Saturday, August 10, 2013

In Honor of Elmer T. Lee

On July 16th, Elmer T. Lee passed away. Up until July 21st when his obituary ran in the NYT, I had no idea who Elmer T. Lee was. I do now and I'm quite grateful for what he did.

From the NYT...
Elmer T. Lee, a master distiller whose bottling of a premium brand of bourbon in 1984 was widely credited with raising bourbon’s cachet with liquor connoisseurs and helping to reverse a long slump in Kentucky’s signature industry, died on July 16 in Frankfort, Ky. He was 93. 
Demand for bourbon had been declining since the early ’70s, in part because of the rising popularity of gin and vodka. And the slump was being felt at Buffalo Trace, where the work force was shrinking; it employed 250 people when Mr. Lee started in 1949 and would reach a low of 50 in the early 1990s. 
For Blanton’s Single Barrell, Mr. Lee and his staff selected the best-aged bourbon whiskey in the warehouse and bottled it straight from the barrels, unblended, in decanters featuring horse-and-jockey bottle stoppers (a nod to another Kentucky industry). It sold for about $30 a bottle, compared with an average price of $10 to $15 for a most other bourbons. 
The brand slowly built a devoted customer base.  
Mr. Gregory, of the Kentucky distillers group, credited the premium market that Mr. Lee pioneered as a major factor in the bourbon industry’s turnaround in the last decade; sales reached 30 million gallons in 2012 for the first time since 1973, he said.
An in-depth interview with Mr. Lee about his experience in the bourbon industry can be found here

Rest in peace Mr. Lee.

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