Old Crow Distillery - Abandoned by Sherman Cahal

Old Crow Distillery

Old Crow Distillery, located in Kentucky, once produced Old Grand Dad, Bourbon DeLuxe, Sunny Brook and its namesake, Old Crow. The factory closed in 1987 as a result of a buy-out from competitor Jim Bean. 1


History

James Crow was born in 1779 in Scotland, attending Edinburgh University where he studied medicine and chemistry. 7 Crow moved to Philadelphia after graduating in 1822 and then to Kentucky in 1823.

Crow began working for Colonel Willis Field at Grier’s Creek Distillery in 1835 where he applied scientific methods to the production of bourbon. 1 7 With the use of thermometers, hydrometers, and PH balance checks, Crow standardized the sour mash process and improved quality. 7

Crow later moved to Old Oscar Pepper Distillery (later the Labrot & Graham Distillery and Woodford Reserve Distillery) where he first produced his Old Crow brand of bourbon. 7 He later moved on to the Johnson Distillery, which later became the site of Old Taylor Distillery,  working there until his death in 1856.

Crow’s work was succeed by William F. Mitchell. 7 Using Crow’s meticulous notes, he was able to replicate most of his predecessor’s processes. He left Old Oscar Pepper and went to work for W.A. Gaines at the newly formed Gaines, Berry and Company in 1872. Gaines, was constructing a new distillery adjacent to the Johnson Distillery with work completed in 1882.

Old Crow Distillery

The bourbon produced at Gaines was named after Crow’s famous whiskey using Crow’s recipe called “Old Crow.” 5 7 A dispute over ownership of the name “Old Crow” was decided in 1915 in favor of the Gaines company. 6

Old Crow’s logo, a crow perched atop grains of barley, was symbolic of a bridge between the North and the South during the Civil War. It came about after a Pennsylvania brigade training at State College, Pennsylvania thought Old Crow was the only good thing to come from the south. Fearing not being able to drink Old Crow again, the soldiers wrote to President Lincoln proclaiming that “we must not let the fine gentlemen Old Crow escape” and that “the crow with the sharpest talons holds on to barley forever.” After the war concluded, the logo, which was a picture of James Crow, was swapped for the crow.

National Distillers purchased Gaines in 1934 7 where the brand expanded, becoming one of the first national whiskey brands.

After World War II, National Distillers began focusing on industrial distilling processes. 7 During the 1960’s, Old Crow was refurbished with new equipment. National Distillers also modified the amount of setback was changed, or the part of spent mash added to a new batch in the sour mash process. Sales began a slow but steady decline and in 1987, National Distillers sold their remaining interests in Old Crow to James Beam Distilling (Jim Beam). The plant was closed although some of the barrel houses were reused for storage by Jim Bean. Three barrel houses, due to their age, were abandoned in the 1990’s. 4

Abandonment and Rebirth

Scrappers, under the guise of wood reclaimers, dismantled the copper column distiller and other metals in the complex in the 2000’s. 4

Neil Craig, a descendant of whiskey pioneer Elijah Craig, and his partner, David Meier, purchased the abandoned distillery in December 2013. 4 The partners intended to rehabilitate the bottling house for Deviant Distillers, producing bourbon, rye, “moonshine,” and spiced rum. The custom-built steam-jacketed copper pot still, from the experimental Lost Spirits Distillery in California, would have a capacity of 60 gallons per day.

Deviant Distillers is now owned by Meier as Glenns Creek Distilling.

Sources

40 Comments

  1. I am wanting to see about getting our group, Georgetown Paranormal Society into this location for a proper investigation. Please e-mail if you know the owners name or e-mail. Thank you so much.

  2. Would your group be interested in any other distillery sites? Please respond via email address, not this public forum.

  3. I am very big into hunting artifacts it is a part of my child hood I still stay very intact with unfortunately maybe the only part I have left that I can still connect with.Artifact hunting brings back my past,although I’m only 27 I find this to be a amazing stress releasing hobby also.More than anything it is a part of my past I shared with my oldest sister,sadly see past nearly 7 years ago so past in hunting is all I will ever have with her so I try my hardest to keep that memory alive. My reason for writing this is in hopes to get response back on a way to obtain permission to hunt glass,I have recently meet a women that shares the same passion for artifacts I do.I’m trying very hard to put a glass hunt together for are first official date if someone has any info on who to contact to try and make it possible to search on these grounds please. Contact me at my email address I left above where it ask for it,or respond via this site I can assure we will not damage property in any manner we will not leave anything out of place nor enter structure again info on who to contact to move forward with obtaining permission with glass hunt would be very appreciated thank you.

