then and knew my grandfather. Jimmy played football with my U ncles and Jimmy’s Dad work for my Grandfather when my Grandfather was at Old Joe. Dr. Ripy, I found out, has been in contact with my Mom’s family. My Uncle visits Lawrenceburg occasionally and keeps Dr. Ripy up to speed.
I had wonderful talks with both Jimmy and Dr. Ripy while I was there.
The original impetus for that trip was to visit the T.B. Ripy Home and see the Old Joe exhibit. I have a photo of the Joe Louis display, but was unable to upload it to this comment.
I later talked to one of two of my Uncles. They remember that Dad / Grandpa brought Joe Louis over to their house when Joe visited Lawrenceburg. As you might expect, they were ecstatic about meeting him.
Chuck’s email was a great surprise and wonderful to read. Not only did he keep digging but he was gracious enough to come back and deliver on his promise. I don’t see vodka drinkers with that kind of commitment and follow through…do you?
He was even kind enough to provide a few photos which I’ve posted below. I want to thank Chuck for sharing his finds with us and giving us permission to share with everyone who makes Bourbon & Banter a part of their personal bourbon journey.