View Full Version : Dr. James C. Crow

01-26-2001, 10:27
I've just finished reading Chuck Cowdery's article "Was Dr. James C. Crow the Real Father of Bourbon Whiskey?" in the latest edition of "The Bourbon Country Reader" for about the forth time. If you haven't read it contact Chuck, as this is a must read.

I do consider Dr. Crow to be the Father of Modern Day Bourbon, and consider the Oscar Pepper Distillery( now known as Labrot & Graham) where Dr. Crow worked as sacred soil.

Scientists usually keep notes of their experiments, and provide drawings of their apprattus. Does anyone know if Dr.Crow wrote such a notebook? If so who has it now? The Pepper family? Or maybe the Taylor family? Now that would be an interesting read!

Take those notes and the original Old Crow / Old Pepper recipes and run them through that copper pot mini-still from Michter's that David Beam now owns and you'd have some damn fine bourbon to drink! Cheap too if you don't tell the Feds!

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

01-26-2001, 13:56
The only document of which I am aware is a "recipe" purportedly given by Crow to his assistant, who became Master Distiller at the Old Crow Distillery after Crow's death.

Here is part of it, from an old Reader (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com/page9.html)

Dr. James C. Crow invented the sour mash process and made what was probably the first "modern" bourbon back around 1835. His Old Crow was the most popular whiskey of its day and continued to be the #1 bourbon until the 1960s, when it was surpassed by upstarts Jim Beam and Jack Daniel's.

Here is Dr. Crow's formula for making whiskey. At the top of the page, it says it is from the law library of Mr. T. Noble Lindsey. It also says that the formula was given to Van Johnson by William Mitchell who worked for Crow and to whom Crow imparted the process.

Use in 100 bushels of bourbon mash, 12 to 15% of barley malt, ground, 8 to 10% rye, ground, and 75 to 80% corn, ground. In starting up the distillery and using small tubs, put say 80 lbs. of corn meal in the tub and cook with say 30 to 40 gallons of boiling water.

Let set for 4 to 5 hours, then stir and cool to 150 degrees to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and then add rye, say 8 to 10 lbs. Then cool down by stirring to 135-148 and then add malt, say 12 to 15 lbs. Then cool down to 115 degrees Fahrenheit and add cold water enough to bring it down to 68-78 according to the temperature of the weather.

Then fill the fermenter with water at same setting temperature, then add yeast which has been made say 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 lbs. to the bushel.

Continue the above for four days and thereafter cook the corn meal with boiling slop, then let stand from 12 to 24 hours, then break up and cool by stirring to 122-160. Then add rye, same percent as above, and cool to 120-130. then add malt and hold for two hours. Then break up, run to fermenters and fill according to the weather, and add either fresh yeast, or yeast taken from the previous tubs.

The tubs for the first three days of the week are set at say 72-78 and the last three days say 66-72.

Then run the beer into the stills, copper preferred and boil until the spirit is practically exhausted. Then run this spirit obtained from first distillation, and which is held in tubs for the purpose, into the copper doubler and there boil until the whiskey so made would show above proof in the receiving room. The remainder being boiled until the whiskey is practically exhausted and which after cutting off is run into the low wine tub and distilled over again.

YEAST. Use proper proportions of rye, say 1 1/2 lbs. to the bushel, and cook same in 15 to 20 gallons of water to a temperature of say 160 to 175 for say 10 to 20 minutes; then follow with barley malt, same percent, and let stand 24 hours at least to sour and cool to 70-76 degrees. Then stock it with jug yeast previously prepared.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

01-26-2001, 18:34
James Crow did not event the sour mash process. As a matter of fact there is a letter in a late 1800's newspaper (idon't remember exactly when but I can find out for you) from the man who claimed he taught Crow the sour mash process. Crow's claim to fame is that he is the first to apply scientific priniples to the process in order to understand how it works and to control then process.
Mike Veach

01-27-2001, 15:24
Though it is probably correct to say that Crow introduced sour mash to Kentucky.

My impression is that Crow was the first in Kentucky to apply a variety of principles in a way that actually made damn good whiskey and that is what made his reputation more than any single innovation.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)