T.W. Samuels Distillery - Abandoned by Sherman Cahal

T.W. Samuels Distillery

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


The T.W. Samuels and Son Distillery, founded in 1844 by Taylor William Samuels and his son, was located on Located on Deatsville-Lenore Road. 1 2 The new company produced their flagship T.W. Samuels and Old Deatsville whiskeys. 2 Both Taylor and his son, W.I., died in 1898 and the family business taken over by Leslie B., son of W.I. 1

A fire destroyed the distillery and six warehouses on November 9, 1909. 1 2 Over 9,000 barrels of whiskey valued at $100,000 also went up in flames. The factory was soon rebuilt in the same location.

In 1913, the Starr Distillery Company of Cincinnati purchased a controlling interest in T.W. Samuels. The distillery closed in 1920 as a result of Prohibition, during which time most of the facility was demolished. 1 2


The distillery reorganized in 1933. Seeking outside financing, Leslie B. entered into an agreement with Robert L. Block of Cincinnati. 1 2 Construction began on a new factory near the same location as the previous two iterations along the Louisville & Nashville Railroad’s Bardstown-Springfield branch. It would have a 600 barrel per day manufacturing capacity and a 19,000 barrel warehouse capacity. 2

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, the company 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. To remedy the issue, Samuels began purchasing barrels when they were available from the Labrot and Graham plant in Woodford County. In 1940, Labrot and Graham 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 acquire 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. It was during this time that Bill disassociated himself with the company. (Block did re-enter the distilling business ten years later 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. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) filed suit for triple damages of over $5 million against the company for allegedly selling whiskey above the OPA selling price.

In the early 1950’s, the company began to drop the use of the old mash tubs used in the production of alcohol and using a continuous cooker instead. While this increased production, 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 and the distillery stopped producing whiskey in 1952.

Portions of the distillery were reused to produce bottled spring water. 1 Seven 20,000 barrel capacity warehouses were purchased and reused by Haven Hill while two others were acquired by Maker’s Mark. The rest of the complex was abandoned.



  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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