I've been putting together a timeline for Woodford Reserve as part of a distillery profile I'm writing for our site, The Whisky Exchange here in London.
However, before I write it up I thought it'd be a good idea to pass it by to you folks for correction, especially as my sources conflict on a few dates - most importantly, with regards to the exact dates of BF's initial ownership: I have 1940/41 for when they bought it in the first place, but have read varying dates from 1964-1971 for when they sold it the first time. Also, I have been unable to discover when the brand's association with the Derby first began.
Definitive answers gratefully received, and please let me know if I've left out anything particularly crucial as well.
Here's what I've got:
1812 – Distilling begins on site – oldest distillery in Kentucky still operating. (Not continuous). Originally built by Elijah Pepper, who had been distilling in the county since 1797.
1831 – Elijah Pepper dies, business taken over by son Oscar
1833 – Dr. Jim Crow, sometimes referred to as the ‘Father of Bourbon whiskey’ begins work at the distillery, developing over almost thirty years some of the methods that led to legal definitions of ‘straight’ bourbon. Crow is credited with the invention of the sour mash process during this time.
1838 – Present distillery building erected by Oscar Pepper. Soon after, a system of steam pipes installed into stone warehouses to regulate temperature and allow more than one hot-cold cycle per year.
1865 – Oscar Pepper dies
1878 – bought by Leopold Labrot & James Graham, who operated until 1941.
1890 – E. H. Taylor builds limestone warehouses at Woodford
1940/41? – crippled by prohibition, failed to recover after repeal, sold to Brown Forman
1964? – production stops and distillery is closed.
1964/1971? – sold by Brown Forman, site used as farm land
1994 – BF buy back and restore the distillery. Small Forsyth pot stills begin operation. Bourbon is triple distilled. Soon after, a range of experiments begin which will later become the Masters Collection.
1995 – National Register of Historic Places
1996 – Distillery re-opened as tourist destination. First Bourbon sold as Woodford Reserve is released. Honey barrels distilled at Early Times / Old Forester distillery in Shively, Louisville. Later, the barrels distilled at Shively but earmarked for WR are moved to finish ageing at WR before bottling.
2000 – National Historic Landmark. Woodford Reserve VIP bottling introduced.
2003 – Renamed Woodford Reserve Distillery. Distillery visitor centre expanded (Now around 80,000 visitors/year). WR pot-still whiskey is incorporated into the blend for Woodford Reserve. Batches now a blend of WR potstill and bourbon made at Brown-Forman’s distillery in Shively, Louisville.
2005 – First edition of Woodford Reserve Masters Collection released to critical acclaim. Four Grain contains corn, rye, wheat and malt and is first 100% pot-still WR.
2006 – Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson’s retirement means that signature on WR bottles now provided by new MD Chris Morris. 2nd Master’s Collection release is also Four Grain (aged a year longer).
2007 - MC Sonoma-Cutrer wine finish
2008 - MC Sweet Mash
2009 - MC Seasoned Oak finish.
2010 - Report from Charles Cowdery (of this parish) in Whisky Magazine that this year's MC will be a toasted maplewood-finish
Many thanks in advance for your time and the benefit of your expertise.