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Interview with Frenchie Sweatt, March 21, 2014

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

 

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0:06 - Background / beginning to work at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery

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Partial Transcript: This is John Gregory interviewing Frenchie Sweatt.

Segment Synopsis: Frenchie Sweatt talks about growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, and the schools she attended. She talks about how she learned about a job opening at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery (also known as the Old Fitzgerald Distillery). She describes her first impression of the buildings and the grounds. Sweatt describes the various job positions she has held at the plant over the years.

Keywords: Accounting department; Bank; Bottling; College; Diageo North America; Eastern Kentucky University; General studies; Government compliance; Indiana Southwest University; Interior design; Inventory systems; Jobs; Nicknames; Old Fitzgerald Distillery; Plant administrator; Schools; Stitzel-Weller plant; Vancena Sweatt; Warehouses

Subjects: Diageo (Firm); Distilleries--Kentucky; Education; Louisville (Ky.)


GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528

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5:46 - Downsizing and resurgence of the Stitzel-Weller plant

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Partial Transcript: And when did you become plant administrator?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about why the plant was downsized, and talks about the crew that stayed to deplete the remaining inventory. She talks about Diageo's decision to turn the plant into a barrel housing headquarters, and her hope that it will continue to expand in the future.

Keywords: "Renaissance"; Barrel warehousing headquarters; Communities; Depleting inventory; Downsizing; Hope; Old Fitzgerald Distillery; Plant administrator; Plant closing; Resurgence; Selling companies

Subjects: Diageo (Firm); Distilleries--Kentucky


GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528

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10:20 - Bourbon industry families

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Partial Transcript: Why do you think the bourbon industry, um, has that kind of family lineage that, that you get multiple generations or you know, uh, uh spouses and siblings--

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about why people who work in the bourbon industry often have family members who also work in the industry. She talks about how the employees of the Stitzel-Weller plant formed a community.

Keywords: Bourbon industry families; Commitment; Communities; Dedication; Employees; Enjoyment; Generations; People; Word of mouth

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


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14:13 - Women and minorities in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, uh, there's--I think the industry traditionally has had sort of, uh, this perception that it was a male-dominated industry.

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about whether there is much diversity within the bourbon industry, both at high-level and mid-level positions. She talks about mentoring other employees, especially about paying attention to detail.

Keywords: Attention to detail; Bourbon industry; Checking; Job positions; Learning; Male-dominated industry; Managers; Mentoring; Minorities; Processing; Standards; Teachers

Subjects: Diversity in the workplace.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry


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19:24 - How the bourbon industry has changed over time / future of the Stitzel-Weller plant and the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: So how, how have you seen the industry, the overall industry, change, um, in your time?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about the changes she has seen during her almost 30 years in the industry. She talks about her predictions and hopes for both the Stitzel-Weller plant and the bourbon industry as a whole. She talks about bourbon industry tourism, and how expansion would affect the local community.

Keywords: Alcohol taxes; Bottling lines; Bourbon industry; Cafeterias; Changes; Computers; Cycles; Distillery; Economic boost; Employees; Expansion; Fast-paced; Future; Growth; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Rebirth; Redevelopment; Shively (Ky.); Stressful; Visitors centers

Subjects: Diageo (Firm); Distilleries--Kentucky; Economic conditions; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky


GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528

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25:43 - Various owners of the Stitzel-Weller plant during her time there

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Partial Transcript: One thing I meant to ask you earlier.

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt lists the companies that have owned the Stitzel-Weller plant during the time she has worked there. She talks about what it was like to experience those changes.

Keywords: Changes in ownership; Closing; Employees; Experience; Expertise; Old Fitzgerald Distillery; Owners; People; Schenley Industries; United Distillers; United Distillers Manufacturing Inc.; United Distillers Production Inc.

Subjects: Business enterprises.; Diageo (Firm); Distilleries--Kentucky


GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647,-85.8071528

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30:20 - Changes in technology

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Partial Transcript: Well you mentioned, um, when computers came--

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about her experience of working at the plant when computers were introduced to the office. She talks about how the inventory system operated before they had computers.

Keywords: "Crop books"; Accounting; Alcohol taxes; Barrels; Case goods; Computers; Inventory systems; Ledger books; Selling

Subjects: Alcohol--Taxation--United States.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Technology.


GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528

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33:17 - Drinking bourbon / Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project

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Partial Transcript: So, um, are you a whiskey drinker? A bourbon drinker?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about whether she likes to drink bourbon, and her opinions on how it should be served. She briefly talks about her role in the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project.

Keywords: Drinking bourbon; Government reporting; Mixed drinks; On the rocks; Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project; Paperwork; Products; Tasting; Tax and Trade Bureau; Wine

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Drinking of alcoholic beverages.; Whiskey.


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36:36 - Mentoring Andrea Wilson

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit more about how you tried--or how you did mentor, um, Andrea Wilson when she came here?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about teaching Plant Manager Andrea WIlson about the procedures of the plant, especially those procedures that are undocumented and passed down through tradition. She talks about the importance of accuracy in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Accuracy; Administrative employees; Age; Andrea Wilson; Barrels; Crew; Government reporting; Language; Mentoring; Plant managers; Terminology; Traditions; Undocumented procedures

Subjects: Liquors--Standards; Women in the whiskey industry


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42:27 - More on the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project / Stitzel-Weller plant archives

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Partial Transcript: Well so, uh, tell me about the, the Orphan Barrel Project.

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks about how the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project began, and the consumer interest in the products. She talks about the archives at the Stitzel-Weller plant, and her hopes that someday the contents can be displayed.

