December 27, 2005

Calling All of the Following:

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 6:09 pm

Old Pugh Bottle 100 per cent.jpgYes, this call is going out to all who come by here who may be any of the following:

  • Bourbon Aficionados

  • People from Kentucky

  • People from Lexington or Louisville, Kentucky

  • Amateur Historians from Kentucky or elsewhere

  • Amateur Sleuths

  • Antique Road Show Fans

  • Search Engine Swashbucklers
  • Background
    I received an e-mail from a reader who flatters me by thinking that I know a bit more about bourbon than the average guy. I probably drink more of that spirit than the average guy, but I am far from an expert.

    Anyway, here is the story.

    The reader came upon several five-gallon, glass bottles (carboys) of what appears to be bourbon that is more than 100 years old. (Here are photos of one of the carboys and a close-up of the seal.) By virtue of the bottle shown on the left (see below for text of label) and a note that was dictated by the former owner of the carboys, who is deceased, it is “Old Pugh” bourbon that was distilled by R.S. Strader & Sons and bottled specifically for the Phoenix Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky. Here is the dictated note describing the contents or the carboys. The best guess, based on the date of a newspaper found behind the carboys in the former owner’s basement, is that they have been in the basement since 1968.

    Preliminary sniffing around has revealed that there was indeed a Phoenix Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky that was frequented by travelers in the nineteenth century and which closed in 1975. We also know from a press clipping (really more of an advertisement) that the R.S. Strader located its “warehouse, bottling and shipping departments” [no mention of the stills themselves] to 234 East Main Street in Louisville, Kentucky in approximately August 1911. The press clipping is here.

    When the reader saw that one of the carboys seemed to be leaking, he poured the contents into smaller containers and actually tasted the contents and confirmed the contents to be bourbon, and very good bourbon at that.

    The reader is interested in learning more about the distillery, the Phoenix Hotel, and, of course, the possible value of his find.

    Anyone with any information about any of the foregoing, or suggestions about where to look for such info is invited to do any or all of the following:

    1. Send an e-mail directly to the reader, who has given me permission to publish his e-mail address, billg4192-at-mail-dot-com>
    2. Send me an e-mail – use Mr. Sidebar
    3. Leave a comment here

    I figure that with all the reprobates smart folks and heavy drinkers connoisseurs of fine spirits who frequent this place, someone will have some information.

    Note: The text on the label reads:
    Old Pugh
    120 Proof
    This Whiskey was never owned by anyone but the Distillers and


    1. The label is interesting. I wonder why it’s important to know that no one else owned the whiskey. Could it have something to do with illegal distilleries?

      Comment by marydell — December 28, 2005 @ 8:05 am

    2. Marydell,
      That explanation makes logical sense, given what I imagine to be the number of people who were making their own brews then and even now. 🙂 It’s not a very practical way to solve the problem, because one can print anything on a label. I guess that’s why things like tax stamps were born.

      Comment by Jim - Parkway Rest Stop — December 28, 2005 @ 9:08 am

    3. old whiskey

      Calling all bourbon experts! Take a look at this post and see if you recognize the brand name. Bourbon has…

      Trackback by Gut Rumbles — December 28, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

    4. I personally, have squat for intel, but… Jim, you might query Sam, who’s damned sure better half, is from Kentucky, and still has people there.

      Might turn up something, you never know…

      Comment by RedNeck — December 28, 2005 @ 6:19 pm

    5. Thanks for the tip, ‘Neck. I appreciate it. Of course if the inquiry had been brewskies, you would have been one of my G0-TO Guys. 🙂

      Comment by Jim - Parkway Rest Stop — December 28, 2005 @ 6:22 pm


      maybe this will help.

      Comment by thatgirl — December 28, 2005 @ 7:03 pm

    7. Thatgirl,

      Thanks! It is interesting to see that the distiller was providing/selling promotional shot glasses in 1907.

      Again, thanks for the help.

      Comment by Jim - Parkway Rest Stop — December 28, 2005 @ 7:14 pm

    8. I used to hail from KY. Grew up east, then college in the ‘ville. My bro still lives there, and my dad studies booze (heh, but true).

      I’ll do some sniffin’ ’bout…

      Comment by liv — December 28, 2005 @ 9:39 pm

    9. The Phoenix building is still standing. It’s now occupied by part of the city/county government in Lexington. It was last owned by Garvice Kincaid and housed the Kentucky Central Life Insurance Company which Kincaid owned. I worked in the building for about three years and though it had been gutted for office use, you could still tell it had once been a very classy place.

      The Phoenix was the favorite watering hole and meeting place for the ‘power people’ of central Kentucky and may a politician and businessman regarded it as THE place to be seen and heard.

      I vaguely remember the ‘Old Pugh’ label from something I heard a long time ago. It was one of the many ‘private label’ bourbons produced in central Kentucky. Just like today’s micorbrewereies, some small distilleries had their own private label bourbons and it does seem that I can remember hearing or reading that the Phoenix was known for their very own house brand.

      If you could contact the Herald Leader newspaper in Lexington, I think you’d find lots of information about the Phoenix and possibly the Old Pugh.



      Comment by Joe — December 29, 2005 @ 9:09 am

    10. Joe,
      Thanks for the info. If I get to Lexington I will do some hunting. I think I have about all I can from afar.
      The Phoenix was one of the last places that would not serve blacks. They had some race problems in the 60’s and 70’s.
      Have a wonderful and safe New Years.

      Comment by BG — December 31, 2005 @ 1:48 am

    11. Did you ever get any further information on Old Pugh. I live in Lexington and collect items related to the old Phoenix Hotel.

      Comment by Jeff — November 30, 2006 @ 1:05 am

    12. Don’t know about Old Times, but 234 East Main Street in Louisville has been converted to an office and condos, since the late ’80’s.

      The icehouse across the street is being converted to amegamillion-dollar development, office, retail and residential.

      Comment by Nobody M. Portant — November 13, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

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      Comment by 18 car subwoofers audio — January 3, 2009 @ 7:47 am

    14. In response to Joe’s comment–no, the Phoenix is NOT still standing. What you are thinking about is the LaFayette Hotel. The Phoenix was torn down in 1982 and a park and the public library (and a parking garage) now sit on the site.

      Comment by Mike — July 31, 2009 @ 9:49 am

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