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Interview with Olivia J. Ripy, January 29, 2014

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

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0:06 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is Al Young interviewing Olivia Johnson Ripy on January the 29th, 2014 for the Kentucky Bourbon Tales oral history project.

Segment Synopsis: Olivia Ripy is introduced. She talks about her retirement from the Wild Turkey Distillery. She talks about her family, including children and siblings, and about the family's involvement in the bourbon industry. She discusses her relation to T.B. Ripy.

Keywords: Bourbon industry families; Camaraderie; Children; Community spirit; Lawrenceburg (Ky.); Retirement; T.B. Ripy; Wild Turkey Distillery

Subjects: Families. Genealogy. Whiskey industry--Kentucky


GPS: Lawrenceburg (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.031389, -84.896111

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2:29 - Career at Wild Turkey Distillery

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Partial Transcript: Well how did your career at Wild Turkey get started?

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about beginning to work at the Wild Turkey Distillery as a favor to a family member. She talks about why she decided to continue working there, and the various jobs she has done over the years. She talks about suggesting Wild Turkey Distillery should build a visitors center.

Keywords: Bottling lines; Children; Cleaning; Equipment; Europe; Fun; Jobs; Stay-at-home mothers; Visitors centers; Wild Turkey Distillery; Working

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky Tourism. Whiskey industry--Kentucky Women in the whiskey industry


GPS: Wild Turkey Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0379712, -84.8496304

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5:59 - Women in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: You know you sound like you're pretty much a can-do woman.

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about other women who worked in the bourbon industry, including several members of her family. She talks about what it was like to work for her uncle, Ernie Ripy, at the distillery.

Keywords: Agnes Brown; Bottling lines; Ernie Ripy; Four Roses Distillery; History; Houseboats; Jobs; Madeline Ripy; Photographs; Records; Sally Ripy; Uncles; Wild Turkey Distillery; Working

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky Distillers. Families. Genealogy. Whiskey industry--Kentucky Women in the whiskey industry


GPS: Wild Turkey Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0379712, -84.8496304

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8:31 - Bourbon industry heritage

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Partial Transcript: So what part do you think that that heritage plays in the bourbon industry today?

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about the tradition and heritage of the bourbon industry. She talks about bourbon distilling as a Kentucky industry.

Keywords: American industries; Art; Bourbon recipes; Craft industries; Generations; Kentucky; Success; Traditions; Visitors centers

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky Distillers. Families. Quality of products. Whiskey industry--Kentucky


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10:13 - Master Distillers

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Partial Transcript: Well now you've worked for a number of Master Distillers.

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about some of the distillers she has worked with during her career in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Bill Hughes; Curtis Smoot; Donnie Simms; Ernie Ripy; Fathers; Jimmy Russell; Knowledge; Learning; Master Distillers; Orville Robinson; Visitors centers

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky Distillers. Whiskey industry--Kentucky


GPS: Wild Turkey Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0379712, -84.8496304

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12:23 - Evolution of tourism at the Wild Turkey Distillery

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Partial Transcript: Well now talk to me about the old gift shop.

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about working at the old gift shop at the Wild Turkey Distillery, and making brownies for the small number of visitors. She talks about how their tourism business began to increase, and talks about their decision to build the new visitors center at the distillery. She discusses the importance of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to the bourbon industry and to the state. She talks about her involvement in the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, and the booths that were set up there.

Keywords: Australia; Bars; Bourbon balls; Bourbon brownies; Bourbon industry; Bus tours; Camaraderie; Contests; Cooking with bourbon; Four Roses Distillery; Gift shops; Gifts; Japan; Kentucky Bourbon Festival; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Meeting people; Opportunities; Telephones; Tents; Tours; Visitors centers

Subjects: Consumers. Distilleries--Kentucky Economic conditions. Lawrenceburg (Ky.) Marketing. Tourism. Whiskey industry--Kentucky Women in the whiskey industry


GPS: Wild Turkey Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0379712, -84.8496304

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18:54 - Paranormal activity at the Wild Turkey Distillery and the T.B. Ripy House

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Partial Transcript: Now Olivia, everything always comes around to this.

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about her encounter with what she believes are the ghosts of former distillery workers at the Wild Turkey Distillery. She talks about the paranormal investigations that have been done at the T.B. Ripy House.

Keywords: Electronic voice phenomena (EVP); Mediums; Paranormal investigations; Photographs; Roger Alan Rippy; Shipping departments; T.B. Ripy House; Tours; Visitors centers

Subjects: Apparitions Distilleries--Kentucky Ghosts. Haunted encounters Haunted houses Haunted places. Parapsychology Spirits


GPS: T.B. Ripy House (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0325, -84.895556

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23:53 - Future of the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: If you were to look at the business today and having the history that you have in the business, what do you see for, for the future?

