In 1881 R. Monarch and E.P. Millet established the Glenmore Distillery and produced Kentucky Tavern Bourbon in Owensboro, Ky. The brand was successful and by 1892 they had added the brands Kentucky Club, T.J. Monarch, R. Monarch and Glenmore to their portfolio. The distillery grew in size and became the distillery with the largest capacity to produce whiskey in Kentucky. The next year a fire caused nearly one million dollars in damage to the distillery. They never recovered from this setback and in 1898 the firm declares bankruptcy. In 1900 the business, including the distillery, sold at public auction and James Thompson of Thompson Bros. purchases the distillery.
Thompson eventually placed his brother-in-law, Harry S. Barton in charge of the distillery and Barton quickly gained a reputation as a fine distiller of bourbon. The distillery had a capacity of 720 Barrels per day. This is the distillery pictured in this post card. The distillery is located on the banks of the Ohio River, just east of downtown Owensboro, Ky. It became the consolidation warehouse location for Thompson Bros. when they received a license to sell Medicinal Spirits during Prohibition. In 1924 James Thompson died and Joseph Englehard became the President of the Company. In 1927, Englehard merged Thompson Bros. into Glenmore Distillery and the firm Glenmore was formed. In 1928, when the government allowed those with license to distill whiskey to replenish dwindling medicinal stocks of whiskey, The Glenmore Distillery started to make a limited amount of whiskey again.
In 1938 fire again struck at Glenmore Distillery. This time the fire destroyed 4 warehouses, the bottling house and the shipping building. The firm lost 33,000 barrels of whiskey plus a large stock of bottled whiskey. According to the Courier-Journal newspaper the fire caught the sewers of Owensboro on fire as well as the Ohio River. Barns on the Indiana side of the river were burned down in this fire. Glenmore survived this disaster. The distillery was saved and they quickly began producing more whiskey. They rebuilt the warehouses on the opposite side of the main road, away from the distillery and bottling buildings and built dikes to contain the whiskey in case of another fire.
The Glenmore Distillery continued to make whiskey up to the year of 1973. Declining sales of all whiskey caused the distillery to be shut down and Glenmore moved its whiskey production to their Yellowstone Distillery in Louisville. The Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro continued to be a place where whiskey was aged and bottled. The plan was to start it up again once sales improved, but that never happened. In 1991 the firm of Glenmore Distilleries was sold to United Distillers. United Distillers sold the Owensboro bottling operation and warehouses to Barton Brands. Barton Brands eventually was sold to Sazerac, who still use the facility to age and bottle products. It is hoped that somewhere along the line, Sazerac will build a small artisan distillery on the site and it will become a place of Bourbon tourism in Owensboro. It is a beautiful location with a rich heritage and deserves more attention from the public.
Photos courtesy of Rosemary Miller and the archives of Michael Veach
November 13, 2020 at 3:20 pm
Great article! Indeed a lot of history associated with the old Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro. Several people were employed there over the years. Glad to see it as one of Sazerac’s major mixing and bottling facilities today!