Friday, October 23, 2009

The House That Old Crow Built.

This is Berry Hill Mansion, in Frankfort, Kentucky. It was built by George Berry, who made his fortune as vice president of W. A. Gaines & Co., makers of Old Crow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Old Crow Bourbon was first made by Dr. James C. Crow when he was master distiller at what is now Woodford Reserve. His whiskey was so famous that when he died suddenly in 1856, it seemed like a good idea to keep selling it anyway. A company was formed for that purpose, which after a couple of iterations became known as W. A. Gaines & Co. Hiram Berry, George's father, was one of the original investors.

The money was in New York, so was the company's president; but the distillery was just outside of Frankfort and Berry was the senior executive on the scene. He wasn't a distiller. We don't know for sure but he was probably more like the general manager. He was also a major shareholder. It made him a very rich man. He built the mansion he called Juniper Hill in 1900. In about 1910 he added a music room, the home's most spectacular feature.

Today, Berry Hill Mansion is owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is meticulously maintained and beautiful, inside and out. It is open to the public and also used for conferences, weddings, and other events. W. A. Gaines & Co. ceased to exist as anything other than a name at Prohibition. Today, Old Crow is made by Beam Global Spirits & Wine.

If you have any questions about the mansion, or want to rent it for an event, e-mail my buddy Paula Weglarz or call her at (502) 564-3000. If she doesn't answer they're probably racing at Keeneland.

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