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about her views on the future of the bourbon industry and the increased interest in bourbon. She talks about the future of bourbon tourism and the bourbon trails. She talks about people becoming more educated about bourbon and trying new bourbons.

Keywords: "Bourbon Renaissance"; Bourbon whiskey; Comparison; Differences; Drinking responsibly; Experiences; Interest; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Laws; Opportunities; Preservation; Sampling; Urban Bourbon Trail; Visitors centers; Whiskey Row (Louisville, Ky.)

Subjects: Consumers. Distilleries--Kentucky Quality of products. Tourism. Whiskey industry--Kentucky Whiskey.


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28:52 - Advice for women in the bourbon industry / cooking with bourbon

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Partial Transcript: Now with your long career--

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about her advice for women who want to join the bourbon industry, and the opportunities that are available for them. She talks more about cooking with bourbon.

Keywords: Advice; Bread pudding; Cooking with bourbon; Drinking bourbon; Mixed drinks; Recipes; Social aspects

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky Whiskey industry--Kentucky Whiskey. Women in the whiskey industry


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31:48 - Ripy family in the bourbon industry / camaraderie in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Now you've talked about other family members--(coughs)--that are in, that are or were in the industry.

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about the members of her family, especially younger generations, who are or may become interested in the bourbon industry. She talks about the feeling of camaraderie in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Bourbon Chase; Camaraderie; Communication; Daughters; George Geoghegan III; Grandchildren; Harmony; Nephews; Tom B. Ripy; Visitors centers

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky Families. Whiskey industry--Kentucky


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34:09 - Advertising / Bill Hughes and Jimmy Russell

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Partial Transcript: Whiskey advertising, bourbon in particular, you've seen it change over time.

Segment Synopsis: Ripy talks about how bourbon advertising has changed over the years. She sums up her feelings about the bourbon industry. She talks about Bill Hughes, who worked at the Wild Turkey Distillery. She discusses her experiences working with Jimmy Russell. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: American industries; Bill Hughes; Bourbon industry; Candy; Changes; Eddie Russell; Fun; Gentleman's drink; Gifts; Heritage; Jimmy Russell; Kentucky; Learning; Longevity; Mash; Men's magazines; Old wives tales; Papaw Hughes; Patience; Questions; Radio; Unions; Women; Yeast

Subjects: Advertising. Distillation. Distilleries--Kentucky Distillers. Marketing. Sales promotion. Television advertising. Whiskey industry--Kentucky


GPS: Wild Turkey Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0379712, -84.8496304

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0:00

 YOUNG: Ready?

HAY: Standby and rolling.

[Pause in recording.]

YOUNG: This is Al Young interviewing Olivia Johnson Ripy on January 29, 2014, for the Kentucky Bourbon Tales Oral History Project. Olivia, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on this cold, frosty morning here at, at the Ripy House.

RIPY: Well, I'm really pleased to be here, Al. Thank you all for including me.

YOUNG: Would you please start off by telling us, uh, just a, a little about yourself.

RIPY: Well, I believe that I am, uh--I'm Olivia Ripy. I am recently retired from the Wild Turkey Distillery. I was born in 1952. Grew up on this street. And, um, I just, just, this, this is just terrible. (laughs) We need to start over again.

HAY: Okay.

RIPY: (laughs) I don't know what you want to know about me. (laughs)

YOUNG: Kids, uh--

RIPY: --okay, okay, there you go--

YOUNG: --that sort of thing--

RIPY: --let's just do that. (laughs)

1:00

YOUNG: Uh, um--

RIPY: --oh, okay--

YOUNG: --just--

RIPY: --there you go, I know what I'm going to say now.

YOUNG: Yeah, okay. Want to start from the very beginning?

HAY: We'll just keep it rolling if you don't mind.

RIPY: Okay, I'm Olivia Ripy. And, um, I am the mother of two children. I grew up here in Lawrenceburg. Moved away briefly, uh, when my husband was in the service. But, uh, pretty much Lawrenceburg has been my home. I grew up in a, a distillery family. And, um, the thing that has impressed me the most in my lifetime probably is the community spirit that, uh, I have developed being a part of this town and, uh, a part of this city. Uh, my two children also live here. I had two brothers and two sisters. They seem to be going away but they always come back home. (laughs) But I was the youngest of all the T.B. 2:00Ripy grandchildren--no, I wasn't. (laughs) I was the youngest of the ones living here in town. So, um, I worked in the distillery industry until May 19--of 2013 and I have recently become retired and looking forward to doing some community service and extra projects here in the city.