Keywords: Archives; Articles; Bottles; Bourbon industry; Collections; Documents; Expansion; Forgotten; Interest; Inventory; Limited quantities; Old Forester Distillery; Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project; Pictures; Small batch whiskey

Subjects: Consumers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky--History.; Whiskey.


GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528

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47:41 - Mythical quality of the Stitzel-Weller plant / her contributions and legacy

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Partial Transcript: Earlier you mentioned that when you f--came out here the very first time, came through the gate, that you said there was a "fairyland" quality to it.

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks more about her first impressions of the Stitzel-Weller plant, and why the site seems special. She talks about what she would like people in the future to remember about her career at the plant and her contributions to the industry.

Keywords: "Fairyland" quality; Accuracy; Administrative employees; Ancestors; City; Contributions; Crew; Government reporting; Legacies; Limited quantities; Maintenance; Mythical; Proud; Roles; Sites; Unexpected; Warehouses

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky


GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528

Hyperlink:

54:17 - More on Andrea Wilson / a story about working at the Stitzel-Weller plant

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Partial Transcript: So how have you seen Andrea grow, um, in her time here?

Segment Synopsis: Sweatt talks more about Plant Manager Andrea Wilson and her success in the bourbon industry. She tells a story about a day at the plant when a woman received a mink coat. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: "Chosen"; Andrea Wilson; Consultants; Contributions; Eager; Families; Growth; Innovation; Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA); Limousines; Mink coats; Old Forester Distillery; Passion; Reserved

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


GPS: Diageo Americas Supply Inc. (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2098647, -85.8071528

Hyperlink:
0:00

 JOANNA HAY: Okay, standby. And rolling.

JOHN GREGORY: This is John Gregory interviewing Frenchie Sweatt, a plant administrator for Diageo North America on March 21, 2014, for the Kentucky Bourbon Tales Oral History Project for the University of Kentucky Library, uh, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. And we're speaking at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville. So Frenchie, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where, where did you grow up? Where were you raised?

FRENCHIE SWEATT: Um, I was raised right here in Louisville about five miles from here. And my real name is Vancena Sweatt. But I've been called Frenchie since I was born, so that's what most people know me by. And I really just go by Vancena legally, but my real name is Vancena. So I was born and bred here. I went to public school here. I'm a graduate of, uh, Louisville Male High 1:00School. Yay, Male! For our local folks. Um, I attended Eastern Kentucky University and Indiana Southwest. And I have been here all my life. Now I live in Crestwood, Oldham County, so that's a little different. But, um, that's it.

GREGORY: How do you spell Vancena--

SWEATT: --Vancena--

GREGORY: --how do you spell that?

SWEATT: V-A-N-C-E-N-A.

GREGORY: Is that a family name?

SWEATT: My father's name was Vance. I don't know how they came up with that but they did. (Gregory laughs) My mother did.

GREGORY: And then how did you get the moniker Frenchie?

SWEATT: My father wanted to name me Frenchie, and my mother said no. So, my, you know, legal name became Vancena but everyone's called me Frenchie since birth. And that's what most people know me by.

GREGORY: And so, um, what did you study in college?

2:00

SWEATT: Uh, at Eastern, I received an associate degree in, um, interior design. And, uh, at IU I finished and got my Bachelors, um, in General Studies. In fact, my children and I all graduated from college within three years of one another.

GREGORY: And how did you come to work for Stitzel-Weller, or at Stitzel-Weller?

SWEATT: I was working at a bank, processing payroll in the payroll department. And one of the payrolls we processed was Old Fitzgerald's payroll.

GREGORY: Hmm.

SWEATT: So, the, uh, lady that processed the payroll here, her name was Alta Cobb(??). Um, we just got close in our workings. And, um, one day she asked me would I be interested in applying for a position here? Um, one of the ladies that had worked here had, uh, was about to retire. And I, I hope I have this, 3:00uh, amount of time right. I believed they had not hired anyone out here for like fifteen years, no one in the office. So, she asked me would I be interested. It would be in the accounting department, and I said, "Sure." So I came in for the interview, and, uh, I was hired. And, um, that was in 1985. So this is my twenty-ninth year in December. And, uh, when I first, uh, came out here, like I said, I grew up five miles from here, but I really wasn't familiar with the site. And of course, then the front gates were being used and it was, uh, manned by a, uh, armed security officer. Back then the security officers, uh, carried weapons. And, uh, when I drove into that front gate, I thought I had landed in a fairyland. It was absolutely beautiful. And I came in 4:00December. So, you know, how it normally is in December. But it was, it was just beautiful, the plant, the grounds, and everything. And then, um, of course, the interview was in the admin. building, and it was beautifully furnished, a lot of antiques. And, uh, just from the exterior of the building, that's just what the interior of the building looked like what you would expect the interior of the building to look like. So, um, I started working here, uh, in [19]85 in the accounting department.

GREGORY: And so, was it a, uh, functioning distillery at that point?

SWEATT: Yes. It was a distillery. Um, also a bottling, uh, facility, and then the warehouse barrels. So they did everything back then.

GREGORY: And what, uh, jobs or positions have you held with the company over the years that you have been here?

5:00

SWEATT: Um, well, I've been in accounting. Um, I've also been in, to be perfectly honest, all my jobs have kind of been interwoven, maybe in a different department's name. Um, also in government compliance, that's where I've spent a lot of time. For about two-and-a-half/three years, I was, uh, on a special project, uh, where we were implementing a new inventory system, CARM. So, um, I was one of the employees selected, I guess there was about twenty of us on the project, and that's what we worked on for several years. And then when I came out of that, I went, uh, back to the government compliance area.

