It's too bad Whit Coyte didn't do a better job.

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It's too bad Whit Coyte didn't do a better job.

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Sep 06, 2010 6:28 pm

We owe Whit Coyte a lot so I hate to say this, but every time I do some serious research I wish he had done a better job with his.

I must first confess that I've never seen Coyte's original manuscript and don't know if any of his research notes were preserved. What I know intimately are the books by Sam Cecil and Chet Zoeller that rely heavily on Coyte. I have the same mixed feeling about both of them. They did good and valuable work by getting those books published but I also wish they had done a better job of, among other things, simple proof-reading and fact checking.

Coyte had no background in the whiskey business but he was a Kentuckian and began to research Kentucky's distilleries after he retired from the telephone company. Sam Cecil was close to him for about 25 years. Zoeller credits Coyte but doesn't mention knowing him. He does, however, cite the publication Wine and Spirits Bulletin as one of Coyte's major sources.

Coyte died in 1987 and his papers were donated to the University of Louisville.

Example of a simple thing. On page 174 of Zoeller, where he talks about the James Walsh and Company Distillery in Covington, he uses the name "Walsh" many times, then inexplicably misspells it "Welsh." Sure, everybody makes mistakes, but that's what proofreaders are for. Zoeller's book especially has mistakes like that on every page.

Worse is where you can just see Coyte, Cecil or Zoeller making assumptions when they could have done a little more research and gotten the facts right.

Cecil, in his entry about that Walsh distillery on page 99, says Walsh also "operated the Rossville Distillery at Rossville, Indiana." Reasonable assumption, but wrong. The Rossville, or Rossville Union Distillery, was in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (Greendale, actually). I can find no evidence that there was ever a distillery in Rossville but there is ample evidence of the distillery in Greendale called Rossville, which was owned by the Walsh Company. The assumption/mistake obviously was Coyte's, because Zoeller repeats it in his book. Cecil says the Rossville Distillery was sold to Schenley when actually it was sold to Seagram's. It is today's Angostura plant.

Another example is the seeming assumption that Schenley owned Park and Tilford all the way back to repeal, when in fact it's pretty easy to find the history of Park and Tilford as an independent company from the time David Schulte bought it in 1921 until his sons sold it to Schenley in 1954. Schulte himself was an interesting character who became rich selling cigars.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
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Re: It's too bad Whit Coyte didn't do a better job.

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Sep 06, 2010 6:47 pm

You would think that Sam, especially, would have known that Park and Tilford was not owned by Schenley until 1954 since he was active in the business then. Park and Tilford was like a miniature and ultimately not very successful version of Schenley and it did eventually sell out to them, but both Zoeller and Cecil (so, presumably, Coyte also) have Schenley owning Park and Tilford from the get-go, which is wrong. My impression is that neither Cecil nor Zoeller made any real attempt to confirm Coyte's facts. Why that is I can only speculate.

So, yes, I know, we're building on what they did. I just wish they had been perhaps a little less ambitious and a little more diligent.

In case you are wondering, Rossville, Indiana, is nowhere near Lawrenceburg. It is in the north near Lafayette.
- Chuck Cowdery

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