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chefmel

I Need Help with T.W. Samuels Post Pro History.

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chefmel

Hi Everyone,

Great to see and meet all of you at the general nelson a few weeks ago. Amy, great seeing you and your husband again. Joe, a pleasure to finally meet you and thank your friend (forgot his name) for bringing the Stagg! Had a great conversation with him also.

I met with Kenny Halgash, who was the bottling superintendent at the old T.W. Samuels back in the early 70's when my Great Uncle still had the business. He moved on to HH and still works there to this day. We had a great visit and he basically confirmed the information I had gotten earlier from James Alan Wiggs - The distillery was still distilling until about 1970. After that time, they just bottled what they had in storage. So I am confident that the past history about the distillery that I had read was incorrect - they both distilled and bottled long after 1952. I also had the chance to meet with Bill Samuels and look at some old pictures from the distillery including progress pictures as the different rick houses were built. I think my favorite was the picture of the fermenting room where the open top cypress tanks sat. Overall a very nice visit with Bill. He told me my uncle was on the Kentucky Distiller's Assn.? for quite a few years including being the president for a couple of years. He had a couple pictures of the board from the early 60's but my uncle apparently wasn't available for the picture as he wasn't in them.

Still waiting to get some contact info on my uncle's attorney down in Detroit - I'm sure he has information that would be valuable to my research. Thanks to all who have been following this thread and for all the contributions. If and when I get more info, I'll post it hear as long as it is still active.

Mark

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mamayak
Mark,

I was having a little Xmas cheer with an attorney I do some work for. He pulls out an old bottle of Jim Porter whiskey and starts telling me the story of Sam Wasterman and the T.W. Samuels Distillery. Apparently, his partner was your uncle’s lawyer and is familiar with your uncle’s ownership of T.W. Samuels distillery. After your uncle died, they were cleaning out the basement of your uncle’s downtown Detroit office and came across 3-5 cases of I.W. Harper, Elijah Craig?, Sam’s own private label and Jim Porter brands. That was some 30-40 years ago (don’t know exact date when your uncle died) and all the juice is now gone. Except for this 2/3 full bottle of Jim Porter. Only had one glass but very good stuff. Either 86 or 80 proof.

TJ

Mark:

I am the attorney Boozer refers to in his message. One of my former partners was Sam Westerman's Michigan attorney & still has a photo of him in his office. He would be more than happy to speak with you & share his memories. I would prefer to give you his contact info off-line. Let me know how to contact you directly.

P.S. - I still have the 2/3 full bottle of Jim Porter & an (unfortunately)empty Old Jordan.

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chefmel

Thanks mamayak! I will PM you today. Maybe we can get together sometime and try that Jim Porter!

Mark

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chefmel

Well, I'm going to talk to Sam's lawyer on Mon. 11-29. I'll post any new information I get. Looking forward to meeting him - Thanks Mamayak for making this happen for me!

Mark

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Josh
Well, I'm going to talk to Sam's lawyer on Mon. 11-29. I'll post any new information I get. Looking forward to meeting him - Thanks Mamayak for making this happen for me!

Mark

That's exciting, Mark! Thanks for keeping us all in the loop!

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cowdery

Re-reading this thread just now, it's an interesting odyssey that began in the summer of 2008. A lot of people have contributed but most of the credit goes to Mark (chefmel) for sticking with it. Persistence pays off. Maybe I shouldn't have given up on stalking Morgan Fairchild after all.

Another thing that struck me is that Heaven Hill could be considered more the successor to T. W. Samuels than Maker's Mark is. Yes, the last remaining member of the Samuls family went on to found Maker's Mark, but it looks like Heaven Hill ultimately acquired what remained of the Samuels company's business along with several executives and several brand names. If that happened in the 1970s, Max Shapira would remember it, as would other current or (more likely) retired Heaven Hill executives.