YOUNG: Well, how did your career at Wild Turkey get started?

RIPY: Well, I was a stay-at-home mom. And, uh, I was taking care of my children one day and the phone rang and it was my uncle Ernie Ripy and he said, "Olivia, we're doing some Christmas bottling down at the distillery and we are shorthanded tomorrow. Do you think that you could come give us a hand?" And I said, "Well, sure. I'll see what I can do." So I got someone to watch my children. And I went out and it was so much fun. There 3:00were people that I grew up with, people that I had known all my life, people that I considered aunts and uncles and cousins that weren't even related to me but I had known them my whole life. So, it was a whole day of catchup. Plus, I got to see automated equipment. Never seen that before really except, you know, from a distance. So I was actually involved in the process that day. Uh, it was kind of like being Laverne and Shirley. So I had a really, really good time. And I, that was, uh, in August of 1973. And I ended up staying. I was beginning my forty-first year. (laughs) So, I really enjoyed it.

YOUNG: Well, now, what other jobs did you do at the distillery?

RIPY: Well, I started out on the bottling line and that suited me real well because you could, uh, be off in the summertime to take, be with my children. We worked, the hours that were wonderful because it was 7:00 to 3:30, so I didn't really have to have a babysitter after my children started school. Um, as the, my children got older, we started like enjoying travel 4:00and things like that so I was encouraged to work more. So I started taking on extra responsibilities. I learned how to dump bottles, like the men did, and we would dump the bottles, uh, we could, we would do a hundred twenty bottles a, a minute. So we would just stand there and just turn the case upside down and put the bottles on the line. But generally men had done that in the past and I decided that I was going to do it. So I did. I took over some of the cleaning there and, and started getting to know more about what was going on in, in the facility itself. Um, I was there for fifteen years. I had worked--they always called me a "young hand" and probably if I went out there now they'd still say, "Well, she's a young hand." (laughs) But, uh, I was there for fifteen years. And, as I said, I like to travel. I went to Europe. And I noticed in Europe that I saw Four Roses and I 5:00saw some Jim Beam. But I didn't see Wild Turkey anywhere. And I came back, and I, I said, "You know, we need a visitor's center. We need, we need to do something to, you know, make the world know we're here and stuff." So I talked about it a lot and I would always go up to the people that were in charge, after I talked to my uncle about it. And after he retired, I would go to whoever was the plant manager and I'd say, "If you ever want to have a visitor's center, I want to run it. I want to work in a visitor's center." So we had a suggestion box. I put that in there, too. So when they opened the visitor's center, uh, in 1987, they asked me if I wanted the job. And I said, "Absolutely." They told me that if it didn't work out, they'd put me back on the bottling line. And, um, I went and, and it worked out. (laughs)

HAY: We're going to pause.

YOUNG: If you would--

[Pause in recording.]

HAY: And rolling.

YOUNG: You know, you sound like you're pretty much a can-do woman and--(Ripy laughs)--and that's, uh, kind of indicative, indicative rather, of, of, 6:00uh, women in the bourbon industry. Some of the, some of the other women, women that played a part in it here in this part of the country were like Agnes Brown with, with, uh, uh, the, the Four Roses Distillery as we call it today. What were some of other names that were, that you remember or part of your family that worked here?

RIPY: Well, um, Agnes Brown was actually my grandmother's niece, my great-grandmother's niece. So, uh, she was actually a very famous person that I didn't know about until recently. But she was involved at Four Roses and, and pretty much ran that distillery at one point. Um, as I told you, my uncle called me and asked me if I would, would come help out one day. Um, my cousins Madeline Ripy and Sallie Ripy all worked at the distillery. Sallie was in fact the bottling house manager at one point. Madeline worked on the bottling line. I worked on 7:00the bottling line. My sister Melinda worked on the bottling line periodically. And my sister Jane was the traffic manager there. So she was in charge of shipping the, the bourbon all over the world and all over the United States. She had a pretty big job. I would be afraid of her.

YOUNG: Uh, you mentioned your Uncle Ernie.

RIPY: Yes.

YOUNG: What would you like to say about him?

RIPY: Well, my Uncle Ernie was a really, really good man. Uh, he was very generous and he was easy to work for. He had that stern look about him that made you know you better be all business. But, you know, he took the bottling-line women on his houseboat for a day every summer. And they would go have a big picnic. And, uh, he would take them up to Lot Six on his houseboat and they would have a big time. Everybody, all, all of the bottling-line women that were there when I went to work there talked about 8:00all the good times that they had on their boat trips with my uncle. Um, he was also a very big historian. He took pictures of everything at the distillery and a lot of the artifacts that we have today are due to the fact that he was a keeper. He, he kept a lot of records and he took a lot of pictures and he did a lot of documentation. So, uh, we can really be thankful that Uncle Ernie was a part of, of everything that's going on now.

