I discovered the Pepper brand through the James E. Pepper bourbon sponsorship of the historic boxing match, the 'Fight of the Century', between Jack Johnson & Jim Jeffries, held on July 4th, 1910. I am a big boxing and bourbon fan, and so when I began to look into the brand, I found an amazing legacy which I could not believe had ceased to exist as a brand.
Jack Johnson was the subject an award winning PBS documentary, and is about to get a posthumous Presidential Pardon by Barack Obama, from legislation introduced by Senator John McCain, who is a big boxing fan. Johnson was prosecuted on trumped up charges to strip him of his belt and forced into exile. The resolution has passed in the Senate, and will soon pass the house, and then Obama is expected to sign it into law. This would be only the 2nd posthumous Presidential pardon in history. James E. Pepper bourbon ran an 8 picture advertising campaign after the fight, even showing images of Johnson knocking out Jeffries. This was rather amazing considering Congress banned the interstate transport of fight films after this contraversial fight. You can see an image of the fight at www.JamesEPepper.com . The 100 year anniversary of the fight is on July 4th, 2010...I thought that that was such a great coincidence considering the old Pepper slogan 'Born with the Republic', as the distilling legacy began in 1780.
Of course there is so much more to this historic bourbon legacy than just the fight, and I thought that a 200 year old distilling legacy should not simply disappear.
I would rather not get into the specifics of how I acquired the brands. As for Dr. Pepper, I have had correspondence with their IP attorney's and they have indicated that they are OK with the project.
I am an importer and am familiar with the spirits industry. As I mentioned, I am not looking for any cheap whiskey to throw in a bottle and slap on a label. I would like to work with a partner to do a relaunch in a manner befitting the brand legacy. I even have the old mash bills from the old James E. Pepper distillery in Lexington. I have contacted some of the distilleries in KY but have not gotten much feedback.
Any help or advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
Yes, the soda pop. They would allow U D to sell the brand overseas, but challenged the brand for the U S market. It looks like Amir has addressed this and is working with their attorneys to resolve this.
Good luck with your project. I always thought the Pepper brand would be a great one to bring back if it is done right. I have a timeline of the Pepper distilling history that I did when United distillers released the brand in eastern Europe. PM me and I will make it available to you.
Thanks for the kind words. It is of the utmost importance to me to bring this great brand back in a manner befitting its legacy.
As a person with experience in the distilled spirits industry, you probably know that bourbon whiskey is very dear right now and very hard to obtain for a project such as yours. Non-distiller producers have been struggling for several years now and many who depended on the spot market have gone out of business.
If by "partner" you mean something more than "supplier," the odds get even longer.
Your best bet might be to establish a relationship with CMDK in Owensboro. Perhaps if Angostura got a few contracts they would see their way clear to accelerate the return of that distillery to production. Properly financed and motivated, they could probably start producing in six months or less.
Especially if you want to use a historic recipe, you need to work with someone who wants to be that kind of producer.
Your other best bet may be to spread the word among all the producers of how much you will pay to anyone who will sell you the whiskey you need. Distilleries are constantly making adjustments and in the current financial environment, some of the producers may need to unload some inventory in the short term, even as they increase production overall.
The thing is, warehouse space is at a premium right now too. You will have a better chance of obtaining some suitable whiskey if you are prepared to accept delivery of it immediately. To do that you will need, at minimum, a warehouse and the necessary federal and state licenses.
Another part of the problem is that no current producer has a real connection to Pepper, the way Buffalo Trace has to Old Taylor, for example. The closest would be Brown-Forman, since the Pepper family originally established the distillery now known as Woodford Reserve, but the connection is tenuous for James. Plus BF is probably the company least likely to be interested in a partnership. It's just not their style.
I'm not sure what sort of information you thought this group could give you. If you wanted to know which distilleries are most beloved, they all have their fans.
In recent years, the fastest-growing American whiskey brands have been new ones, like Maker's Mark, Knob Creek, and Woodford Reserve. Brown-Forman has had some success reviving Old Forester, but that is a unique situation.
In general, pre-prohibition brands have not fared well in the current era. Jack Daniel's is just about the only exception.
Four Roses could perhaps be an example but it too is in many ways unique.
But perhaps reviving pre-Prohibition brands is the next big thing. Keep an eye on Buffalo Trace and Old Taylor.
Last edited by cowdery; 07-10-2009 at 14:57.
Col. Charles K. "Crotchety" Cowdery
"Whiskey Don't Keep."
Man, this thread almost seems like it'd
better suited for the History forum. I
love reading stuff like this.
Thank you for your insight, it is very helpful. I enjoy your articles and had actually thought about contacting you directly in regards to this project.
I'll keep trucking and hopefully get something going here soon.
Reintroducing it *now* may be problematic, since the name has been off the domestic market for years and doesn't have currency in the minds of the average American drinks consumer.
Dr. Pepper did not force the brand off the market, Schenley simply quit producing it in the 1970's. However, once it was off the market, they were able to argue that they could contest the re-introduction of the brand when U.D. was looking to do so in the 1990's.