GREGORY: And when did you become plant administrator?

SWEATT: Um, that came about when the site, uh, downsized. Um, and in fact, we were slated to be sold, and that was at the end of, um, that was about in 6:00[19]94. And, just a skeleton crew was left here, um, of warehousing and maintenance, um, employees. And then it was myself. And then for a while, there was, uh, plant manager here. And, uh, so that happened in [19]94. And so, we were here with the knowledge that we were depleting the inventory for the plant to close. And that started in [19]94, and I believe it was around, oh, probably a thousand barrels here that--oh, um, I'm sorry--a hundred thousand barrels here at that time. And so, between [19]94, and, uh, 2007, we were just depleting inventory, and we had gotten down to about five thousand barrels. And, um, so we knew things were coming to an end soon. But luckily, it did a 7:00complete turnaround, and the plant was given new life. And, uh, Diageo decided to make it their warehousing, um, barrel warehousing headquarters for North America. So, um, with that, here we are today. We have, uh, oh, about 450,000 barrels in inventory. But, we are only, we only do warehousing here now, barrel warehousing. We don't have a distillery or bottling.

GREGORY: What was it like to see a place that you said when you first came here was like a fairyland--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --you know, go down to, you know, just a handful of people working here? And now--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --starting to see a renaissance?

SWEATT: Um, it was disheartening to see it going down, it's, when you knew what 8:00it had been. Um, but to see where it is now, um, there's a flicker of hope there, and I'm, I'm hopeful that, uh, as time progresses, more activity will come here. You know, everyone here is still hoping for a distillery, hoping for bottling, hoping for the whole nine yards. So it's, uh, those, uh, there's one other gentleman that's still working here that also was through this whole period of time. And, um, we've never really sat down and talked a lot about it, but, you know, I know both of us are hopeful that things will--it will never be what it was, but it can be a lot more than it is now. And I'm, I, I'm hopeful that it'll get to that. And I think it will.

GREGORY: Why, why is that important to you?

SWEATT: Well, I think it's a, um, this particular site, no matter what you call 9:00it, or who owns it, to this community, it is known as Old Fitzgerald. And it's always going to be known as Old Fitzgerald. And it is a, um, part of this community. Um, a lot of times, you know, someone will ask you where you work, and if you say, "Diageo," they'll be like, "Who?" And you know, you name a few products, and they'll say, "Oh yeah, I know who that. I know who, uh, they are." And then you'll try to give them, tell them where the location of the plant is. Well, what everyone remembers, or, you know, what will make them think of where it is, are the warehouses. If you say, "You know, you see this row of warehouses down Ralph Avenue?" "Yeah, I know where that is." So, it's, uh, even though I said I wasn't aware of it through my growing up, um, a lot of people are. And so, it's an important part of, uh, Shively; it's an important 10:00part of Louisville. And there's a lot of people, um, here that had worked here, have relatives that have worked here, and, um, I just think it's important.

GREGORY: Why do you think the bourbon industry, um, has that kind of family lineage that--that you get multiple generations, or, you know, uh, uh, spouses, and siblings--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --and cousins, and all those kind of thing, working for these distilleries?

SWEATT: That's a good question. I wondered that myself. (laughs) But, um, I think it's just like with any other, um, industry, you know, word-of-mouth, they're getting ready to hire, and your sister needs a position, and you've talked about where you've worked, and you've been happy with it, and said, "It's a good place to work." And they've seen you enjoy your work, so that makes them 11:00want to go work there, so I think that has a lot to do with it.

GREGORY: Did you think at any point in your earlier career that you would wind up working in the bourbon industry?

SWEATT: It never occurred to me, no. No, I have an uncle that worked in the distillery at Seagram's. But, um, no, it just happened to be an opportunity at the time.

GREGORY: And so what have you enjoyed about it that has kept you here so long?

SWEATT: That's another good question. (laughter) Um, it has been, this site has been a very good place to work for me. Um, I have, and in speaking of the people, I guess, I sometimes wonder, or I sometimes think about how blessed I've 12:00been to work with the people I have worked with. Because over the years, I can honestly say I haven't worked with anyone that I just, you know, could have strangled at any particular time. It, there has always been a good group of people here working. And especially in the younger days, the--and this isn't taking anything away from the people working now--but the people that were here, like when I started, their dedication and commitment to this site, it was just amazing. I still retirees call me now, talking about they wished they could come back to work. And they just still, um, a lot of times I think they just call me, they just want to hang on just a little bit, and they know I, I'm still here, so they'll just call and chit-chat for a little while. But they all talk 13:00about how much they loved it here, how much they miss it. Uh, they wish they were back. And it's just overall been a, a good place of employment. It's, um, been a good place. I've, I've grown. Um, I've seen a lot of the people grow here and mature. So it has been a good place.

GREGORY: It really does sound like there, there's a community here, a community of people that even if--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --as you say, once they leave, there's still that attachment to it.

SWEATT: Yes, and as I said, this is with the older group. The group that's here now, of course, you know, they're here, so it's not, um, you, we don't know how they'll react in, uh, twenty-five or thirty years from now when they retire. But, um, yes, and I'll, as, uh, we said before, so many of the employees were, 14:00um, related back then, so it was always like a, a connection.

GREGORY: Um, so there's, I think the industry traditionally has had sort of, uh, this perception that it was a male-dominated industry.

SWEATT: Um-hm.

GREGORY: And so, was that the case when you came to work here? Was it still largely male employees?

