T.W. Samuels Distillery - Abandoned

T.W. Samuels Distillery

The T.W. Samuels Distillery, located in Deatsville, Kentucky, produced its signature “T.W. Samuels” bottle and a four year-old 90-proof label.


The T.W. Samuels and Son Distillery began operations in 1844 when Taylor William Samuels, with his son W.I., converted their farm into a distillery.1 2 The original location was off of Deatsville-Lenore Road, now Kentucky State Route 523, approximately one mile south of Deatsville. In 1898, both Taylor and W.I. died and Leslie B., son of W.I., took control of the facilities.1

On November 9, 1909, a fire destroyed the distillery and six warehouses that included 9,000 barrels of whiskey valued at $100,000.1 2 Destroyed were the T.W. Samuels and Old Deatsville brand.2 The facility was soon rebuilt in the same location and in 1913, the Starr Distillery company of Cincinnati purchased controlling interest of the operations. Leslie B. was still much involved as part-owner and manager until the facility closed in 1920 as a result of prohibition.1 2 During prohibition, most of the distillery was demolished.1

Post Prohibition

In 1933, the distillery reorganized, and seeking outside financing, Leslie B. entered into an agreement with Robert L. Block of Cincinnati, where Block would become president and T.W. Samuels vice-president and Leslie B. Samuels manager.1 2 Bill became a manager after graduating from Speed, an engineering school. Soon after, construction began on a new distillery complex along Deatsville-Lenore Road adjacent to Louisville and Nashville’s Bardstown-Springfield branch, that had a 600 bu capacity and 19,000 barrel warehouse capacity.2 The former distillery land was used as cattle pens, fed by the refuse from the distilling process.1

Leslie B. died in 1936. His son, T.W. Samuels (Bill, Sr.) assumed the position of manager. After May 1938, the main brand was “T.W. Samuels” bottled in Bond black label. When the whiskey had aged to four years of age, they began bottling four-year 90-proof using the same label as the main brand only with a red background.1

The “T.W. Samuels” brand gained a strong following in locales such as Cincinnati, some urban Texas markets and the west coast.1 The 90-proof whiskey proved to be far more popular than they had envisioned and shortages developed at times. To remedy this issue, Samuels began purchasing barrels when they were available from the Labrot and Graham plant in Woodford County, however, in 1940, the plant was purchased by the Brown-Forman company and shipments ceased.

In 1943, Block wanted to sell the distillery due to favorable prices, much to the objection of Bill Samuels who attempted to secure financing to purchase the distillery outright.1 When he was unable to do so, Block sold the distillery to the Foster Trading Corporation of New York, who changed the name of the distillery to Country Distillers.1 It was during this time that Bill disassociated himself with the company,1 although ten years later he re-entered the distilling business with the purchase of the former Burks Spring plant near Loretto on the Star Hill Farm, where he restored the property and began operating it as Markers Mark.2

Almost immediately after the plant was sold to Foster’s, Charles H. Biederman, president of Biederman Motors Company of Cincinnati, filed suit against the former owners for allegedly misrepresenting the value of the stock.1 The defendants in the case were Robert L. Block, president, Margaret Thoban, Block’s private secretary, Edward M. Budde, vice-president, Charles J. Ritman, assistant secretary, and Floyd A. Rickert, Ritman’s assistant. Soon after, the Office of Price Administration filed suit for triple damages of over $5 million against the company for allegedly selling whiskey above the O.P.A. selling price.1

In the early 1950s, the company began to eliminate the use of the old mash tubs used in the production of alcohol and began to use a continuous cooker. While this increased production greatly, it created a burned taste and smell in whiskey that carried over into the distillation.1 After the whiskey was released to the market in 1950-51, sales declined drastically and the distillery stopped producing whiskey in 1952.1

Later, portions of the distillery were reused to produce bottled spring water.1 Today, most of the distillery buildings remain abandoned, however, seven of the 20,000 barrel warehouses were purchased by Haven Hill, and two by Marker’s Mark and are used today.1

  1. Cecil, Samuel K. “T.W. Samuels Distillery Inc., RD #145.” The Evolution of the Bourbon Whiskey Industry in Kentucky. 1999. Paducah: Turner, 2001. 117-120.
  2. “T.W. Samuels.” pre-pro.com, 2006. 13 March 2008 Article.


  1. I found one of ur old Kentucky straight Bourbon whiskey bottles. It had a date on it. I think 43 years old. If I’m correct. Can you email us back. Thank you.

  2. I found a almost full bottle of old whaler brand straight bourbon whiskey bottled by TW Samuels distillery deatsville,Nelson county Ky.
    86 proof bottled exclusively for RHMacy&Company Inc. What year would this be from?

  3. I found a almost full bottle of old whaler brand straight bourbon whiskey bottled by TW Samuels distillery deatsville,Nelson county Ky.
    86 proof bottled exclusively for RHMacy&Company Inc. What year would this be from?

    • The Old Whaler brand is probably from the 1940’s or 1950’s, although I’ve never heard of that one! I have other labels that were produced for Macy’s from this time period.

  4. I have found a bottle of fall 1964- spring 1969 100 proof Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. It was not open however it has been opened now.

  5. I found a barrel that has :

    star hill distilling co
    Bourbon whisky
    Old style mash
    Doe August 13, 1969 trans August 13, 1969
    Serial no 60304

    • That would have been from Bill Samuels distillery in Loretto (later to be known as Maker’s Mark).

  6. With all due respect to the late Mr. Cecil, the distillery remained in production until the early 1980’s. My Great Uncle, Sam Westerman, was one of the investors in the Foster Trading Co. (along with Stanhope Foster) and later was sole owner of the operation. He sold the distillery around 1980 to a group from Scotland who a few years later sold it to Dr. Shultise who produced bottled water there for some time and still owns the property. I’ve done quite a bit of research on this distillery and my uncle – the former employees I have talked to over the years all told me the distillery produced juice up until at least 1980. I’m not sure where Mr. Cecil got his information from. According to my sources, the Scottish group kept the rights to a few of the Bourbon names including Elijah Craig which is now produced by Heaven Hill.

  7. So i live in the noeghborhood that is just I front of the old disterly I don’t have any history but I have been inside all of the buildings that you can get into there is still large machines in some of the building probably that powered the distillery or what ever else was being produced at the time but this place really is so cool there are rooms with 150 foot ceilings like your walking into a cathedral dr sholtites still has a hanger with his airplanes and a landing strip that runs next to a warehouse there is also a garage with a fire truck a boat and an old car and a motorcycle along with some other weird things part of the distillery is locked up and can not be accessed but everything and every room you can see through windows looks the day it closed down I’d say but this place is definenly a cool place to explored it is watched by a man who has some horses on the property I haven’t been there since iv turned 18 but I always loved walking around in there lots of old new papers dating back to the 60s I think most of the rooms you can get into are falling apart I would not try and go into there if your over 18 my name is Ryan I will probably never be on here again but I just wanted to share my experiences at this amazing forgotten place

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