William T “Bill” Butler. Retired moonshiner/brandy distiller. Field interview.

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Bills second still.  Now sold and retired.

William T. Butler or Bill, as his friends know him, is a distant cousin of mine. He is in fact my grandmother Dorris Butler-Bishop’s first cousin to be exact.  Originally from the area around Hodgenville/Sulpher Springs/Greensburg Kentucky along with the rest of the Butler and Bishop clans.  Bills family relocated to Jeffersonville when he was a young man and after a falling out with the family he struck out in his own at the age of 15 working every job under the sun.

Bill is a true mans man having told me upon first meeting; “If I like ya’ I’ll do anything for ya, if I don’t I’ll tell ya’ to fuck off.  I just tell it the way it is”.  Bill eventually became a metal worker in the union operating out of Louisville KY and later got in the side line of breaking standard bred horses and shoeing them as well.  His life reads like a modern day outlaw novel and he has some Hellacious stories to tell.  Including one about a notorious gangster….

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Flake stand for double walled condenser.  The writing is a record of run times.

While living in Jeffersonville Indiana Bill’s neighbor and close friend taught him to make malt whiskey from commonly available (at that time) blue ribbon malt using a single pass process that would yield a very rustic spirit.  Unhappy with the taste of the malt and size of the still Bill began trying new ingredients and built himself a brand new square copper 15 gallon still after hours at work in the sheet metal shop utilizing scrap material. Eventually he settled in on what I have come to call Butler’s Best peach brandy.  He later sold the copper still and built a brand new stainless still with a double wall condensor (a design his mentor recommended).  Bill never sold a drop of this delicious brandy as his mentor made him promise not to, but instead utilized it as a bargening chip at horse trade shows where he would trade it on the dollar value or use it as a way to open up dialogue with a trader that was a hard case.

Like most moonshiners it has been one of Bill’s true love’s and has eased the burden of life on him for many years.  In recent years he gave it up and gave away/sold all of his equipment due to health. I was lucky enough to fall in good favor with Bill and subsequently learn his process.

Bill’s process is pretty unique owing to his experimentation as well as the man who taught him.  The stills he built and the process he used resemble greatly some old Eastern European Slivovitz processes despite the fact that Bill himself was unaware of the existence of that spirit.  The stills being of small size and with a “neutral” (straight) line arm leading to a double wall condensor with an inlet pipe for cold water into the flake stand at the bottom of the condenser.  I have promised never to give away his exact recipie and process but to those whom may one day be my successors in legal work or to employees working for me in a prospective legal operation.

Though the brandy produced is in Bills case a single pass the flavor is incredible and there is a trick to producing this quality of potable alcohol on a pot still in a single pass.  One aside, again similar to some Slivovitz, bill would save his spent peach wine wash and put it back in the barrel with new water, sugar, and peaches, ostensibly creating a sour mash wine!

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoy spending time with Bill.  Perhaps one day the legal facility will exist where I can craft this spirit in tribute.

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