SWEATT: Um, in the higher-ranking positions, yes. Um, as then, as it is now, you find plenty of women in the, I guess, is this, middle-range positions. Um, you still see that and you saw it then. Um, but no, I don't remember--well, my 15:00initial, um, supervisor was a woman in accounting. Um, but she was the only woman, to my recollection. Someone may correct this. But she was the only woman at that time that was a, a manager. Um, and I don't, um, I don't know if I've seen a whole, an extremely large range of growth in, uh, women within the positions, within higher positions.

GREGORY: And what about minorities?

SWEATT: Um, with the, um, with the connections, or the people I speak to within the company, um, I don't see a lot of minorities in higher positions. But as I 16:00said, you know, that's with what I'm seeing. Someone else may come in and say, "Oh yes, they're there." And they may be, but I, I can't say I see them. You see a lot of them in, I'm going to say, the middle-level positions.

GREGORY: And how have you tried to, uh, mentor people that are new to the company or new to the industry? What, what kind of role do you see yourself playing in that aspect?

SWEATT: Um, with the, um, crew that's here, I have, um, basically, in the processing area, where we're blending, uh, and loading, um, the bulk for shipment. I have, I guess, more in that area than any I have tried to be a mentor to the crew that works in there, because I've had, um, a little bit more experience in there, and I had some very good, uh, teachers, as far as that 17:00area, from, um, retirees. I learned a lot during that term when we were, uh, downsizing. Um, it was just a small crew. I think it was two gentlemen that worked in processing. And both of them had been here, like thirty years. And, uh, I learned a lot from them during that time, so I'll try to pass that on. Because so much of, uh, so many of the things around here, you know, it's not documented. You've just done it for x amount of time. And, uh, you know what the routine is, you know what the procedures are. And so, a lot of what I've learned really has been through, uh, word-of-mouth, and, you know, watching, observing.

GREGORY: Is there an example of something that one of the, the older guys taught you, or that you learned from them in that period?

18:00

SWEATT: Uh, well, one thing they emphasized repeatedly--and I continue to emphasize repeatedly--with the, uh, group here is that you check yourself, and then you walk away, and you check yourself again, and you might check yourself that third time, and then before you actually pull the trigger on whatever you're doing, you do a final check. And it, um, it's very simple. And yes, it's a little time-consuming. But, uh, it works. And in that area, you have to do it.

GREGORY: I get a, a strong sense that you have to have that, uh, attention to detail to be able to produce the kind of quality product that is expected from these bourbon brands.

SWEATT: Uh, yes, yes. Of course, we're not doing any production here. Um, but 19:00everything that comes in, of course, it goes through a sensory, uh, by the crew that works in processing. And they do the sense rigors as the standard they receive. So, you know, everything has, uh, the standard that it's supposed to be. So, yes.

GREGORY: So how, how have you seen the industry, the overall industry, change, um, in your time?

SWEATT: Um, I've seen computers come into the offices. There weren't computers when I first started working here; you did everything in a ledger book. Um, and that was, that was a biggie. That was really a biggie, uh, then. Of course, you look back now, you laugh at it, because everyone was intimidated with that little machine sitting on the table. But, um, of course everything's gotten faster. Um, the whole--but this is the world in general--um, everything is 20:00fast-paced. Really, when I started, I would say life at work was a little bit more laid-back. Um, it's not that you weren't working hard, and, you know, diligently for the time you were here, but it was just, it wasn't as stressful. Um, it wasn't as, uh, everything had to be done right now and everybody needs everything right now. And that's kind of where it is today. And like I said, I don't know if that's, that's kind of how the world is in general. So, um, corporate America has just fallen in line.

GREGORY: Where would you like to see this distillery facility go in the future? 21:00What, what sort of rebirth would you envision for this property in this business?

SWEATT: A distillery, number one. Number two, bottling lines. Um, a rebirth to the, um, to the, the upkeep of the whole site. Um, as I said, years ago, I mean, it was just beautiful. Lawns always manicured. Uh, well, you had a crew that did that. So, I mean I would like to see just, those are simple things, small things, uh, but I think all that just enhances the whole, um, you can make a great product, but it also needs to look good. And that goes with the place that it's coming from also. And, um, I would like to see a lot more employees 22:00here. Um, things like a cafeteria on site, that's one, a perk we had years ago. And, uh, it was, it was a good perk.

GREGORY: What, what would that kind of redevelopment mean to the surrounding neighborhoods in, in Shively, as far as providing a kind of economic boost to this part of Jefferson County?

SWEATT: Well, it would have to help a lot because we now pay a lot of taxes. So if we're bigger, we're going to be paying more taxes. Um, but you have more people coming, um, in the area, coming in to work. You know, they're all not going to live in this area, but they're going to come in. And when they come in, they're going to be spending money at the stores, uh, around. Um, it would have to be good for the area. And I think Shively would welcome it.

23:00

GREGORY: So, as, as somebody who was involved with the bookkeeping--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --esque functions throughout some of this time, um, how, how do you see the future of the bourbon industry, the big industry in general? And, and do you see the, the current growth that the industry is experiencing sustaining or getting even better? What, what, what's in your crystal ball for the industry?

SWEATT: (laughs) Um, of course, I'm hopeful that it will continue to grow. I'm hopeful that, uh, Diageo's portfolio will expand even more, uh, with the Brown goods, which it's doing. Um, I know historically the bourbon industry has 24:00been kind of cyclical. And we've been in an up-wave for a long time. And I, you know, just in the back of my mind, I keep saying, you know, is, does it have to go down? And I guess it doesn't have to. That kind is of, from my experience, has been what has happened over the years. But it seems like it's going up and keeps going up, so I just hope it stays like that. And as I said, I hope, uh, Diageo is able to expand their portfolio even, uh, more than they have in the last few years.

