View Full Version : Vendome of Louisville
"Although the American whiskey business once used to be passed on from one generation to the next, it now largely is not, yet the business of making bourbon country's most crucial equipment still is, and maybe that counts for something".
The above is a quote from page 189 of, "Bourbon, Straight", the recent, essential bourbon book by our Charles K. (Chuck) Cowdery.
Chuck is referring to Vendome, the distillery equipment maker based in Louisville, a business that is over 100 years old.
My questions are, why has Vendome survived for so long? Why has it not encountered local competition?
There was another outfit, Matt Corcoran and company. I'm only finding records that they operated into the 1950s, but I recall hearing my Grandfather speak of them working at Jim Beam in the 60s and possibly the early 70s. They did the same kind of work. I'm running a google search and not turning up much.
As Chuck said, it is remarkable and noteworthy that a family run business continues into its fourth generation, we tip our hat. No doubt the quality of what Vendome makes and local tradition account for its strong standing with the Kentucky distillers. I suppose too if one wanted (as in the case of Woodford Reserve), plant could be sourced outside the state. Certainly in the brewing business I know it is common to buy equipment from around the world. Vendome must offer great equipment and service to retain the custom of the local distillers. I realise Vendome sells to distillers and brewers around the world but find it interesting there is (apparently) no other Kentucky company which currently makes whiskey stills. Maybe it is a bit like distilling where the capital costs and expertise to set up a company like this are high so you don't see many new set-ups over the years.
As for lasting 100 years through thick and thin in the manufacture of stills for distillers, since they supply distilling equipment for alcohol production needs other than just for whiskey, I infer that they had good business say during WW 2 when whiskey production stopped but industrial ethanol production was heightened since of course the latter would require stills too. And I believe brewing continued during the war, so there may have been demand for blending vats, say. But what about Prohibition? I guess the industrial, non-beverage alcohol makers needed plant. Maybe Vendome also had whiskey-distilling customers in Canada and elsewhere outside U.S..
A story unto itself, the continuation of a family business connected to the bourbon business for 100 years and like the cooperage business an essential part of the whiskey story..
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