My theory is that Charle DeSpain stayed close to the Samuels business even after he went to Heaven Hill in 1943, putting Heaven Hill in a position to acquire along the way any assets TW Samuels might wish to sell, perhaps also supplying them with whiskey and keeping them in business long after they stopped distilling. Sam Cecil worked at both Maker's Mark and Heaven Hill after leaving TW Samuels, but Sam was a production guy, not a business guy. He didn't pay attention to that sort of thing. DeSpain was a business guy. He's long since dead but there may be other people at or retired from HH who know about the final days of T. W. Samuels.

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Josh

My theory is that Charle DeSpain stayed close to the Samuels business even after he went to Heaven Hill in 1943, putting Heaven Hill in a position to acquire along the way any assets TW Samuels might wish to sell, perhaps also supplying them with whiskey and keeping them in business long after they stopped distilling. Sam Cecil worked at both Maker's Mark and Heaven Hill after leaving TW Samuels, but Sam was a production guy, not a business guy. He didn't pay attention to that sort of thing. DeSpain was a business guy. He's long since dead but there may be other people at or retired from HH who know about the final days of T. W. Samuels.

I found this picture of Charlie DeSpain and the Shapira Bros. at the HH Website. That's Charlie in the interesting shirt.

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L to R: Ed (Max's father), Charlie DeSpain, David, Mose, George, Gary

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chefmel

Hi all,

Glad to see Josh and Chuck are still following along! I met with Sam's former attorney today - great guy with lots of info. Also got to meet mamayak - thanks for the bottles, I'm sipping some 12yr Jim Porter as I write. Still great after all these years. I'm guessing this bottle was produced in the '60's and I would think there weren't too many distilleries making 12 year old juice back then. One of the most interesting things the lawyer told me today was that Sam sold the distillery to United Brands. Does that name wring a bell with anyone out there?? I was told by people down in Deatsville that a "Mr. Thompson" from Scotland had purchased the distillery - maybe he was affiliated with United Brands.

Chuck - thanks for your comments on my persistence! It's been a long strange trip that isn't over yet. I still feel that the juice was distilled on site until about 1970 from what I was able to find out from former employees. I think Chuck is right about HH as they do still produce some of the old labels made in Deatsville. I also found out that Sam had 2 grandsons so the search is on for them. His lawyer also told me that when Sam died, he had 7 safety deposit boxes - 5 in Detroit and 2 in Michigan. Between the 7 there was over $150,000 in cash, much of it stamped from the 1940's. He lived through the depression and was probably leery about investing in the stock markets or the banks which was probably why there was so much cash. That's a nice mad money stash!

Josh - PM me and tell me how to add pictures to these posts - I'll post some pictures of what I have found to date.

And the saga continues . . .

Mark

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fishnbowljoe

Mark, Keep at it. It will be really interesting to see what else you can find out. By all means keep us updated. Hope to see you again soon. Joe

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cowdery

"United Brands" is one of those very generic-sounding corporate names that can be hard to pin down.

Today it is the California-based manufacturer of JOOSE, one of those caffeinated malt liquors like FOUR Loko, that has been in the news lately. As a relatively new company, I doubt that United Brands has any connection to this story.

Between 1970 and 1985, United Brands Company was what is today Chiquita Brands International Inc., which was originally the United Fruit Company, established in 1871. It became United Brands in 1970 when Eli Black bought a controlling interest and merged it with another company he owned that was in unrelated businesses, as was the style of that era. Might such a diversified conglomerate have also owned a distilled spirits company at some point? Not unlikely.

The fact that there is a Cincinnati connection also suggests that possibility. After Black's death in 1975, United Brands was acquired by Carl Lindner's American Financial Group (AFG), based in Cincinnati. Lindner is crazy rich and AFG has bought and sold dozens if not hundreds of different companies over the years. One of them, now largely forgotten, could have been a little distilled spirits company in Deatsville, Kentucky.

In 1985 United Brands changed its name to Chiquita Brands International, but the company continued to be based in Cincinnati and still is to this day.