YOUNG: So what part do you think that that heritage plays in the bourbon industry today?

RIPY: Um, I always say that, uh, bourbon is a craft industry. Uh, it is something that's been handed down from one generation to another. And although it has, uh, gotten so, it is more automated and so forth, there is still the, the basic recipe. And there are things about it that can never change. 9:00And it, it's a folk art. It, it, without the generations that preceded what's going on now, it wouldn't be getting as big as it is. It wouldn't be getting better because those people really instilled quality in the product. And, um, I'm really glad to see it flourishing the way it is because it, it's, it's a part of the past that just is owned by America. And it's owned by Kentucky. You know, a very, very small part of the pie. But when I was in charge of the visitor center people would come in and they would say, "Well, I've been to New Orleans and I've been to New York and I've been to California." And then they had Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, on their list of things to do. And the reason was because bourbon was here. And they, it was introduced to them, like I said, when I was traveling in Europe, I started seeing 10:00it, and they were trying it in Europe and thinking that it had a real distinct flavor. So they would come to Kentucky just to see about the bourbon.

YOUNG: Well, now, you've worked for a number of master distillers. Who were they and who, what are they like?

RIPY: Well, one mas--(laughs)--a master distiller could be a, a lot of different terms. I worked with a lot of people who made whiskey. Um, I think that, uh, Ernie considered himself a master distiller. My father considered himself a master distiller because he was in charge of the whiskey during the war. Um, uh, a master distiller is someone I, in my opinion, with a whole lot of knowledge. Um, I know when I was a little girl, uh, I always called him Papaw Hughes. He, he was Bill Hughes, was, um, over the distillery. He, he ran everything over in there. And, and of course, he had all the wives' tales, the, you know, the old beliefs and so forth. 11:00And, and, um, he did that. And then, um, when I was there, most of the time Jimmy Russell was the master distiller. And like I said, you know, people would come in and they would work their way and, and learn more and more and more. And, uh, Jimmy did so many things at the distillery that he just picked up on everything. He worked in the, in the lab. And, uh, he worked all over the distillery, just like my family did. You know, they did one job and another job and another job, so that they knew everything that was going on. And, um, so it's, it's been a pleasure. And when I went to work in the visitor center, I got to work with Jimmy Russell, uh, and he told me a whole lot about making bourbon. Orville Robinson, who had worked for my grandfather, um, Curtis Smoot(??), Donnie Sims, they were all working at the distillery at that time and, you know, when people would come ask me, I needed to know things. And so, they all 12:00really helped to shape what I had to say about bourbon and it was very interesting and I had a whole lot to learn from all of them. Um, everybody kind of had a little different take on things sometimes but it all came together the same way. So, um, I, I, I was really blessed to have been educated by those people.

YOUNG: Now talk to me about the old gift shop.

RIPY: Huh, when I went to work in the old gift shop, I didn't even have a telephone. I went down there and they said, "If it doesn't work out, you can go back to the bottling line in, in three months or six months." So I went over there. I didn't have a telephone. I had a walkie-talkie. And we would just, uh, I would just get on the walkie-talkie and look for a supervisor that could take people on a tour because--and the reason we had the visitor's center was that, you know, people would come, and they'd say, "I want to see what you do here." And there wasn't anyplace 13:00for them to go. No postcards or anything like that. So they opened that little house. And, um, pretty much, you know, I maybe have two or three a day. But we were the biggest, largest, best, newest visitor center on--you know, there wasn't anybody else. I think Maker's Mark had a visitor center, and we did, and that was it. So, um, it was really a big to-do. It was a small house. But, um, I would make bourbon brownies. That was my specialty, and that's a memory that I have from my family, too, is that we always cooked with a lot of bourbon. Had pecan cakes soaked in bourbon. And, and, uh, Mama Ripy always had her eggnog and, and, uh, there were bourbon balls and all that sort of thing. So, I was very interested in cooking. so I would fix a homemade snack for any of the visitors that came through. And I think, uh, that added a little extra-genuine touch to our visitor's center. Started out serving brownies about two inches big and by the time I quit--I finally had to keep, quit 14:00because I couldn't keep up with the visitors but they were, you know, maybe a quarter of an inch big. (laughs) But, uh, it grew from, uh, I had seven items that I sold when I opened the visitor's center. We had bus tours that came through back then. Um, they were going to My Old Kentucky Home and they would come through and that was our biggest biggest day. And I can remember the first time they came, I made brownies for all of them. And, uh, our plant manager came over, Jimmy Russell came over, and we were so proud. I stood there and waited for them to come in. And we stocked everything up and I sold a key chain. (laughs) But it got bigger. It got a lot bigger. We started having, uh, visitors from, uh, Japan. We had a lot of visitors from Japan at one time. And they were really excited about Wild Turkey. And they used to bring gifts when they would come. And, uh, that was pretty nice. 15:00I've got some, some treasured items that they brought when they came. And, um, we started--Australia got to be a big thing, too. So we went from having maybe, uh, probably six or seven thousand visitors the first year, and when I recently retired, I know we had already, we probably had surpassed sixty-thousand visitors in a year. So, it's just grown by leaps and bounds.

