Distilleries like to have images of their distillery hanging in their business offices. Many times it is an old photograph or two, but sometimes distilleries commission artists to paint an image of their distillery. These paintings are often “cleaned up” to show pristine, idyllic, pictures of a distillery nestled in the hills of the countryside when they are actually located in urban settings. Others, like the Carl Brenner paintings of the Belmont and Astor distilleries, show the black smoke belching from the chimneys and railroad spurs of the distilleries. They are always interesting to look at.
This image is of the McCormick Distillery in Weston, Missouri. It is pretty much as the distillery looks now from one of the hills approaching the site. It is cleaned up without the trucks and other parts of daily distilling. It was painted in the 1950s by a local artist. The painting hangs in one of the reception areas of their old warehouse “A”, which has been impressively converted to office space. There are many other interesting photographs, documents, bottles and other artifacts on display in this space, as well as this painting.
McCormick Distillery dates back to the 1850s, when Ben and David Holladay moved from Kentucky to Weston, Missouri and purchased the land near a spring that was first located by Lewis and Clark on their journey to the west coast of America. The Holladay brothers started the distillery, but Ben went on to invest in stage coaches traveling west. He became known as the “Stagecoach King”. He also invested in the Pony Express and later railroads.
David Holladay ran the distillery while Ben branched out into other investments. It was known as the Old Holladay Distillery before Prohibition. It became McCormick Distillery in 1942. They last produced Bourbon at the distillery in the 1990s as the owners at that time had purchased a distillery in Illinois and moved whiskey production to that distillery. That was a big mistake. The Bourbon made in Weston was quite good. I have had a drink poured from a bottle of their bonded Bourbon from the late 1960s and enjoyed it quite a bit. However, the Bourbon made in Illinois, made in the 1900s was often musty and of poor quality. This led the company to stop making Bourbon and concentrate on making vodka, gin and other spirits.
A change in management from the 1990s has led the company back to its roots and the decision was made to start making Bourbon at the Weston Distillery again. This has been a six year project. They have released a Bottled-in-Bond, six year old Bourbon under the Ben Holladay label. It is available locally in Missouri and Kansas and they hope to expand the market next year. It is good to see a fine Bourbon once again being made at the beautiful distillery portrayed in this painting.