View Full Version : Memories of Tim Sousley
It's hard for me to believe that the bourbon world lost one of its greatest ambassadors -- Tim Sousley -- exactly one year ago today. I'd like to honor him by assembling some reflections on this fine man who was a great good friend to so many of us.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the visit I had with Tim and his girlfriend Tommie only weeks before he passed. I drove to Columbia, TN, where Tim showed me around his house and property before we did some A and B tasting of the two KBS 1792 bottlings I was delivering to him. Later, Tommie joined us and we drove to their favorite restaurant to treat out of town visitors -- Papa Boudreaux's Cajun Cafe. During the meal, they spoke fondly of having similarly entertained Gary and Libby Gillman at this restaurant! It was a wonderful day and evening full of telling stories, sampling bourbons, reminiscing about good times with shared friends. Little did I know, however, that only weeks later Tim would be gone.
Tim was a kind and generous soul. He was a dear friend to our family. He loved my kids, as they did him.
I miss him so, to this day.
I can't believe it has been a year already since we lost Tim. He was a good friend to many people, including me and Doug. One of the last times I saw him at a Gazebo was on his birthday. He brought many bourbons from his birth year - 1957, including what may have been the best Old Grandad I've ever tasted. I really miss him and his generosity and warm charm.
Thanks very much, Cliff, for remembering this important but most sad anniversary. Some here probably don't know, or recall, that you played a vital part in contacting Tim's blood relations after the tragedy (who lived in a different part of the country), and but for your prompt and effective actions, they might not have known for some time of his passing and the whole thing would have been even more difficult than it was.
Libby recently asked me if Tim was mentioned on the occasion of the last SB gathering in Bardstown: I said not to my knowledge, but that I was sure all who knew him were thinking of him at times and wishing he was still amongst us.
I recall our visit that Cliff mentioned with great pleasure. Tim was particularly proud of the visits paid to him by SB members but also of visits he made to others and he mentioned Dawn and Jon's place in particular in this regard, a trip he made there for a party. He loved to share - to a fault sometimes as Cliff noted on an earlier occasion with his usual acuity - and he asked nothing in return: in a word, he gave way more than he received in life.
He had an unusually broad and seemingly, or to me, inconsistent, partly, set of interests. He was at times, a teacher, a journalist, a sports fanatic (and combined both earlier in this career), a motor enthusiast, a wine and whiskey collector, a politics junkie (but measured, usually, in his reaction to those he disagreed with), and interested in ideas, in what is now called intellectual or cultural history. An educator, jock, gearhead, gastronome, journalist and intellect. The Sousley Salon, it was called at GN, the sessions in his room.
He is up there gazing at us as we gather without him, smiling and suffused with happiness that people continue to make friends and share ardent but respectful opinions amongst bottles of high proof. Outsiders usually express surprise at such an unlikely combination, but there you go, and no one understood the ethos better than Tim. Towards the end he didn't come as often but that would have been temporary, and I was particularly glad that on his last visit, he was able to meet some then-new members of the board including, as I well remember, Thad. I was so happy they met but can only feel sadness it could not continue as I'm sure they would have become good friends.
We salute you, Tim, on this important day, and won't forget.
I believe Tim's last taste at the gazebo was from a Japanese Export single barrel bottled by Cecil Withrow as Stone Castle that I found on a store shelf in Chicago marked down to $13.99. It was actually very good, 106 proof unfiltered whiskey, which Tim was intrigued on the source...leading to his delay in leaving for further nosing and tasting...till he proudly exclaimed Buffalo Trace and then felt free to go. I don't save many empty bottles but this one I have.
Here's a great example of Tim's acumen and even prescience (note specifically Wild Turkey) in a thread from 2006 on summing up each bourbon maker. I didn't get to spend as much time with him as you old timers but knew him well enough to know all that has been said in tribute is so true and he is missed.
I'll take a shot:
Buffalo Trace -- fruit over spice, 'wry' over rye? Eponymous Buffalo Trace would be their quintessential pour if more widely available. Could it be, in practice, Ancient Age, or AAA?
Heaven Hill -- Motto: Millions are enough! Thank God for family. Stockholders would ruin this company's value-priced lineup. Evan Williams Black Label sells like the Dickens in our store.
Beam Brands -- Do we make good money, or do we make good whiskey? The anti-HH. Okay, I understand it. JB Black shows they could be like Heaven Hill if that was their profile.
Four Roses -- the best whiskey you've never had. Any era, any style, a Four Roses label will stoke your curiosity. The Single Barrel is today's tease.
Barton Brands -- The corporate version of Heaven Hill. Remember that Ridgemont barrel sample, folks? These guys make superb whiskey! Then they dilute it in lesser labels in order to improve them. And sell a lot of it. The 1792 is they best they bottle, not the best they make, alas.
