In 1893, fresh out of Centre College, the charismatic young "Pappy" Van Winkle went to work for the W L Weller Company as an on-the-road whiskey salesman, traveling the Midwest by horse and buggy. He wasn't looking to go into the whiskey business.
"I wanted a job and I got one," was the way he put it. That was typical of the things he said, simple and to the point.
Ultimately, he and his partners, Alex Farnsley and A Ph Stitzel, built the company known for the better part of the 20th century for making the finest bourbon in the world. And "Pappy" became a legend soon enough.
Our great grandfather believed in making fine bourbon — that was his bottom line. And that philosophy continued as he passed the reins to his son, our grandfather, Julian P Van Winkle Jr., who had started out rolling barrels in the warehouse when he was 16. At "Pappy's" retirement, Julian said:
"In succeeding my father, I realize I must attempt to fill the shoes of a man who has become a legend in his own time. I hope I have benefitted by his guidance and counsel through the years. If I ever have any doubts, I'll meerly look outside our doors and read the bronze plaque that contains my father's philosophy of business." These words still ring true:
WE MAKE FINE BOURBON AT A PROFIT IF WE CAN, AT A LOSS IF WE MUST, BUT ALWAYS FINE BOURBON.