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CMDK Origins and History

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In 1634 John Medley immigrated to Virginia from England bringing his families still with him. The Medley tradition of Distilling in America can be traced back to this point. Virginia Map c1640’s

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The Families: The Story of CMDK is the tale of several families. Families steeped in the tradition of distilling. It is especially the story of the Medley’s (Old Medley, Medley Brothers, Ezra Brooks). Also included are the Wathen’s (Old-Grand Dad, Old Taylor and Old Crow) and even the McCulloch’s (Mountain Dew Whiskey, Green River Whiskey). Without the over 350 years of distillation heritage these families bring there could be no Charles Medley Distillers Kentucky today.

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In 1800 John Medley IV takes his family across the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky bringing the family still along with him The Cumberland Gap

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In 1788 Henry Hudson Wathen begins distilling in Lebanon, Kentucky. The Wathen’s family began making Old Grand Dad in 1899.

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In 1812 the Medley Distilling Company was first formed in Lebanon, Kentucky not too far from the Wathen’s Distillery An early distillery c1812.

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In 1805 the first distillery opens in the town of Yellow Banks, Kentucky which was later called Owensboro. An early Distillery

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The two great Kentucky distilling families of the Wathen’s and Medleys joined when Thomas Medley and Florence Wathen married in 1902

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Owensboro Kentucky was selected as the location for the next Medley Distillery expansion at the dawn of the 20th Century A suffragette parade passes in front of the Distillery circa 1910

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In 1885 John C. McCulloch begins making Bourbon at the Green River Distillery in Owensboro, KY. The distillery sits on the site of today’s Charles Medley Distillers Kentucky location

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The Green River Distillery quickly became the producer of one of America’s top Bourbon, Green River Sour Mash Whiskey. It was called “The Whiskey Without A Headache”.

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In 1901 George Medley bought the Daviess County Distillery next to the Green River Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. This was the old Monarch Distillery built in 1873. The Daviess County Distillery location where Fields Meat Packing has their stockyards in this 1970 photograph.

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A Train pulling past the Distillery into Owensboro c1910 to pick up passengers and barrels of Medley Bourbon. The distillery smoke stacks and aging warehouses are visible in the background

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The Rail Line leading to the Distillery

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Fire has always been the biggest danger for Distilleries. The History of Bourbon is written in the ashes of many a distillery fire FIRE!

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In 1911 the Medley owned Daviess County Distillery caught fire The remnants of a Sour Mash Distillery after a fire

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On August 24th 1918 the Green River Distillery burned to the ground after a rail car full of bourbon caught fire and spread to the nearby distillery and aging buildings Aging warehouses burn in this undated photograph

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The fire destroyed the entire distillery. However a bigger fire storm was coming that would cause even greater damage to Distilling as a whole.

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Prohibition: Jan 1920 – Dec 1933

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Prohibition came soon after the disastrous distillery fires in Owensboro. As a result the fire damage was not repaired and no distilling occurred on the site for over 16 years.

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Prohibition ended in December 1933. Shortly there after work begun to rebuild a distillery on the site of the old Green River Distillery, now named the Kentucky Sour Mash Distilling Co.

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The location was selected for the very same reasons that brought distillers to the area in the first place: Great Limestone filtered water from an underground aquifer In the middle of the best Midwest corn country Kentucky’s favorable aging seasons with Hot Summers and Cold winters

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In 1940 the Medley Brothers bought the distillery and renamed it The Medley Distilling Company.

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Many of the products associated with Medley Distilling were produced during this time period. Medley Brothers Bourbon Medley’s Kentucky Whiskey Old Medley Bourbon Medley’s Kentucky Bourbon

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The Medley Brother’s Name was on each barrel produced

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In 1951 the Medley Distilling Company introduced a Specialty Bourbon Bottle. It was a banjo shaped Medley Bourbon Bottle that has now become a collectors items.

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The plant continued expansion through the 1940’s and on into the 1970’s

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The Medley Distilling Company was one of the largest employers of women in the community. Over 250 women worked on the 5 bottling lines. Here workers place labels on the distinctive Banjo Bourbon Bottles.

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Placing the Banjo Bourbon Bottles into boxes

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Bottling Line

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Placing the boxed bottles into cases

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Master Distiller Charles Medley, Plant Manager Joel High and Bottling Manager Jerry Kuntz overseeing Bottling lines

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Empty barrels sit out side the Medley Distillery waiting to be filled

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Barrel’s were filled by hand using scales to determine the amount of spirit entered. Here Berturm “Tubby” Mattingly and co- worker fill old style 8-hoop barrels in the 1950’s. Note the wooden bung hammer in “Tubby’s” hand used to pound the bungs in the barrels.

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Quality was key to the process. Here Yeast growth is being inspected in the Quality Lab

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Samples of the days production await testing in the Quality Lab

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Wyman Pierce, Roy Payne (Still Manager) and Thomas Payne (Yeast Specialist) review the days production totals

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In 1969, Charles Medley was named the Master Distiller at the plant his Grandfather founded. He was the 7th Generation of Master Distiller in the Medley Family. The plant now bears his name in honor of this distinguished family history.

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Water used in the distilling process comes from wells on site drawing Limestone filtered water from a deep aquifer under the site. Operator Paul McCarty monitors the well control panel in the 1970’s.

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The Mash Tubs used to cook the product

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Originally the Bourbon was fermented in cypress tanks

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Roy Payne setting a fermenter

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Thomas Payne taking a sample from fermenter for Quality testing

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The cypress tanks were replaced by the stainless steel tanks used today

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The Column still and Doubler are used to distill the Bourbon to the proper proof for barreling

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Ricking a Barrel in the aging warehouse

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In 1992 the distillery stopped operations. Charles Medley purchased the facility and continued to bottle there for several years

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The Bottling Equipment Charles Medley used to produce his “Single Barrel” Bourbon.

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In October 2007 the Distillery was purchased by Angostura Limited.

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Renovation of the plant began in November 2008 with the goal of once again producing a traditional Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

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Renovations include turning the old Bottling House into a visitors center and gift shop that includes event space for 300 people

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Other completed work include renovation of the aging warehouses with new roofs, repaired ricks, electrical and fire protection upgrades and improved access

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Charles Medley Distillers Kentucky Home of Traditional Kentucky Bourbon

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