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Question
Hello!  I received a bottle of whiskey as a gift.  It's called
Dowling Deluxe Whiskey, 90.4 proof, Aged 18 years, bottled in Kentucky by Dowling Distillers, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.  Registered Bottle NO: 112  Q.  Is this a rare bottle of bourbon whiskey or should I just enjoy it for the holidays?  Included is my home phone .  Looking forward to your response and thank you for your research!  Happy Holidays!

PS:  I couldn't figure out how to attach an image, but I will send it when I figure it out!

Answer
Hi JoAnn

Here's a little background.  The brand has a long history, but more recently Dowling was part of the Schenley conglomerate of brands, and then joined the Heaven Hill group of distillery brands.  Neither of those last two are very well-known for top quality bourbon.

But let's start at the beginning.  Here's anote from someone who used to work there many years ago.


In the late 1800s and early 1900s my great-grandfather worked for Dowling (I
have always been told he was a distiller for him, but have been unable to
document his specific job). At one point or another, Dowling owned part of (a)
Clover Bottom distillery at Tyrone (owned in partnership with T.B. Ripy); (b)
the Waterfill & Frazier Distillery on Bailey’s Run at Tyrone, and (c) the
“Walker Plant” 1 mile north of Lawrenceburg.

Mr. Dowling died in the early 1900s (1904 comes to mind, but not sure). Mary
Dowling bought out the other heirs and continued to run the business. When
prohibition started Mrs. Dowling tried to convince my g-grandfather to move to
Juarez, Mexico to start up the W/F distillery there (to make medical alcohol).
He declined and stayed in Anderson County working on her farm operation. I think
Mrs. Dowling died ca. 1930-35. I recently heard that the only remaining Dowling
decendent (an elderly woman) lives in Georgia, somewhere near Atlanta. (She may
have died recently, not sure.)

The Waterfill & Frazier Distillery was located (at the bottom of the hill below
what is now the Wild Turkey distillery [a different distillery started by T.B.
Ripy], next to Bailey's Run [a creek] on property now owned by the rock quary).
I've not seen them, but the Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville has
some photographs/negatives of the Waterfill & Frazier plant on Bailey's Run and
workers at the plant.

The Dowling House still exists on South Main Street in Lawrenceburg. Since Mrs.
Dowling's death it has served as a funeral home, restaurant, and more recently,
an apartment house.

Mrs. Dowling used to walk about town followed by a black servant girl who held
the trail of her dress off the ground, so that it did not get dirty. While often
praised in the paper for her philanthropy I have been told several stories that
lead me to believe that she treated her servants and some local merchants
poorly.

Distillers such as Dowling, Ripy, Hoffman, Waterfill, Frazier, Bond, Hanks,
Lillard, Saffell, etc. were all part of Lawrenceburg's Guilded Age. Their
distilleries grew during the 1870s-90s. It was truly a time characterized by
great wealth and extreme poverty, with little in between. Not to paint all of
these people with the same broad brush, but the "every man for himself"
attitude, excess, and opulence characteristic of the time seems consistent with
descriptions of many of their lifestyles. The street on which several of them
lived was euphemistically known as "Cream Street." They threw lavish parties.
One I have been told about involved having black "servants" fan them with palm
leaves as they dined at the table. Several became alcoholics.

All of this ended with prohibition. I've been told that 70% of Anderson County's
male population left when prohibition began. Farmers who provided grain were
also harmed. While some of these distillers came back after prohibition, my
impression is that they never recovered their pre-prohibition wealth and status.
Their neo-renaissance homes and conspicuously large monuments in the local
cemetery are all that remain.

And another note here:  Dowling Distillery was one of many companies that Schenley owned in the 1950's, 60's and 70's that were either sold off or simply liquidated. I would suspect that the whiskey in your bottle could come from any one of about a dozen Kentucky distilleries owned by Schenley. It could also have been bottled at any of these distilleries. For more information on Schenley, see the timeline for Schenley in the Bourbon Lore forum. I have seen these bottles before.

I haven't seen anything that makes me think this is truly remarkable bourbon.  Price would be something under $100...if it were mine, I would either drink it or give it to someone who likes to drink bourbon.

Hope that helps?  

Paul Wagner  

Beverages

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Paul Wagner

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I have spent most of my adult life eating and drinking throughout the world, and can usually remember some of it! With Rick Kushman of Capital Public Radio, I host a radio show and podcast called Bottletalk at rickandpaulwine.com, where I answer questions about food and drink on the air.

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30 years in the business.

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I have taught at Napa Valley College for the past 20 years.

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Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines Company, The Court of Master Sommeliers, Constellation Wines, The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, Vinitaly, Napa County Agricultural Commissioner.

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