  4. I have an Old Crow Kentucky Straight Boourbon Whiskey bottled in Bond.100Proof.4/5 Quart Reg. dist No.. 25, Ky. Bottled at I.R.B.W. No.25,KY Can anyone tell me the age of this bottle? It has inlaid pic of old crow and writing. thank you.

    • I have the same bottle.
      Did you ever determine the value of it?

  5. I have an Old Crow coin bank given to my dad back in the ’60s by a barkeeper friend.It’s red with black bands.It’s some sort of ceramic material…or plaster….

  6. I am 68 years old and have enjoyed a little bourbon yes a little in my lifetime. From George Dickel, Rebel Yell, etc. but ounce per ounce the 86 Proof OLD CROW RESERVE is about the best. NO brag just fact. Let it be known that if you want a good whisky drink its got to be Straight Bourbon Whiskey, not blended and for sure not the Canidain____ they call whiskey.

  7. Years ago I bought a 29 inch tall Old Crow advertising figure. It is in outstanding condition with beautiful patina. I’m told the unusual thing about ii is that it has an orange vest instead of the traditional red. Some one advised me it could be from England. Can anyone help me with its history?

    • Bob Lintz, I would love to see a photo of the Old Crow advertising sculpture that you purchased. My grandfather was an advertising sculptor and I am trying to determine if Old Crow was one of his creations. I know for sure that my grandpa did the Paul Jones sculpture of John Paul Jones, which that company started using. I have a small old Old Crow sculpture that was in my dad’s possession, and think that just maybe my grandpa may have done work for this company, too. A mystery I’d love to solve!

    • Amazing! I am so happy that someone bought this complex. I’ve seen folks come in and out of the outer buildings for years (storage, I presume) and slowly watched the other buildings deteriorate and collapse. ANY investment is welcomed.

  8. Yes it is true we have purchased this great property! We have been hard at work getting things cleaned up, but it takes a long time to clean up almost 30 years of neglect! We are happy to talk to anyone about the property and welcome visitors. If you come by and the gate is open come on in. Just ask for Neil or David.
    We plan to have a micro distillery and winery at the site as well as an entertainment venue. We should be operational later this year and next year we should be having summer activities.
    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    • I noticed that you said that visitors were invited. I noticed the no trespassing signs. Are you still allowing visitors? Can you tell me when the fire occurred? Very interesting beautiful old place. Would love to see inside and photograph this place.

      • Future events at Old Crow Distillery will be posted in the near future. At the current time, no visitors are allowed on site without prior approval.

  9. David – my father, Harry Thompson, was general superintendent of National Distillers 1960 – 1970. Our family actually lived in the properties from the 50s. My house was right there on Old Crow – needless to say it was an interesting childhood. My brother and I are so thrilled about your purchase and plans.

    Perhaps we could meet sometime to chat. Or let me know what days you are there and we will meet you. Congrats.

    • Ann – I’m very interested in learning about what your childhood might of been like living on the Old Crow property. I am doing research on Old Crow distillery and would love to understand it from your perspective.

      Feel free to reach out: dalfonso[at]tremendousinc[dot]com

    • I believe my father (Guy Luther Smith) was born on the property in 1910. My uncle, Stanley Smith, worked there, probably in the 1930’s or so. Does anyone know of any records of who lived on the property and/or families that lived there? I would love to get in touch with anyone having information about that part of the history of Old Crow.
      Are visitors allowed now, or are there any events planned?

    • Ann, I was at Old Crow under its new name, Glenns Creek Distilling LLC, today and enjoyed seeing their fledgling operation. (I taught you and your brother “a few” years ago at FHS. My dad was the foreman of the power house at Old Crow for many years.)