I can't find any evidence that United Brands had any distilled spirits interests but many diversified conglomerates of that period did. In addition to Chiquita Bananas the United Brands portfolio included John Morrell Meats and Foster Grant Sunglasses.

I was going to suggest that "United Brands" may have gotten confused with "United Distillers,' except United Distillers (UD) wasn't formed until 1987.

Black is perhaps best known for having committed suicide in dramatic fashion when it all went bust in 1975. The time frame -- early 70s -- is certainly right, although it seems more likely that the acquisition was made post-Black, after the company moved to Cincinnati.

I have previously characterized T. W. Samuels as primarily a commodity producer and based on all of the above that may not be right. They may have been more like Medley Brothers, a small, regional, marginally successful branded distilled spirits producer.

Finally, "Mr. Thompson" (although Thompson is a very common name) suggests Glenmore Distillers, which was based in Louisville, and owned and operated by the Thompson family until 1991 when it was bought by -- wait for it -- United Distillers.

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The Boozer

Mark, Glad to hear you got hooked up with Jim & mamayak, along with that 12 year old Jim Porter bottle. Had some of that last year, good stuff.

I guess when they cleaned out the offices down in Detroit after Sam died, they found several cases of bourbon in the basement storage room. That may have been better than the cash! :grin: I believe that Jm Porter bottle is the last of the stash.

Hope to see you soon.

Tim

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cowdery

Jim Porter, by the way, is a legendary character from Kentucky's earliest history, a real-life Paul Bunyan, called "The Kentucky Giant." His grave marker says, "he was 7 feet, 8 Inches tall- an inch shorter than he claimed."

Jim Porter was a tavern keeper and there is still a bar in Louisville that bears his name, though it's not in the same part of town as his.

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chefmel
"United Brands" is one of those very generic-sounding corporate names that can be hard to pin down.

Today it is the California-based manufacturer of JOOSE, one of those caffeinated malt liquors like FOUR Loko, that has been in the news lately. As a relatively new company, I doubt that United Brands has any connection to this story.

Between 1970 and 1985, United Brands Company was what is today Chiquita Brands International Inc., which was originally the United Fruit Company, established in 1871. It became United Brands in 1970 when Eli Black bought a controlling interest and merged it with another company he owned that was in unrelated businesses, as was the style of that era. Might such a diversified conglomerate have also owned a distilled spirits company at some point? Not unlikely.

The fact that there is a Cincinnati connection also suggests that possibility. After Black's death in 1975, United Brands was acquired by Carl Lindner's American Financial Group (AFG), based in Cincinnati. Lindner is crazy rich and AFG has bought and sold dozens if not hundreds of different companies over the years. One of them, now largely forgotten, could have been a little distilled spirits company in Deatsville, Kentucky.

In 1985 United Brands changed its name to Chiquita Brands International, but the company continued to be based in Cincinnati and still is to this day.

I can't find any evidence that United Brands had any distilled spirits interests but many diversified conglomerates of that period did. In addition to Chiquita Bananas the United Brands portfolio included John Morrell Meats and Foster Grant Sunglasses.

I was going to suggest that "United Brands" may have gotten confused with "United Distillers,' except United Distillers (UD) wasn't formed until 1987.

Black is perhaps best known for having committed suicide in dramatic fashion when it all went bust in 1975. The time frame -- early 70s -- is certainly right, although it seems more likely that the acquisition was made post-Black, after the company moved to Cincinnati.

I have previously characterized T. W. Samuels as primarily a commodity producer and based on all of the above that may not be right. They may have been more like Medley Brothers, a small, regional, marginally successful branded distilled spirits producer.

Finally, "Mr. Thompson" (although Thompson is a very common name) suggests Glenmore Distillers, which was based in Louisville, and owned and operated by the Thompson family until 1991 when it was bought by -- wait for it -- United Distillers.

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cowdery

As I said, it couldn't have been United Distillers unless he had a time machine, since United Distillers didn't exist until 1987.