YOUNG: What do you think of the Bourbon Trail?

RIPY: I think the Bourbon Trail is an absolutely wonderful opportunity for not only the distilleries but for the entire state. Um, for one thing, it is preserving our history. And I, I think that's very important for everybody and I think that, that it has a real sense of pride for our state, as well. I know when I was a little girl everybody would go to 16:00town on Saturday and spend the whole day. And I have watched Lawrenceburg decline through the years because the bourbon industry kind of, uh, dwindled. And, uh, we put in a bypass and there were, you know, downtown Lawrenceburg is full of beautiful homes and historic buildings. And there's nothing there anymore. So I see the Bourbon Trail as a huge opportunity for, uh, people to get to know about Kentucky, for people to get to know about good bourbon and the craftsmanship that goes into it, and also it's a real wonderful opportunity for our little towns to come back and be something again. I can see that, that, that there's a lot of opportunity for small businesses and I know there's certainly an opportunity for people that want to feed you. (laughs)

YOUNG: The Kentucky Bourbon Festival, one week of just bourbon, bourbon, 17:00and go, go, go for the industry. What's your take on that?

RIPY: Oh my goodness, I went to the--(laughs)--I went to the first Bourbon Festival, as well. I had a card table, and, um, some boxes underneath my card table. (laughs) My first expense report was, was like fifteen dollars--(laughs)--something like that. But it was a lot of fun and I got to know a lot of people from each distillery, so that was, that was really neat but they continue, they didn't send me for a little while and then they started sending me back again. And, uh, I can remember, you know, we went from a small tent. Then we built a little bar. and then they started having a contest over, over who would have the best booth. And our booth, fortunately, has won many, many times. Uh, we had what we called the Sit and Sip Saloon. Um, Four Roses kind of 18:00followed our lead and they started having a really nice booth, too. I was proud that our Lawrenceburg booths did so well. But, um, they did a design that looks a lot like their distillery and they had a little, uh, train. Did, isn't it a train that? Yeah. They had a little train for the kids to play on, so they'd ride the train up to Wild Turkey and then get on the, uh, we had a, uh, uh, a rocking turkey that we call Rex and all the kids like to ride on Rex, too. So, um, I've gotten to know so many people from all the other distilleries. And, um, you know, it's kind of a sisterhood because the women run the visitor centers. So I've gotten to know a lot of really nice people and, and attended some really excellent events with the Bourbon Festival.

YOUNG: Now, Olivia, everything always comes around to this: are there 19:00any ghosts out at Wild Turkey?

RIPY: Yes, there are. There are many ghosts out there. (laughs) Um, when I started in the visitor's center, as I said, I did, all I had was a, a walkie-talkie. I always felt like I had someone that watched over me and protected me. And I still really feel that way. We started doing some paranormal investigations back in the fall, last year. And we had some positive reactions. Um, we actually have some pictures of an apparition. It was a gentleman that I knew, I believe, um, that died while he was working. Um, he, we--I worked with his daughter. We were very good friends and we were always having a good time at work and we went around the corner and he said, "Now, you girls behave," and admonished us. and when we went up to break, people started saying to my friend, "You need to come here." and she 20:00thought they were playing with her and she'd say, "No, no." and they said, "Your dad's down and he's gone." So, um, I believe that's who the spirit is that's in the shipping department. At the distillery we have an apparition. Uh, we've used the equipment that the paranormal people use and apparently, uh, I'm having some real conversations with him. (laughs) Um, he responds very well to me. Uh, when they take my pictures when I'm talking to him, they get orbs and so forth. Uh, also, in the distillery, the first time when we were doing an investigation, we had a medium with us and he said, "You need to go up. You need to go up." Well, we went up to the top floor. And I looked up and on the rafter it said, "Rippy." But my name is spelled R-I-P-Y. And my great-grandfather had changed it to R-I-P-Y. But it 21:00had previously been R-I-P-P-Y. So I looked up and saw that. and I said, "Roger Allen Rippy, did you do that?" And they had tape recorders going. And I, the thing is that I am not a paranormal person. This was all an introduction to me. And I, I just said, "Roger Allan Rippy, did you do that?" And then I saw a name of a, a boy that I worked with there, and I said, "Keith, are you with him?" So when they played the tapes back they got an EVP that said, pretty clearly, "Uncle." And then it said, "You remember me." So that was pretty, very interesting. I have decided over the last few months that I have a lot more dead friends than I do living ones--(laughs)--because they seem 22:00to be very attracted to me. We are going to continue to do paranormal tours at the distillery and we had very good feedback from it. So, I believe they're there.

