I've been absent a while due to work stuff in addition to a couple deaths in my family this last month so there's not been much time for blogging or even imbibing.
As many of you may be aware, Elmer T. Lee passed away this week; a great loss to the bourbon community and to the history of bourbon. BT's President Mark Brown released the following:
It is with a very heavy heart that I share with you that our beloved
Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee, 93, passed away July 16, 2013
after a short illness.
In the world of making really fine whiskey the role of Master Distiller
is pivotal, but Elmer’s meaning to those he met, came to know, and
worked with closely extended far beyond that of a Master Distiller.
Elmer defined, in the simplest terms, what it means to be a great
American – hard working, self-made, courageous, honest, kind, humble,
Elmer was born in 1919 on a tobacco farm near Peaks Mill in Franklin
County, Ky. He graduated from Frankfort County High School in 1936 and
worked for Jarman Shoe Company until December 1941. He then served with
the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II as a radar bombardier on a B-29.
After flying missions against Japan through 1945, Elmer was honorably
discharged in January 1946. He returned home and studied engineering at
the University of Kentucky, where he graduated with honors in 1949.
In September 1949 Elmer began working in the engineering department of
the George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort. In 1966, Elmer was promoted
to plant superintendent, responsible for all plant operations and
reporting to the plant manager. 1n 1969, he became plant manager.
But it was in 1984 that Elmer’s contribution to the bourbon industry
gained him the most notoriety, when he introduced Blanton’s, the world’s
first Single Barrel Bourbon. Elmer retired in 1985 but continued to
serve as an ambassador for Buffalo Trace, and in 1986 he was honored
with his very own single barrel bourbon, Elmer T. Lee. Of course, for
those of us who knew Elmer, he never really retired. Every Tuesday we
could see Elmer making his rounds at the Distillery in his trademark
cap, signing bottles, posters, and other memorabilia at the Gift Shop,
visiting his friends in Blanton’s Bottling Hall, and tasting bourbons
(for quality control purposes!) in the lab.
Elmer was always ready to offer advice, and was a wealth of information
that many of us relied on, myself included. Harlen Wheatley would
inquire with Elmer when stuck on a mechanical problem, and any
historical questions about the Distillery always went to Elmer, who,
with his razor sharp memory, could invariably answer. To all of us,
Elmer was a friend, a mentor, and a trusted advisor.
Elmer was known through the bourbon industry for his expertise and
knowledge about bourbon whiskey and he received numerous awards and
recognition, including induction into the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001,
the Lifetime Achievement Award from Whisky Advocate in 2002, and the
Lifetime Achievement Award and Hall of Fame induction from Whisky
Magazine in 2012.
We have lost a wonderful friend today, and he will be missed terribly.
Services for Elmer T. Lee are pending and will be announced shortly.