Sam Cecil's book isn't perfect but he's good on the Samuels history, since he worked there for many years and had that particular interest. He says it was sold in 1943 to Foster Trading of New York, which renamed it Country Distillers.

Property transfer records will tell you who owned the property, which may give you some clues but won't necessarily tell you who owned the business. We know, for example, that at some point Heaven Hill bought about half of the warehouses and Maker's Mark bought the rest. The distillery certainly did not operate after all the warehouses were sold.

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chefmel
As I said, it couldn't have been United Distillers unless he had a time machine, since United Distillers didn't exist until 1987.

Sam Cecil's book isn't perfect but he's good on the Samuels history, since he worked there for many years and had that particular interest. He says it was sold in 1943 to Foster Trading of New York, which renamed it Country Distillers.

Property transfer records will tell you who owned the property, which may give you some clues but won't necessarily tell you who owned the business. We know, for example, that at some point Heaven Hill bought about half of the warehouses and Maker's Mark bought the rest. The distillery certainly did not operate after all the warehouses were sold.

The warehouses were apparently sold after Sam sold the business. You are correct on the property records. The main reason I'm going to look there is to see when the property was transferred so I can narrow down my search through the old newspapers and hopefully find out who was running the business. I'll have to check the 1943 newspaper article again on the country distiller's name and when it was known as that.

Mark

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chefmel

It looks like the name "Country Distillers" was started by Mr. Samuels and his partners before my uncle and his partners purchased it as the article stated that Country Distillers sold the property to Foster's Trading Co. in 1943. Either the reporting in the paper was wrong, or Mr. Cecil was confused on the names when it was transfered. Not sure which it is but will find out if possible.

Mark

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cowdery
It looks like the name "Country Distillers" was started by Mr. Samuels and his partners before my uncle and his partners purchased it as the article stated that Country Distillers sold the property to Foster's Trading Co. in 1943. Either the reporting in the paper was wrong, or Mr. Cecil was confused on the names when it was transfered. Not sure which it is but will find out if possible.

Mark

To what article are you referring?

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bartsnider

Mark,

I just discovered this site and may be able to fill in some blanks for you.

My dad, Hubert D. Snider, was general manager of TW Samuels from about 1946 until 1952. He was hired by and worked for Samuel Westerman, the man I came to know as "Uncle Sam." Dad graduated from Western State Teachers College in about 1934 went to work for the government in the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Unit in Louisville. He was a storekeeper gauger. He went to night school and received his law degree from University of Louisville in 1940. He was then made chief prosecutor for the Unit in Kentucky. I think it was in 1943 that he was transferred to Washington, DC. After the war we returned to Louisville as Mr. Westerman had hired him to run the distillery.

Dad told me the story of how Westerman got the distillery, but I don't recall now exactly how it worked. I remember that Westerman was working for a Canadian Distiller as a whiskey broker, as I recall. He somehow or other worked a deal where he (and perhaps some partners) bought TW Samuels distillery for a very small price per barrel.

We lived in Louisville and my dad drove to the distillery every day and then on many Saturdays met with Uncle Sam in downtown Louisville to discuss business operations. Uncle Sam lived in a downtown hotel, it was either the Brown Hotel or the Seelbach (sp?), I don't remember which. Uncle Sam sent me a beautiful Christmas present every year. In, fact I was still receiving Christmas presents from him after I graduated from college. He had a woman who was his personal secretary and I think he forgot to tell her that I had grown up, because the last present I got from him was a chemistry set!

I recall that Dad was upset with Uncle Sam because Dad didn't think the business resumed operations soon enough after WWII. The distillery has two brands that were very important before the war (T.W. Samuels and Old Jordan) and Dad thought they waited too long to re-enter the market and lost the share they had before the war.

There was a major fire at the distillery the night of September 15, 1949. It was also the night that my sister was born. One of the warehouses was totally destroyed and I have pictures taken during the fire and the next day. As I remember, it was a 50,000-barrel warehouse that they thought was started by an elevator motor. I remember that my Dad later brought home a big check that he had received from the insurance company.

