There is little information out there about Ed Foote, even though the products he made became some of the most sought-after bourbons the world has ever seen. Foote is best known for his famous wheated bourbons, known to bourbon enthusiasts as “Stitzel-Weller juice.” His work played heavily into to comeback of the Van Winkle bourbon lines, and even Old Rip Van Winkle President Julian Van Winkle credits Foote largely with the comeback.
I recently spoke with Kentucky Derby Museum Bourbon Authority Fred Minnick about Ed Foote. According to Minnick, the reason there is so little information about Foote out there is because, “he was doing it before the internet, before brands were popular, and before [bourbon] was cool,” adding later, “much of what happened at that distillery remains a mystery.”
Foote wasn’t part of one of the original bourbon distilling families. Instead, he got his start at Henry McKenna in Fairfield, KY, later transitioning to the job of beer chemist at Seagram’s. In 1982 he was hired to work at the now re-emerging Stitzel-Weller distillery where he produced Rebel Yell, Weller, and Van Winkle lines, in addition to many others.
Foote retired in the 1990s and was inducted into the Kentucky Distillers Association’s Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2008. In spite of this and other accolades, he has remained out of the spotlight for many years.
All that is going to change on March 6, as Fred Minnick will be hosting a special q&a session and tasting at the Kentucky Derby Museum with the legendary Ed Foote. It will be a “journalistic-style q&a” interview of this bourbon legend, as well as a unique opportunity to meet the man who helped restore the Van Winkle lines to greatness.
All five of the bourbons in the tasting will be wheated bourbons which are all connected in some way to Ed Foote. When you look at the program you might wonder what this Stitzel-Weller distiller had to do with Maker’s Mark. You’ll have to attend to find out.
Few tickets to this event are still available here. According to Fred Minnick, this is a “Chance to meet a legend who was a legend before bourbon became cool.” I’ll drink to that.
Photo Courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum's Website