Heads & Tails: “Back in the Grave” Edition

In Chuck Cowdery’s early 2022 edition of his quarterly print piece, “The Bourbon Country Reader,” he says MGP should kill off the George Remus brand and find another name for the otherwise good bourbon created for that SKU.

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In Chuck Cowdery’s early 2022 edition of his quarterly print piece, “The Bourbon Country Reader,” he says MGP should kill off the George Remus brand and find another name for the otherwise good bourbon created for that SKU. Not only was he a successful Prohibition-era bootlegger, he murdered his wife for infidelity. Linking legal businesses to “criminals and crime,” Cowdery writes … is an especially bad idea for makers and sellers of alcohol.”

The brand was created after the portrayal of Remus in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” caught the attention of  some Cincinnati entrepreneurs. According to Cowdery, they sourced some MGP whiskey and labeled it “George Remus Bourbon,” MGP later bought the brand for itself and began growing it a couple of years ago.

Cowdery isn’t alone in believing, “The violence against women aspect makes the Remus story particularly problematic for the brand.” Additionally, he wrote, “The sordid parts of the industry’s history should not be suppressed, but neither should they be exploited commercially.”

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> Agreed, Chuck. Bad call on this brand. Long before, seeing Cowdery’s piece, we’d been in a few discussions about why a whiskey brand would be named after a notorious bootlegger. Seemed strange to many given the near-century of work invested in cleaning up the whiskey industry’s post-Prohibition image. Several Twitter chats have raised this problem also.

Scary details of Remus: Reid Mitenbuler’s book, “Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey,” shares the story of when Remus spotted his ex-wife and her paramour on the street. The pair had spent much of Remus’s ill-gotten fortune while he was in prison, and Remus was bent on settling the score. After a chase that began with their car and a Remus in a taxicab, he caught his wife on foot and stuck a pistol so deeply into her abdomen that bystanders said the gunshot was barely audible.

When tried for her murder, Remus, a trained lawyer, pled insanity, and the jury acquitted him 19 minutes later. Awesome, right? Perfect guy after whom to name a whiskey brand! Cowdery closes his piece with this suggestion to MGP: “Kill it. Kill it now, while it is still small, regional, and no great loss. It is only going to cause problems down the road.”

RECOMMENDED READING: If you’re interested in Remus’s story, read or listen to “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” and “Bourbon Empire.” Both are among my favorite whiskey-history-centric books. Also, Cowdery’s quarterly newsletter is also a great read. Well worth the $20 cost.


If you like Wild Turkey bourbon and rye, you might be interested in this. Blue Run Spirits (Georgetown, Ky.) announced that Shaylyn Gammon will be its first whiskey director and “drive the development and expansion of Blue Run’s whiskey portfolio.”

According to a news release, the Kentucky-based Gammon worked at Campari Group as manager of product innovation across the company’s North American portfolio. That meant she worked closely with the Jimmy and Eddie Russell on Wild Turkey and its brand extensions such as Master’s Keep, Rare Breed, Russell’s Reserve and Longbranch.

Gammon will work on the selection of sourced bourbon and rye barrels, “prepare the company’s private barrel selection program, and serve as a distillation apprentice to Blue Run liquid advisor, Jim Rutledge. She will also apply her experience as a research and development scientist to innovation at Blue Run.

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> Good for Gammon. Great to see someone with hard-earned skills—learned from two of the highest-respected distillers in the business—take them to a young and growing company. And it’s always good to see women receiving the respect positions they’ve earned in the whiskey industry.


The Kentucky Distillers’ Association reported in January that traffic on its Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour are recovering rapidly following pandemic-related in 2020. According to a news release, Trail tours rose from 587,000 in 2020 to 1.5 million tours in 2021. That number is just 13 percent shy of the Trail attendance record of 1.7 million set in 2019.

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> First, the tedious technicality we need to report: Sazerac-owned Buffalo Trace Distillery and Barton 1792 Distillery are not KBT members, so their visit counts aren’t included. Sazerac reports those numbers annually, but it hasn’t done so this year. Its 2019 visit total was around 300,000 at both properties.

Secondly, and more happily, there’s always room for more tourists on the Trail. But one word of advice: Schedule your visits as far in advance as you can. Tours at the state’s most famous distilleries are booked months out.

Here are your marching orders: Come travel the Trail in 2022 and help set a new visit record!