GREGORY: And there's, we now have this aspect of the bourbon tourism that's playing into it as well, with the, the Bourbon Trail and such.

SWEATT: Um-hm.

GREGORY: Um, would, would this facility ever be a part of that, do you think?

SWEATT: I would hope. I think it would be an excellent addition to the, um, Bourbon Trail already. Because all the other sites that are part of the Bourbon 25:00Trail are out. You know, you have to drive an hour or so, maybe not that long. But this would be something locally that for the family that's together for the weekend, and they want to do something quick, they would have this facility to, uh, tour. So, I, I am hopeful that, uh, the visitor center is a success, and that, uh, it can be, become part of the Bourbon Trail, and can expand. I know, you know, as with most things, it's going to start small, but I'm hopeful that it will expand. And I think, I think it will be a winner in this area.

GREGORY: One thing I meant to ask you earlier--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --how many different corporate owners have you worked for?

SWEATT: Um-hm. Old Fitzgerald was, um, the initial company, and then it was Schenley, United Distillers. And within United Distillers, there were two names 26:00within that, United Distillers Production Inc., and United Distillers Manufacturing Inc., and then Diageo.

GREGORY: So it, that seems like a lot of change over the years.

SWEATT: It has been. (laughs) It has been.

GREGORY: Now how, how was that to, to go through?

SWEATT: Um, it hasn't been bad, that bad, not for me. As I said, I've been very fortunate in my work life. Um, I've been fortunate in my life, period. I've lived a very favored life, and my work life is included in that. Um, and as I said, I've just, I've always managed to work with, uh, people that were, um, easy to work with. And, you know, that's not to say there haven't been trials and tribulations along the way. But as a whole, um, the work experience 27:00has been good. The changes have been, um, disheartening sometimes. Anytime you hear that something is slated to close, and you're a part of it, um, it takes you back a little bit, and gets you to thinking, okay, what I going to next? What am I going to do next? Um, but for whatever reason, convenience, or whatever it was, I, you know, maintained and I'm still here. Um, but the changes, I'm starting to see things go up. So that's good. For a long time, you know, the changes were bringing things down more at this particular site. But now that, um, we're seeing things improve. And right now it's a mess around 28:00here because we're doing so much construction. But this time next year, I know it'll be a completely different site. You'll come here and won't know where you are.

GREGORY: Are you glad you stuck it out?

SWEATT: I am. I mean, I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't say that I have wondered what if I had pursued something else. But, um, on the whole, it, it's, it's been good. So I can't, I can't really complain. And, you know, I don't know what would have been over the, uh, rainbow. It could have been much better. But it could have been much worse also. So, it, it's been good. I've learned a lot. I've worked in so many different areas. I've, um, always say, I know a little bit about a lot of different things. I kind of regret sometimes 29:00that I never, uh, within my job, um, duties I never really focused on one thing, be it HR, or compliance, to really dig deep into it and become an expert on that. Um, but on the other hand, you know, knowing a little bit about everything is good also, so.

GREGORY: Well given your, your tenure here and that breadth of experience--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --I would think that would make you a pretty valuable asset.

SWEATT: Um, that might be why they kept me around. (laughs) Um, it helps. I mean, it helps, yes. Um, but as I said, I do kind of wish I had been at some, at a point, than, uh, able to, or decided to, um, go in one direction, whatever 30:00it would have been. Um, and that's not to say that would have been all I would have, uh, you know, worked with, but uh, at least get a little more expertise, or become what I would say an "expert" in some specific area.

GREGORY: You mentioned, um, when computers came--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --to the facility, um, was there any, a specific example of how you used that new technology to change the way they were doing business here?

SWEATT: Um, well, to be honest, when we got the new computers, that was right before we were sold for the first time when I was here. So right after that there was just, uh, a lot of different things going on. And of course, with the, um, with the sale, we were going to new inventory systems that were 31:00computerized, so it all kind of fell together. And, you know, and when I think back on it, I'm sure the higher-ups knew all this was coming, so they were preparing us a little bit with bringing those in, so.

GREGORY: And when you say, "inventory system," is that--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --keeping track of--

SWEATT: --the barrel--

GREGORY: --the actual barrels--

SWEATT: --um-hm, barrels and bulk. Because we used to do it on what we call, what they call crop books. And it was just a long page where when the barrels were initially, uh, filled, and put in the warehouse, it was handwritten in this book, their location and the lot number, and you know, how much was in the barrel, and so forth. Um, and then as the barrels were removed, you took that inventory off this book. You know, all this is kept manually.

32:00

GREGORY: For a hundred thousand barrels, that's--

SWEATT: --well--

GREGORY: --that's a lot of books.

SWEATT: Right, oh yeah, it was a lot of books. (laughs) It was a lot of books. But that, but you didn't know anything else, so it just wasn't overwhelming. Now if we brought that in now, and said, "Okay, we're going to start keeping the inventory like that," it would be another story. But, you know, that's all you knew then, so.

GREGORY: And were those books how you did the, the tax accounting, for making sure the government was properly compensated?

SWEATT: Um, at that point, you didn't pay taxes. You don't pay taxes on it until it ships out in case goods. So, of course there was someone else that kept, kept the case goods, um, journals. But it was the same thing. They kept everything in a journal and, um, a general ledger. And as case goods shipped, 33:00you know, the, uh, calculations and everything were done in this general ledger book, and that's how the taxes were paid.

