View Full Version : My Memories of Kinsey Distilling Part II

dave ziegler
12-04-2006, 19:09
I will never forget the first day I went into the whiskey Warehouses at Kinsey I had been bumped off the Yard crew! I was sent to a Man named Ben Meyers that was a job boss, The first thing He asked me was if my Dads Name was Clarence I said yes as my dad had worked there a year or so right after I was born, I thought Oh boy I'm in trouble. Well turned out He liked my Dad and gave me the easiest Job just standing in the racks rolling Barrels out to the end with a Flashlight as you could not see in front of you deep in the racks! And the worst Job was bending and rolling them a long distance. Later that day on break he Said Dave I know you will need a drink now and then so I will personally show you how to get yourself one? Well he pulled out a sort of Cork screw with a Slamming cylinder on it and a Bastard File. We went back one of the racks he Had counted out told me they would set up a Rack with some Barrels staged forward so there would be room to roll one forward to get Whiskey but you had to make sure you moved the right ones and Had something ready to drink! They did this in all the warehouses as months might go by till you got back in one, that being why the Air was so blue with fumes. Well we found some Nice Old Rye Whiskey as the Barrel Heads had what they were Ink stensiled and dated on them how many years old. He took the screw thing turned it in the Wooden bung and slamed the cylinder back and forth till the bung popped out with its cloth. Next he took the File and filed two small U's one on each side he told me this would be the Pourer. Then he warned Me Never forget the Bung cloth when you put the bung back as you will get a mouthful of Wood the cloth would be your filter! The Barrels were Hickory or Oak and were chared inside and had what they called stay floaters pieces of wood chared loose inside too! He put the bung Back handed me a new Pint Bottle and then rolled the Barrel forward and a Perfect stream of Whiskey poured right into my Bottle. One of the Very Best Warehouse Jobs other then a Boss was the Cooper it was Hard work but paid well. A Cooper could take a pile of loose Chared Stays and build a barrel with old Rusty Steel rings in minutes with a special Hammer that instead of Having a head had a slot in the head to lay on the Ring and you would take a hand Sledge Hammer and Hit the Cooper Hammer against the rings till you got them all tight going all around them, then the barrel would not leak it is a lost art today as most whiskey is done in Stainless tanks with the wood foaters! That is why Old hickory was so Flavorful as it was made in small barrels of wood and not large Vats! After I was there a couple of years none of the old 1941/46 Ford flat trucks had any doors on them anymore and no wipers you would be going down the Plant road 30/40 Miles an hour with no doors no mirrors and no wipers if it was raining you would reach out and wipe the winshield with a rag while driving with your right hand never did we think about how dangerous this was yet no one ever seemed to get hurt if they did they did not feel it! I will never forget the director of traffic in the Plant his name was Bonda Bergy and He never drove on the road lived across the street but in the plant he drove a old 1951 Plymouth and I would see him driving and shifting into second gear and then he would reach down bring a bottle up put it to his mouth and his neck would jump as downed some Whiskey. Every truck that came in had to follow Bonda to where they were to deliver. We also had sometimes in the Winter Months a former New York Yankee Catcher Gus Nierohos ( May not have his last name spelled right ) He was back up catcher to Yoggie and Elston Howard in the old days and a really cool Guy! I will most likely write some more later as I am a slow typer!
Dave Z

12-05-2006, 01:46
Dave. I'm enjoying your posts, but you may have some misconceptions about how whiskey was made then and how it's made today.

First, I can be pretty confident that the barrels were American white oak and not hickory.

Second, what you refer to as "floaters" are, as you indicated, pieces of char that have broken off in the barrel. The cooper's art is not lost and most of the practices from that era are still done. Therefore, your comment "as most whiskey is done in Stainless tanks with the wood foaters!" is not true. Whiskey is still aged for years in oak barrels, just like back then. One difference. Instead of removing the bung to get a sample, today they just drill through the head with a cordless power drill, then fill the hole with a wooden plug.

dave ziegler
12-05-2006, 03:28
That is most interesting about drilling to get a sample the modern way sure is allot easyier! As for the Tank bussiness for some reason the last year I worked at Publicker/Kinseys they were removing all the racks and aging the wHiskey two ways one in Big stainless tanks with the Oak pieses inside, and some in Very Big Barrels that needed to be lifted with a fork truck and unlike laying them over in the racks they stood them on the head in piles, but all was not good about this as we had lots of Leaking! I think things were getting hard and they were trying to get more for less cash out! We hauled all the steel racks out back to the old Steer Pens after they were torched in pieaces! You are right White Oak getting old and that was the one thing I was not sure about sorry! Maybe they were the only company to try that system, I am glad the Coopering is still going on! Not trying to give wrong information just remembering from when I was 19 through 24! I am now 59 long time ago! Thanks for the update on Barrels as the Best Whiskey is made that way! When they were experimenting with the Tanks they had allot of troubles but the Whiskey was still good stuff and we still had lots of aging Barrels in some of the warehouses as there were around 23 of them 3 floors in each gaint building. Three of the warehouse were all wood inside cold and damp but the oldtimers said the brick ones with the wood racks had the best stuff coming out of them! I thank you for the update on coopering and Barrel whiskey, When they were trying the stainless system the old timers said there would be more loss and I don't think it worked well but as I said at least the whiskey was still good stuff, they made some real good Products I was always Proud of the Products and as I told a Lady where I work I did allot of testing of the product!
Dave Z

12-06-2006, 13:39
Other companies experimented with various ways to make the process faster or less expensive and they still do, experiment, that it, but I have noticed that more often than not they find the results unsatisfactory and return to the old ways.

For example, there was an effort to eliminate doublers and also to eliminate copper from the stills. It didn't work. Beam has experimented with storing barrels on end in Butler buildings instead of rack houses but they have been unhappy with the results (too much leaking) and their newest warehouses are the rick type. Seagrams at one time experimented with square barrels. (That's what they called them, but to me a square barrel isn't a barrel, it's a box.)

12-06-2006, 13:50
A. Smith Bowman (Virginia Gentleman) stores their bourbon barrels upright in pallets on one side of a normal looking warehouse that was otherwise mostly empty, but could have any number of other uses (vehicle storage, etc.)

12-06-2006, 14:06
I had read that a lot of the Canadian distilleries use palletized storage as well