Wild Turkey -- Wild card! I suspect this label will wilt when Jimmy retires. I hope it is not so. But the 'in-your-face' attitude of WT products is the antithesis of what the 'suits' are looking for these days. Without Jimmy's authority behind production, the suits will win (they always do!). The bourbon will lose. Russell's Reserve 90 may be the most meaningful.
Maker's Mark -- Do you know that MM raises its prices every time Jack Daniel's does? They want to be in the same 'premium' niche -- overpriced young whiskey that people can't get enough of. Jeesh! Great work if you can find it. Looks like life-time bachelor Jack Daniel finally got caught by the Redhead.
Brown-Forman -- Who are these guys? They can sell mediocre product gussied up as JD or Woodford Reserve (we won't even mention Early Times!), but have to celebrate a Birthday or create a Signature to get folks to notice the star of their lineup. Then they double the price. Seek out the old labels, folks -- save some money AND a fine whiskey tradition.
I would take very little issue with that 2006 post today. I did not meet Mr. Sousley outside of this forum, but I do recall that he was very friendly with me as a beginner on this site and to the hobby. Bourbon is meant to be enjoyed with others who share the passion, a fact that is sometimes easy to overlook.
Excellent notes, Thad. "Do we make money or do we make whiskey?". You gotta love what Tim was all about which was partly too verbal fireworks - the man wrote for a living at one time, and never forgot how!
When Tim left the gazebo for the last time, I told him to take my ORVW 15/107 bottle which just had less than an inch left in it. He told me as left that he would make sure it lasted a while, but in a later email told me that it went pretty quick. I had no idea when I gave him that bottle that it would be the last whiskey we would share, but I was glad it was SW especially after all of the old SW's he had previously shared with me.
I just poured my 2nd glass of ORVW15 tonight and drink it while remembering Tim (my first pour was for my birthday). While its easy to remember the great whiskey shared, the memories of cyber conversations and friendship are even better.
I know I'm not around much, but still remember the days of being a newbie here. Tim was quite often in chat and sharing his thoughts on whatever he was pouring for the evening. Making mixed drinks with unobtainable bottles...Tim always said "if you going to make a good mixed drink you better start with the best ingredients".
I remember seeing wedding pictures posted here from maybe 2007 time frame and Tim was in them. That's how I recognized him at my first sampler in 2008, as usual Tim's door was wide open, as I looked in noticing Tim, I said his name and introduced myself. Unexpectedly, I was immediately pulled into his room and taken on a tour of all he had brought to sample 8 yr old Weller's 2 bottles from the 50's, Old Fitz from the 60's and to this day the most amazing 1949 IW Harper BIB.
I think of Tim quite often and his amazing generosity, knowledge and the smile on his face sharing whiskey with friends.
Thanks Cliff for getting this rolling, though sometimes tough. The memories we have of Tim are all great ones.
Like Cliff said, it's hard to believe it's been a year since Tim's passing. I consider myself lucky in that I was able to meet and socialize with him a few times during my short tenure here at SB.
I didn't get to know Tim well, but there are a couple of things that I remember most about him. For one, we all know that Tim could talk some. At the same time, he also had the innate ability to listen just as well. That's something that I wish I myself was better at. The second thing that struck me about him, was his sense of humor. I thought he was funny as hell. :grin: His wit and humor may have been a bit dry for some people, but I understood it. I'm pretty sure some folks just didn't get it. That's what made some of his off the cuff comments even more hilarious. Whether in person, or through some of his posts here at SB, it was great. I remember one time at the gazebo in particular. I was on the fringe of a conversation that Tim was a part of. Sorry, but I can't remember the other participant(s), or the subject matter. Hell, it was the gazebo. :rolleyes: I vaguely remember that it was a discussion that had the possibility of getting a bit out of hand. The ball was in Tim's court, and he came out of left field with a zinger. No emotion. Deadpan look on his face. The look on the other persons face was total bewilderment. I almost choked on my drink. :lol: The other guy just shook his head, then turned around and walked off. I went to get another pour with a smile on my face. Thanks Tim.
Thanks, Cliff. Tim was a wonderful, dear friend and we all miss him. A gentleman in the truest sense of the word.
Thanks Cliff, for letting us reminisce on a truly generous and thoughtful friend of ours. As I attend or listen to the Braves dozens of times from April to October, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to think of Tim often. As many know, Dan Uggla of the Braves was from Tim's town of Columbia, TN. He wrote here fondly of watching Uggla play ball from Little League and into the Majors. Particularly, his writings of Uggla during his early career in Florida have always stuck with me. So, barely a day has gone by during the season that I don't get the opportunity to remember, albeit with a dose of sadness, our friend that we lost too soon.
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