GREGORY: So, um, are you a whiskey drinker? A bourbon drinker?

SWEATT: Well, not much, no. (laughs) I like wine.

GREGORY: (laughter) That's honest.

SWEATT: Yeah. Well, that's the truth. (Gregory laughs) I can say though, in the last few years, I have began, uh, started doing a little, enjoying it a little more, tasting it a little more. Uh, I have a nephew that's really into it, and my husband, you know, he likes them, so I tasted a little bit. But to say I'm a bourbon drinker, no, I can't honestly say I'm one.

34:00

GREGORY: So are, are you drinking it straight, or you mixing Coke, or ginger ale--

SWEATT: --no--

GREGORY: --or something else--

SWEATT: --no, just on the rocks. Just on the rocks. I, I do know that it does take away from it. Well, it depends on who's drinking it, but I do feel that it takes away from it when you dilute it with, uh, Coke, and 7-Up, and all that.

GREGORY: So you're, there's still that element of purist in you, even, even if you don't drink it that much.

SWEATT: Uh, right, right. Well, I feel that the, uh, uh, product that we made here years ago, uh, I feel that that was one of the best products around. And even though I don't indulge a lot, I do, I have always promoted it. (laughs)

GREGORY: And now you've got the, you have the Orphan Barrel Project.

SWEATT: Right, yes, we've been really excited about that. Yeah, we're really 35:00excited about that.

GREGORY: Do you have any, any role in helping to, to bring that to fruition?

SWEATT: Um, small part. I, um, basically, on the paperwork side, um, in helping to, there's another gentleman--well, and one group is, uh, dumping the barrels, and providing the information for the dump, the gauge, and whatnot. So I do get that information. And, um, in the bottom line, what I end up doing is reporting it to, uh, the Tax and Trade Bureau. So that's kind of my part. Not that it's orphan barrels, but that this is the activity we've done with this bulk for the month. We've, um, dumped it, and this how, this is how much we've received, and then this is what we did with it. It's either in storage, and 36:00still in storage at a tank here, or we've loaded it in totes to ship it to, um, the bottling facility. So I still do the government reporting monthly.

GREGORY: Okay.

SWEATT: So I've been doing that since I started.

GREGORY: Okay.

SWEATT: So you can't get away from some things. (laughs)

GREGORY: Very good.

BRITTANY ALLISON: Yeah, a couple things, okay. So, I'm going to, I'm going to tell you all.

[Pause in recording.]

ALLISON: We're rolling.

GREGORY: Can you talk a little bit more about how you tried--or how you did mentor, um, Andrea Wilson when she came here?

SWEATT: Okay, Andrea, uh, when Andrea came here and was, uh, named plant manager, I was really the only other, um, administrative person here. I was basically it. So I really just showed Andrea, or, you know, we sat down and 37:00talked about the things that I knew. And a lot of it, um, was documented information, procedures and whatnot. And a lot of it was just things I knew and they have not been documented. And, you know, I keep saying, "Oh, I need to write that down." But, you know, I don't get around to it. Um, but it, the basic ins and outs of, I did all of the government reporting. Um, things had changed, um, a lot from years ago. So you just have the basic government reporting, uh, keeping track of the barrels, going in and out of the warehouses, um, which seems like, uh, a small, I guess, irrelevant thing to someone. But, 38:00um, in the mix of it all, if you have an order, and that order calls for six-year-old barrels, and if you pull a five-year-old barrel to put in the mix, then that order's no good. You've dumped, you have a whole, uh, tank, at however much, ten thousand gallons of a product that's no good because the age is off. And that can happen with just one barrel difference. So just tried to instill in her, um, the things that I had learned and understood over the years to be of really importance within the industry, and age is a very important part of, uh, the industry. Because if you say it's ten-years-old, then it had better 39:00be ten-years-old, and you better be able to show proof that is ten-year, ten years old. So, and that's also, um, things like that are things we like to, I'll try to emphasize with the crew that is here now, because a lot of our crew is very young. Um, they haven't worked in the industry before, or haven't been here, uh, long, so some of the things I've seen happen, I try to say, "You don't want this to happen. I've seen a wrong barrel go into a batch." And so, I mean, you have something there that now you have to figure out what else I'm going to do with it. So, I, I really try to emphasize a lot of the things that I've seen go wrong. Things I've seen go well too, but, uh, you know, with both the crew and with Andrea.

GREGORY: So you're really kind of a bridge between the old traditions of some 40:00of the folks who were here when you got here--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --and passing that knowledge on to this new generation of workers that are coming on board now.

SWEATT: Right, because I, I got that information from, uh, you know, the people I worked with in the early years. And, um, I can say that that group were, I mean everything, it was down to the penny, or down to the, you know, whatever you were, if we were taking inventory, if it was barrels, or whatever it was, you were going to find that barrel. So, um, accuracy was, uh, something that was very much instilled in me in working in this industry. I've worked with payroll before, so you're accurate with that. But, um, again, coming here, you know, you also emphasize accuracy. And then working in this industry, it's a 41:00completely different language than any other industry. No one else talks about proof of gallons. And nobody knows what you're talking about when you say, "proof of gallons," when you talk outside this industry. That and other terms, a bung, nobody outside this knows what a bung is. So, uh, it's things like that that make it interesting and different.

GREGORY: And very few industries have a product where there can be ten-, twelve-, twenty years between when you make the thing and when you actually sell it.