YOUNG: What about ghosts in this house?

RIPY: Well, they're here, too. (laughs)

YOUNG: Are they following you?

RIPY: I, I, I have a pretty big following according to this medium. Um, they did an investigation in here one night. My cousin George was here. I wasn't here when they did the first investigation. But I did get, uh, copies of the EVP's and they asked. "Who built this house?" and very plainly it says, "I did." (laughs) And then he says, "Can you tell me your name?" And it sounds like it says, "Yes, it's Tom Ripy." Then, they also took some pictures back 23:00in the hall and there's an apparition of a man that's very very tall. We all, I had, my medium friend came here on a tour one day and he kept talking about the big tall man, the big tall man. And I said, "I don't know what you're talking about." Of course, T.B. Ripy died long before I was born. And, uh, he kept saying, "This guy's really big." So my brother is not a real believer and he was not paying any attention, and RJ said, "Who in your family would be really big?" And Tom B. turned around and said, "Well, my grandfather Ripy was 6' 5''." Well, I didn't even know that. And, uh, R.J.'s said, "Well, he's standing over there in the corner. (laughs) "He's real happy you're here." (laughs) So, uh, apparently he's here a lot.

YOUNG: If you were to look at the business today, and having the history that you have in the business, what do you see for it for the future?

24:00

RIPY: Oh, I think that it's got, it's got so much opportunity. I see it going up. I think, um, Americans are beginning to really drink quality products. and they are discovering that, uh, there's something real special about bourbon. Uh, I, I know I'm seeing a lot of articles written about bourbon. And the tourism, tourist industry has certainly just grown by leaps and bounds. And it's because of the interest that, uh, people have in it. Um, I think it's rather unfortunate that, um, people don't have, we don't have places for people to go and stay but I see that that is probably going to happen in the future because of the, the laws. The laws have changed a lot since I was a young girl. Uh, and so, you know, the, the, the distilleries promote, uh, responsible drinking but then you have 25:00the Bourbon Trail and there are distilleries everywhere and samples everywhere and people get excited about wanting to go and try everything. So I can see that, that, that's going to really help the tourist industry and Kentucky will have to build towards that so that there is a way to promote safe, responsible drinking because there would be places for people to stay and, and, um, and really enjoy the state more. So that's an encouraging thing, too. (laughs)

YOUNG: Now, we talk about the amount of visitors that come to the distilleries and go to the visitor centers and so forth.

RIPY: Um-hm.

YOUNG: Um, there's a move on now to build Distillery Row into quite a project in Louisville. Do you see that along with the Urban Bourbon Trail being just a natural extension of everything having to do with bourbon?

RIPY: I think so. Uh, I, I think that anything 26:00we can preserve is a wonderful idea. Uh, I know that, uh, I have participated in the Urban Bourbon Trail somewhat, and the, uh, Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau is excellent in promoting not only Louisville, but the whole state. And, um, I, I think that, uh, the Urban Bourbon Trail, they, they got, started promoting everybody else, and, of course, you know, they have had a lot of bourbon history there, as well. So, I think that it's just going to be excellent. I, I think that, uh, it will bring people in from all over the world, and that, like I said, they not only promote their own city; they promote the whole state.

YOUNG: It's often been said in this part of the country 27:00that it's okay to make bourbon, it's okay to sell bourbon, but you ought not drink it. (Ripy laughs) What do you think is going on today? Do you think that attitude is slowly changing as people make bourbon more important or what do you think?

RIPY: I think that attitude is changing somewhat. Now, now as far as legally, uh, it's, like I said, I think, you know, the distillers say drink responsibly. I know that I, when I have witnessed tastings, people are really understanding what they're doing. They know how to compare one bourbon to another. And it's almost like, you know, wines; you have one with dinner, you have one with, you know, before dinner, you have a dessert wine. You have--well, I think bourbon's kind of picking up the same sort of thing. I know with just Wild Turkey, from what I learned, I always really enjoyed, say, Rare Breed with rare steak. 28:00And I really like the 101 with chocolate. And, um, they're just, you know, I had my drinks according to what I was going to do, and what I was going to eat, and where I was going, and so forth. And, and, you know, it's the same way with all the bourbons. When you go to these, um, um, affairs where you get to taste all of the different types of bourbon that are made, you can make comparisons all day long. You can pick up fruit, different fruits, uh, different undertones, sweetness. So, um, I, I think that actually the, the Bourbon Trail is encouraging people to experience all the different aspects of bourbon.

