June 21, 2011. The bluegrass and barbecue picnic to celebrate the opening of Wild Turkey's new $50 million distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky was winding down. It's a shiny, modern and efficient complex, but there's still something magical about the old distillery a quarter-mile or so down the road. With a distillery staff member to guide me, we walked past the 'Jimmy Russell Way' street sign at the entrance, past the warehouses with the tiger lilies in full bloom, and through the door into the old stillhouse on the banks of the Kentucky River.
The only light was that of the sun coming in through the windows; the power had long been turned off. Anything that could be reused had already been taken up the road. The guide, a descendant of the distillery's founding Ripy family, warned me to be careful as I looked at the light and the angles, not the stuff on the floor.
"Nothing is permanent. Entropy had already started to take its toll on the old stillhouse. Still, there is beauty in decay..."
Of course, I was listening for something else. The angels.
Nothing is permanent. Entropy had already started to take its toll on the old stillhouse. Still, there is beauty in decay, and for a few minutes, it was possible to picture what the Ripy Brothers had started way back at the beginning of things in 1869.
The reverie was shattered by my guide's mobile phone.
"We're in the stillhouse right now!"
I thought I could hear the other end of the conversation clearly.
"YOU LET HIM INSIDE!"
How does that old line go...something about always being easier to ask forgiveness than permission?