SWEATT: Yes. And people that aren't familiar with the industry and you're explaining to them, uh, they're really surprised. And just simple things. When you work someplace, you kind of take things for granted. And, uh, in over the years, in speaking with people, a lot of times they think bourbon is brown from 42:00the very beginning. So when you explain to them about the charred oak barrel, and you know, when it goes in, it's clear, and they're like, "Oh really? I didn't know that." So, and I think that's coming out more with, um, some of the products that are coming out. Angel's Envy, or some of the other products coming out now, so.

GREGORY: Well so, tell me about the Orphan Barrel Project. What is that and how, how did that come about?

SWEATT: Uh, the Orphan Barrel Project, um, is a collection of barrels of inventory that we have here that were--I can't think of a better word than "orphaned." Initially, there may have been, say, I'm going to say, three 43:00hundred barrels in that lot, in a lot. And we already used two hundred, you know, maybe ten years ago. And somehow or another, these other hundred or fifty barrels got pushed in a corner and kind of got forgotten about. Or, and, we've gone in and discovered them and said, "Oh! Well, this is some good stuff. We need to use it." And, uh, that's kind of our idea of the orphan barrel. It's a small amount of inventory that, um, that has been found on the site, and, uh, has been designated, uh, for this particular project. And we're dumping the barrels here. And, uh, then we, uh, load it in totes, and it's shipped to the bottling facility.

GREGORY: And is, is this a, a key part of Diageo's strategy for getting more 44:00products out into the marketplace?

SWEATT: Oh, definitely. Um, and I think it, it's, uh, as I said earlier, I'm really interested in the portfolio expanding, and I think they did an excellent job, you know, for what my opinion counts, in this area, uh, with this, because already people, um, the public is so interested in it. And I think a lot of it has to do because, you know, anytime there's a small amount of something everybody wants it. So, uh, the public is really interested in it. So I think this is getting Diageo's name out there more. Um, I know within this community it is, the Louisville, um, area, or Kentucky area. And, uh, I think people are 45:00just going to be more, uh, in tune to Diageo and be looking for more of their products.

GREGORY: Can you tell me about the archives that you have here?

SWEATT: The archives, I wish I knew of, I wish I knew how many, um, how much square footage was back there. But the archives is a collection of, um, about anything you can think of. There's a lot of documents, articles, pictures, bottles, um, old wooden cast, how they used to make the bottles, which I had never seen anything like that before, um, of industry information. A lot of it is from, um, this particular site, the Old Fitzgerald site. But then there's also just, uh, information there across the bourbon industry, across the spirits 46:00industry over--I don't even know how many years it covers. But, um, in that--everyone that comes here and takes a look at the archives, we'll say, "Oh, come see the archives," and they'll think it's a little room, um, with a couple of little pictures or bottles in it. And when they go in that door, they're like, "Oh, my goodness." But it is a, a little bit of everything you're going to find in, uh, the spirits industries, uh, labels, um, just a lot of documentation. And it goes from floor to ceiling. And like I said, I wish I knew how many, uh, square footage it was in there, but I don't. But, uh, that is something that we're very proud of. We are hopeful that sometimes in the future it can find a rightful home where it can be displayed, as it should be. 47:00Right, it's, you know, crowded. You really, uh, but, not everything's out because you don't have room to put everything out. Oh, we have had, actually had people come in and look at it with the thought of taking it, and possibly, uh, displaying it as it should be, and they would go in there and just be so overwhelmed, we wouldn't hear from them anymore. (laughs) But, uh, I think one day, it will find its rightful place because it deserves it. It's just so much history in there.

GREGORY: Earlier you mentioned that when you came out of here, the very first time--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --came through the gate, that you said there was a fairyland quality to it.

SWEATT: Um-hm.

GREGORY: And, uh, I, I've also heard references about this facility that, that it has almost sort of this mythic reputation, uh, among bourbon fans, bourbon 48:00connoisseurs. What, what is that mythic fairyland thing about this place?

SWEATT: (laughs) I don't know. I, I think part of it is, is that it's sitting right in the middle of a city. A lot of times, you expect, um, distilleries, or sites like this to be in the country, in more of a country, um, area. And this is sitting right in the city. So, I mean, you turn the corner to come to Fitzgerald Road, um, you're just not, I wasn't expecting it. And I don't think most people are expecting it. And, um, then you go through those gates, and it's almost like, um, it's almost like the air of the ancestors that have been here for centuries, or years, or whatnot, are still here. I think it has to do 49:00with the, um, warehouses, the way the place still looks, the buildings, uh, at least now. Everything, a lot of the buildings are still, um, as they looked fifty or more years ago. Uh, of course, there have been a few upgrades but not that takes away from the, um, looks of the building. Um, I just think it's the, the, just the whole layout of the site, uh, the architects and designers did an excellent job, um, you know, even what that was about eighty years ago, that you still get that air when you come on site.

GREGORY: So, the "air of the ancestors," um, what do you, what do you want your 50:00legacy to be, as part of the bigger ancestry of Stitzel-Weller Distillery?