Another thing I recall about the distillery is that during WWII when the government controlled all the distilleries, they completely refitted the plumbing from copper to stainless steel. Dad said it was a major investment.

I remember that Dad kept cattle on the property and fed them the mash from the distilling process. It was supposed to be really good for fattening cattle. There was also a great bar and lounge in the basement of the office. Several times my Dad let me use it for parities with my high school friends (chaperoned, of course.)

As I remember, Dad left the distillery in 1952 and in 1953 was hired by the Distilled Spirits Institute in Washington. He headed up a project to rewrite the federal laws controlling the manufacture and taxation of distilled spirits. The law that went through the legislative process was called the Snider Law, or at least so I was told. After it passed and my Dad was made head of the DSI's legal department. He remained with the DSI until he died in 1970.

My Dad also knew Bill Samuels, but I think they had more contact when Dad was with the DSI. I also remember the name Foster Trading Company, but I don't remember in what connection.

I'll keep trying to recall information about the distillery and will let you know more as I do.

Bart Snider

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bartsnider

This is a followup to my earlier post to include some pictures of the 1949 warehouse fire. It started in the afternoon of September 15 and burned through the night. My Dad told me that there was a river of burning whiskey running down to the pond. There are also several pictures the day after. All that was left was the metal siding and a bunch of barrel hoops. The man in one of the day after pictures might be Samuel Westerman, but I'm not sure.

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chefmel
To what article are you referring?

Hi all,

Been a long time! I had a lot of problems earlier in the year as far as logging in and posting. Hopefully, those problems are over.

Chuck, the article I was refering to was an article out of the Kentucky standard from 1943 announcing the sale of the distillery.

Mark

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chefmel

Thanks Bart for filling in some of the details about your dad's time at the distillery and for the great photo's of the fire. I've heard all about it including the fact that the locals headed down to the pond with buckets to try and scoop up some of the whiskey! I've only seen one "day after" picture of the fire so these photo's will help me greatly.

On my last visit to Bardstown, I headed over to the property records room downtown and found some interesting information. My uncle filed a quick claim deed for the distillery on December 3rd, 1974 transferring ownership of the distillery to Commonwealth Distillers, Inc. from Louisville. The property was held in escrow for 6 months and transferred to the new owners at that time. The company representative that signed it was Douglas Scott or Scois - I can't read the signature all that well. So now I know when he sold the property. Now, I need to find the deed from when the Samuels family sold the distillery to my Uncle and his partners so I can double check the names of the company's at the time.

I'm working on tracing some history on the Old Jordan label also as I don't think it originated with the Samuels family. Is anyone going to be in Bardstown for the Bourbon sampler next weekend??

Mark

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Josh

I'm working on tracing some history on the Old Jordan label also as I don't think it originated with the Samuels family. Is anyone going to be in Bardstown for the Bourbon sampler next weekend??

Mark

I will but I don't know how much help I'll be.

Anyway, glad to see you posting again, Mark! I love reading your posts on this topic. Have you ever thought of putting it all together in narrative form?

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chefmel

Hi Josh! Haven't talked to you in a while! Thanks for the comments. No need to help with my research - just looking for someonne to drink some bourbon with this weekend! Someday soon (I hope) I'll put all the information together where it hopefully makes some kind of sense, though my research isn't over with yet. I'm bringing some items with me this weekend from the distillery - Look me up on Friday or Sat. if you'd like to look through them. I'll be at the GN on Saturday, Bardstown Inn on Weds. - Friday. Looking forward to seeing you again!

Mark

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MauiSon

Just wanted to say thanks for this thread - the 12,000+ views prove I'm not alone in appreciating it.

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fishnbowljoe

Saw Mark at the Sampler this last week. Had a nice chat with him. I also took the time to take yet another person out to see the old distillery.

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