  10. In the mid 1930’s my dad, Joseph M. Spalding started working for Old Crow as a security guard and he had worked his way up to being appointed as a forman for the distillery, as I understand, and, in 1961, I was 12 yrs. old and, he passed way, by which afterwards we moved to Louisville. My uncle who lived just before the Old Taylor distillery,on Millville road, George Spalding, worked for Old Taylor which, was part of National Distilleries. As a coincidence, during my travels to and from work, in Louisville, I would pass the National Distillery warehouses located on Payne St. & Lexington Rd. intersection.

  11. Great article about Old Crow Distillery. However, your mention of a buyout by “Jim Bean” is incorrect. The company you’re referring to is actually “Jim BEAM”.

  12. Very interesting to see this – I have been going to the Library of Congress website http:\\chroniclingamerica.loc.gov each day and reading newspapers they have for 100 years ago of the day, particularly the New York Evening World and Tribune and seeing advertisements for Old Crow. Bourbon. There are also advertisements for White Rock water – carbonated water still available today, I found, at Whole Foods.

  13. When operational would you be able to whip up a batch of bourbon from the original Old Crow recipe?

  14. When opened will there be a museum. I have a barrel. The top is stamped , The Old Crow Distillary Company, Frankfort,Burbon Whiskey, DSP-K-Y-25 , D160P, Ser#A470157. Filled Feb. 1 – 1985.

  15. My grand father and his family were all distillers. They lived at Millville on glens creek. My great uncle died there in an explosion in the 19teens. I can’t find any specifics about the explosions that I understand were somewhat common in those days. any one have any thoughts on where to find dates. I am kinda looking for some kind of record for Edgar’s death.

  16. Kathy, you could try the site – you’ll have to copy and paste – http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov and there are tons of old newspapers there. I go here during my lunch several times a week and read the New York newspapers from 100 years ago that day. I have no connection to NY more happened up there 100 years ago which makes for interesting reading. You can do a search for the town or city where your grandfather lived and perhaps find a news story or obituary. I found where my great grand father was sued in May of 1910 and later had to surrender for a “Sheriff’s Sale” about 12 head of cattle and he was a poor farmer. We have no idea what the circumstances were(!). There is a lot to this site and in there, you can find a one-year, I think it’s a whole year, and you can click on the days of the month you want to see the day’s newspaper though some are only on microfilm in libraries. – The Memphis Commercial Appeal, for example. The Era Leader of Franklinton LA, was where all of my people came from and I did a search on my grandfather in that paper and that Sheriff’s Sale popped up. I think only Thursdays were links on the calendar since that’s the day it came out. Hope this helps. and that site can become addictive so watch out 🙂 – Paul

  17. Hello everyone. Glenns Creek Distilling, (formerly Old Crow) has some great news. We will be releasing Bourbon 30’s double oaked bourbon whiskey Thanksgiving weekend. This will be the first bourbon to come out of Millville in over thirty years & we are very excited!

  18. I watched this on ghost asylum i wonder if its really haunted? It looks magnificent.

  19. I don’t know about the distillery but, Old Grandad used to make think I saw ghosts when we would camp at Long Run Cemetery. Glad to see it’s being refurbished, Kentucky needs to hold on to it’s heritage. I am a native even though I live in Texas.

  20. The group i founded Whitley County Paranormal Investigative Society and the group i h7nt with Haunted Heritage Paranormal Society would love to investigate the Old Crow Distillery. Thank you.

  21. The Old Crow Distillery is great. I don’t know which is more spectacular, the spirits or the distillery. Get permission and tour the area, both day and night. It will surprise you in more ways than one.

  22. WOULD LOVE TO TAKE TOUR OF PROPERTY. RECENTLY WATCHED ESPOIDE OF GHOST ASYLUM VERY MUCH INTERESTED IN PARAMORNAL ASPECT ALSO. WOULD LOVE TO KNOW IF YOUR UP AND RUNNING WITH PRODUCTION.

  23. I have a 32 piece ceramic chess set filled with 1959 made 1969 bottled 86 proof Old Crow Reserve bourbon. I have been told that it was from the original James C. Crow formula. Does anyone in the Frankfort area know what type of bourbon was used to fill the 1969 chess set decanters and what the value per 1/5 such vintage bourbon is today?

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