YOUNG: Now, with your long career at Wild Turkey--

RIPY: --um-hm--

YOUNG: --you're sort of a women's pioneer, you might say, in terms 29:00of being able to advance into the position you held in terms of tourism. What advice would you give to people who want to come into the industry today? Especially women.

RIPY: Especially women? Uh, I think there's a lot of room for women there. I think that, uh, they're, it's certainly a social opportunity, that, that's the aspect of the bourbon that I liked. I liked to watch, uh, the, the, um, I'd people-watch Downton Abby. That's the way I see the bourbon women. (laughs) Although I would do anything to get there, including being the janitor, but. (laughs) You know, there's something just really special about it and something that's got so much tradition to it. And a richness. There's a richness just even in the flavor. So, um, I think that women, you know, uh, are very at home having a, a, a drink that's mixed. I 30:00personally am a real true bourbon drinker. I, I, I like my bourbon chilled. (laughs) I'll have a little water, a little ice with it, and I'm not real big on mixed drinks. But at the same time I see that there's a lot of room for that. And, um, I can see that, uh, aspects where women can get into the industry and promote more interest in it with not only men but women, as well. And also I think that women have the, uh, the knowledge for promoting in a different way, as well, through social activities.

YOUNG: So, so do you have a favorite recipe for something that has bourbon in it you want to share with us? I know you like to cook with bourbon

RIPY: --I love to cook with bourbon--

YOUNG: --I know you like to drink it straight--

RIPY: --I love to cook with bourbon. Well, one, one 31:00recipe that I can tell you is, uh, I can't just give you the recipe off the top of my head but I'd be glad to share. But I love bread pudding. and bread pudding is excellent with bourbon. There's just no two ways about it. You can make a hard sauce. I had started using, um, the, um, sweetened condensed milk and just doing half sweetened condensed milk and half bourbon and pour it over bread pudding. It is out-of-this world delicious. So, um, that's good. It's, I make brownies with bourbon. I make barbecued hotdogs with bourbon. Uh, it's, it's really got a lot of possibilities.

YOUNG: Now, you've talked about other family members that are in, that are or were in the industry. Uh, who will follow you in the industry that's from your family?

RIPY: Well, I didn't mention earlier my daughter also worked for 32:00me in the visitor center, and she was being very interested, and I have taken my grandchildren and shown them around the distillery. My granddaughter's very interested in the process. But actually I, at this point, I, you know, I see my nephews, um, and with George and Tom B.'s interest in Lawrenceburg now, in the bourbon industry, and the house, it's going to provide opportunities. I think it could, could be, um, they may not work in a distillery but I can see them being very interested in the business and, uh, making something out of it, uh, it, whether it be a restaurant, or, uh, a brewery, or, you know, whatever. But they have all developed a new interest in bourbon. and Santa Claus brought them books about bourbon this year. (laughs)

YOUNG: How would you say the, uh, angle of tourism as 33:00it begins to grow, uh, in the bourbon industry has affected relationships between distilleries?

RIPY: Oh, gosh, you know, when I went to work at the distillery, I, I knew these other distillers because my family had been involved with all of them anyway. And people come through, and they say, "You're a competitor." And, you know, I kind of say, "Well, you know, we like them." (laughs) And that's really the way it is. I would feel very con-, I'm friends with the girls out at Four Roses. and, um, actually I think it's, it's, uh, given us a degree of harmony because we are all in touch and we will let each other know if there are large groups coming through, and we work together on the, the Bourbon, um, Chase, which is our big, uh, run all the way from Jim Beam to Lexington once a year. And, uh, we, we coordinate things with each other. So it's, 34:00it's a real, a real camaraderie between all the distilleries.

YOUNG: Whiskey advertising, bourbon, in particular, you've seen it change over time. Uh, what are some of those changes that you've noticed. Is it a question of focusing on the flavor and the quality now, the sociability of bourbon? What do you think?

