The McCoy distillery barrel thief and a previously unknown photo of old Clifty Distillery

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A Mr. David King recently contacted me about the history of the three Wolfe family distilleries in Stampers Creek Township and also informed me of his possession of a glass barrel thief inherited from his grandfather and originally from the McCoy distillery! This thief is in excellent shape​ and represents one of the very few Southern Hoosier Distilling artifacts I know of! Thief’s like these are still in common use in the Brittish isles and France but have been replaced in the U.S. mostly by the ubiquitous copper whiskey thief.

Of the thief David says:
The barrel thief shown above was given by Herschel and Treece Clements to their grandson David King. The barrel thief was used at the McCoy Wolfe Distillery for sampling distilled spirits. Samples were collected by lowering the glass thief into the barrel and pulling it out with the attached string so samples could be tested for alcohol content and taste. These were manufactured from the 1800’s to the 1920’s of hand blown glass. The one in the photo above is believed to be one of the earlier models because it has a a flat, “ground” bottom where the point was.

My Distillery Spirits of French Lick is on the verge of dumping and bottling our first “straight” two year old apple brandy, a perfect time to pay tribute to the brandy distillers of The Black Forrest of Indiana via a label photo. I decided the name “Old Clifty” had rested long enough and put the old Mill and Distillery from Cave River Valley on the label. I think the distillers of that old place ;Hammersley, Hammer, Robertson, Green, and Reyman would all approve.

Of course this is the best known image from a set of old postcards and I love the archival text. To me it represents Hoosier Distilling very authentically and pays great tribute to this bygone pre-prohibition days, so, there she sets, preserved in perpituity on my brandy label, 106 years after she made her last drop of fine applejac from her 20,000 gallon annual capacity!

While I was looking for this picture though I also employed the help of Washington County Historian Jeremy Elliott to search for any other lesser known pictures of the mill and distillery and lucked into two, both long after closure, but one of which gives us the best look at the Distilling building itself (from the outside unfortunately) that we have ever gotten.

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The mill from a different view!
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The Distillery, probably in the 1920’s with the Henry Robertson home in the background. Gentleman identified as Frank Van Pelt!

Discoveries like these give me hope that there is so much more to uncover. I still have a lot of work yet in Harrison and Perry Counties to go. I hope as I continue to write, film my documentary, and finish my book that more artifacts will come to the surface. Someone, somewhere has some old equipment in a barn or some amazing photos in an album and I would love to see them, particularly in relation to Washington, Orange, Lawrence, Harrison, Crawford, and Perry Counties!

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