View Full Version : Bourbon distillery "tester" tube

02-26-2008, 06:02
I have a mystery to solve... we have something that looks like a bronze "tester" tube that came from the Old Crow Distillery. It's about 5' long and has slots on the side. I believe it probably went into barrels to extract samples for testing and/or tasting. The exterior of the tube rotates to close the tube and hold the product. Does anyone know what this thing is called and more about what it was used for? Thanks!

02-26-2008, 07:22
Sounds like on the the things they use to pull a sample of the grain when the truck arrives.

02-26-2008, 09:49
Thanks Barturtle... never thought about that. Does anyone know if it could also maybe be some kind of early hydrometer/alcoholmeter?

02-26-2008, 10:48
Definitely sounds like a grain thief. (like barturtle said)
Does it look like the picture below?

02-26-2008, 14:09
Hey Mike K: That's it!!! Thanks to you and Barturtle. We would like to include this instrument in a showroom that we've created that includes display boards about the history of bourbon making in Kentucky. Tell me anything and everything you may know about it... how was it used? Why is it called a grain "thief", etc. I will be forever grateful to you!

02-26-2008, 14:35
It is used in the area where grain shipments come in. When a truck of grain comes in, the distillery staff takes a sample to test. They look for moisture content, broken grain %, mold, odd smells, etc. If it doesn't meet their standards the whole truckload is rejected.

The worker takes the grain thief and jams it down into the load of grain to take a 'core sample'. The head is swiveled to close the side openings and it is pulled back out.

That sample of grain is taken into the testing lab and examined before the truck is unloaded.

The much smaller tube that is used to take a sample of whiskey out of a barrel is also called a thief (spirit thief?), hence the similar purpose and naming.


02-26-2008, 14:50
I see... so what we have is not necessarily "historic", is it?
Thanks again Mike.

02-26-2008, 17:43
No, I wouldn't call it historic. It is an important tool used in the production of whiskey and a wonderful piece of memorabilia. It would be a great item for a display about bourbon. I'd love to have one for my own collection. Very cool!!

02-27-2008, 13:34
Great info. Thanks MikeK!