SWEATT: Uh, I would, I just want to, um, it to be said that I did a good job with what I was doing here. I, I, um, have done a lot, as I said, government reporting for a number of years. Um, I want it to be known that that was always, uh, done as accurately and, uh, to the best of my ability. Um, if there were errors made, which I'm sure there were over the years, that none, none of that was done intentionally. Um, that I was able for a short period of time to, 51:00um, help maintain the site and keep it going. And, the small crew that was here for that length of time, it was about, oh, about ten, about--no, about twelve years, um, everyone had a part in keeping that going. Um, I learned probably as much in that period of time as I had the years before and after it, because it was such a small group, and because I was the only admin. person here a lot of times. You just, I mean, you know, you had to do it regardless of whether you wanted to do it or not. Environmental reporting, just things I just never ever imagined, you know, I would be doing. But you did it. Uh, back then, our security force was, uh, Diageo employees. And, um, they all had complete 52:00ownership in the site. Everybody did. So it wasn't just, uh, me doing anything; it was the lot of us. Um, because some of the, uh, maintenance and um, warehouse crew at that time had been here, oh, probably close to thirty years. So there was a lot, they told me, "No, you shouldn't do that," and "Yes, you need to do that." And I, I appreciated it.

GREGORY: So when you, when you see a new bottle come out, you know, the--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --uh, uh, Old Blowhard, or, or one of the Bulleit, uh, products--

SWEATT: --um-hm--

GREGORY: --do you think about the contribution you had in, in getting that product into somebody's hands, the role that you played in this?

SWEATT: I do. And I'm proud to say that I have. I go to, um, a liquor store 53:00now, and I'll look at on the shelves, and I will see a lot of products that we used to have. And it's really, uh, it's heartbreaking for me. Um, and I'll point out, "That was ours, and that was ours, and that was ours." And, you know, it's a long line that was ours. Um, so, to be able to point now, and say, "That's ours now," yeah, it feels very good. And to know you had a hand in it, uh, makes it feel extra good. And especially on a small project like this, uh, where there's a limited amount of liquid available, you kind of feel more so than if you, if it was a million cases. You know, you do feel more, uh, 54:00attached to it.

GREGORY: Each one of those bottles is your baby almost.

SWEATT: Um-hm. (laughs)

GREGORY: Very good. (laughs)

[Pause in recording.]

GREGORY: So how have you seen Andrea grow, uh, in her time here?

SWEATT: Okay. Um, I actually met Andrea initially when, uh, we were on our down side, and um, she came in as a consultant, um, because I was doing some things that I really didn't have the exper-, expertise to do, so, uh, they finally got a consultant in. And that's how I initially met her. And, um, then she came on board, as a Diageo employee, of course, we worked very closely together. And, um, Andrea was very eager. Very eager, uh, which you always 55:00want to see. And I guess I felt kind of like a mother hen, you know, initially. Um, but she wanted to know, learn everything. Uh, she just kind of soaked up everything. Um, she really, um, and she's, she used, uses the word a lot, has a "passion" for the industry and for this site. And you have to appreciate that. Um, I've seen her grow from being, um--in fact, it kind of tickles me sometimes--when she first started, um, I guess a little more reserved than she is now. And now she's just, whoo, out there, which is all good. I'm not saying 56:00it negatively. It's all good because it's all part of growth. And she was getting her feelers out initially. But I have, I have seen, uh, her, uh, she's just done somersaults as far as movement within the company. Um, I've seen several people within the business that, uh, I would say were "chosen folks" within the industry. And one was a gentleman that used to work here years ago, um, that we, both of us that worked with him always said he was chosen to move up within the ranks. And he did that. And he's gone to another facility and is still doing it. Uh, and I feel like Andrea was a "chosen one" for this particular industry. And I think because she had such a, um, interest and 57:00passion in this site and the industry, you know, that's helped, um, her move up, because she's moved up very fast.

GREGORY: What in your opinion has she contributed to this facility, to the Distiller's Association, and to bourbon in Kentucky in general?

SWEATT: Um, her contributions are, is that she's a tireless worker for the industry. And she's, uh, always looking for a new way to do things. Uh, she like to keep the, um, I guess you would call it the, um, I'm sorry, I can't. I lost my train of though on that. She, she's, she looks to be innovative. This 58:00industry, a lot of the things we do now, like getting barrels out of the warehouse, they've been getting barrels out of that warehouse the same way for a hundred years. Um, and there's only really one way to get them out. But you can get them out a little safer, a little, maybe a little faster, and she looks at innovative ways to do things. So, uh, um, and because she has such a passion for the industry as a whole, and I didn't even realize that she had, uh, some history with it. Her family did. Um, I think that all just adds to, um, her zeal for seeing growth within Diageo, and within this site, and with the, across Kentucky.

GREGORY: What about the, her contributions to KDA?

SWEATT: I don't know. I, I know there have been, but I can't really speak to them

59:00

GREGORY: Okay.

SWEATT: Oh, okay.

[Pause in recording.]

SWEATT: We talked about the site being a family years ago. And, uh, I just always remember this one incidence where, uh, one, one day, a limousine drove up to front doors, and limo, limo driver got out. And he was fully dressed and looked nice, and he went to the receptionist. Of course, then you had a receptionist, sitting up there with antique, beautiful antique furniture. And he asked her, "Don't you think all women need a mink coat?" And she said, she just kind of hung her mouth open--(laughs)--because she didn't know what to say. And so he said, "I have a delivery for Ms. So-and-So." So they had her come 60:00out and she opened this big box. And it was a full-length mink coat that her brother had sent to her. And back then, this was in the mid-/late-eighties, you have to remember, mink coats weren't like they are today. Everybody has one today. But back then it was really a big thing to have a pink coat. So, um, I just think about that every now and then. And of course, all the women in the office were just, you know, in a tizzy over it--not tizzy bad, but you know, excited for her. And, uh, she just paraded and walked around the office, uh, all day in her coat. But, uh, I just always thought that was an interesting, uh, just a day in life of Old Fitzgerald. (laughs) One of those things, you know.

[End of interview.