Oscar Getz’ Pride & Joy

My dad used to love his Kentucky Bourbon over ice, so in his memory we spent an hour or so at Spaulding Hall in Bardstown, Kentucky, touring the Oscar Getz collection of memorabilia and history of America’s love affair with our version of the liquid gold known as whiskey.

I took a few photos of the Jim Beam side of the industry: fully half of all American Whiskey distilled and sold worldwide. We had seen a very curious building on our way into Bardstown, and the museum informed us that this hulking multistory black structure is a rick house (where the makers inventory and age their full barrels of bourbon). It’s curious to me that the aging takes place in a building sure to get the full assault of the Kentucky summer sun and heat under its black facade, but if that’s what works, they’re sticking with it.

A 1930’s illustration of Jim Beam’s distillery, with five rick houses, on a hill.
One of many rick houses in use today throughout the Bourbon Trail.

Here’s the original James Beam, whose father Jacob founded the company in the 1800s.


Of course, many of the men who worked in the distillery didn’t wear such fine apparel or look so genteel.


And there were plenty of distilleries that didn’t stand up to the standards of the well-capitalized Beam Company.


My favorite parts of the tour were the personality-laden stories, flasks and folklore surrounding the Bourbon industry.


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