Back in 1998 John and Linda Lipman were driving through Kentucky on their way to visit Mammoth Cave and decided to stop and visit the Maker’s Mark distillery on the way to Cave City. They had never visited a distillery before and thought it would be an interesting side-trip. They both enjoyed Bourbon and the trip really impressed them with the art of distillation. John worked with computers as a career and had created a website to chronical their vacation trip so their family could read about their experiences and travels, so the distillery tour became a section of the page. Then they decided to go to other distilleries and added pages describing those tours. They then visited the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, where I met them for the first time and they fell in love with the heritage of Bourbon and rye whiskeys. Then they started collecting bottles of Bourbon and rye. At first it was just the current brands but then they started finding old bottles in antique stores and small liquor stores they visited. It soon became a major hobby for the two of them and they shared much of what they learned on their website.
By the beginning of the 21st century John, Linda and I had become friends. I came to their house for visits and we would sit up into the wee hours of the night drinking whiskey and discussing the heritage. It often seemed that John and I were constantly arguing about different points of history but I think we both preferred to call it “scholarly debate”. In fact many of the theories I later published in my book had their origins with these debates and are heavily influenced by John and his side of these debates. I often referred to my theory on the origin of Bourbon as the “Lipman Theory” because of his contributions.
John became a bit of a historian in his own rights and has a great fondness for the history of Pennsylvania rye whiskey. He visited every site he could in Pennsylvania, even if there were no remaining buildings at the distillery site. He would visit local antique stores looking for bottles or other artifacts for his collection and ask questions of people who lived near the distillery site to glean any information he could about the distillery. And he continued to add information to his website. Linda is very supportive of this collection they were building and even though John was the web designer and author of the articles, Linda was an equal contributor to the research process. They make a great team of researchers.
Their website, ellenjaye.com, is a great resource for people interested in visiting distilleries and learning the heritage of Bourbon and Rye whiskeys. John and Linda are also very generous with sharing their tasting experiences as well. John and Linda recently brought along a bottle of Pogue distilled Bourbon as they visited the Pogue family at the new Old Pogue distillery in Maysville. They opened this pre-prohibition Bourbon and shared it with the Pogue family. Everyone was very pleased with the Bourbon, but also very pleased with the generosity that the Lipman’s showed by opening this rare bottle of whiskey. John and Linda are known for many other such acts of generosity. They are truly two of Bourbon’s Unsung Heroes for their great knowledge of distilling heritage and their willingness to share this knowledge with the world.
Photo Courtesy of Michael Veach