RIPY: Well, I'm kind of the romantic-type person that really likes those old ads with the, the people, the, having a drink and you, you know, you see the drink in their hand and they're playing cards and all that sort of thing. And, and, uh, but it was more portrayed like a gentlemen's, a gentlemen's drink, a gentleman's thing. And I see that changing a whole lot. One thing, um, you never heard about bourbon on the radio, you never heard about bourbon on television, anything like that. And now it's everywhere. Uh, I, I can remember, uh, Wild Turkey particularly, 35:00the ads would all be in a men's magazine. It would be, um, Esquire and Playboy. And, uh, in fact, I've got a, a, a paper where my uncle was interviewed by someone from Play-, Playboy. So, um, it was, it was all gentlemen. and, and, uh, now you're going to see an ad in any magazine with anything, uh, about bourbon in it. Uh, it's also promoted as more of a, a fun thing now. Uh, some of the distilleries are just really making it fun. (laughs)

YOUNG: Well, if, if, if we look at the long picture of your involvement in the bourbon world and the changes that you've seen and the forecast of where it's going to go, if you could sum it up in a few words, what would you say 36:00about the bourbon industry in general?

RIPY: I think the bourbon industry is a wonderful opportunity for people to learn about their heritage, to enjoy a very high-quality product that is totally American-made.

YOUNG: So you would invite people to come to Kentucky?

RIPY: Absolutely. I would love for people to come to Kentucky and see about what, what's here in our heritage. I think it's a great opportunity.

YOUNG: Well, listen, Olivia, I want to thank you for being interviewed today, and, uh, especially on a cold day like today. (Ripy laughs) Uh, and we're all wrapped up in blankets for the interview. And to thank you for being part of the industry for so many years.

RIPY: Well, thank you.

[Pause in recording.]

HAY: Rolling.

YOUNG: Olivia, would you tell us a little bit about Papaw Hughes and some of the, the stories that are associated with him?

37:00

RIPY: Um, my first introduction to Papaw Hughes was that his wife babysat for my nephew, so that's why I call him "Papaw Hughes." His name was Bill Hughes. And he ran, he worked in our distillery and, and made the mashes every day and so forth. And he was very, uh, old-fashioned and, uh, kind of kept with the old wives' tales. He, uh, I know, you know, when I first started going into the distillery and looking at the yeast and all that sort of thing, they laughed and they went, "Oh my goodness, Papaw Hughes would just not believe that there's a woman in here. He would have sworn you'd have ruined his mash." That just being around women, their hormones would kill the yeast. (laughs)

YOUNG: Anything else about him?

RIPY: I don't know anything else about him--

YOUNG: --that's better, all right--

RIPY: --except he babysat for Roger.

YOUNG: Okay. You know, we talk about a lot of, lot about longevity and, and it won't be long that the current 38:00master distiller, Jimmy Russell, with Wild Turkey will be doing the big 6-0, sixty years of working in the distillery industry and looking over the quality and the care of the product. Do you have any observations or thoughts about Jimmy Russell right now?

RIPY: Well, I'll tell you what; I worked on both sides of the fence when I worked at the distillery. When I worked on the bottling line, I was in the, uh, union. And, um, I had the opportunity to work with Jimmy on some of the union business at, at one point and we had opposing theories about the way things should run sometimes. But, um, at some point, the, when I first worked there, the bottling line, the, the line captains would call and tell people to come into work. So, uh, then they changed that and Jimmy was the personnel manager and he called people to come and work when they needed 39:00to come to work. And I have to tell you that he is a very patient man. He, he would call and if you weren't there he would call and call and call, and make sure that you got the message that you had to work because if you didn't, uh, you know--he could have just skipped over you and called somebody else. So he's very fair like that. Um, then we went to work on the other side of the hill. And, um, he, I had always had a lot of questions. Jimmy spent a lot of time telling me about different things, about how the mash was made, and what the yield was, and what the mash bill was, and, and all, he, he helped me to understand what made it work. And, um, the, so I, I learned what I know about making bourbon from Jimmy, uh, or a whole lot of it. And, um, you know, through the years, uh, people would come and bring gifts. Jimmy always shared. Uh, we had a lady that came and brought 40:00See's Candy one time. And I don't know if you know what See's Candy is but it's really good. Well, I, it said, "To the Master Distiller." And so I took a red ink pen and underneath--(laughs)--underneath it wrote, "And Olivia." (laughs) It was so cute. It was so obvious that I had doctored the label. (laughs) And Jimmy was so gracious. He left the box of candy--(laughs)--with me. (laughs) He's, I said, "Jimmy, this is really your candy." And he said, "Well, it's got your name on it." (laughs) So, and, uh, you know, he's, he always spent a lot of time. He comes down and visits at the distillery and the tourists just love him. They really enjoy getting to meet him. And, um, sixty years is a big one for him, that's for sure. But, uh, and he is, is very generous with his time, as well, 41:00what little time he does have. And, and, um, I think he's going to do a really good job. So, I don't know if Jimmy's going to leave. He doesn't seem like he's got any idea, any thoughts about it; he kind of likes where he is.

YOUNG: There's your story.

[End of interview.]