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Issue 14 - Tribute to a whiskey dreamer

Whisky Magazine Issue 14
February 2001

 

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Tribute to a whiskey dreamer

Jim Murray mourns the loss of Cecil Williams, a man dedicated to whiskey and a much loved friend to the end.

It's strange how fate will play its quirky little tricks on life. And how often are they unbearably sad. The other day I was talking to my octogenarian neighbour in England who observed that it is always the kind and truly decent people who die first. Just a few hours later I was to be reminded, heartbreakingly, just how right he was when I learnt of the sudden and untimely death of my very closest, dearest friend, Cecil Withrow. Only the loss of my father a decade earlier has ever hit me so hard.

Cecil and I first met six years ago, when I found him sleeping in a cot somewhere in the remains of the Old Taylor Distillery on Glenn's Creek. He was accompanied by two dogs, several fishing rods, a gun and his wife Dorothy, to whom he was touchingly devoted. His story, featured recently in Whisky Magazine, was a remarkable one. He had for years been on the payroll of National Distillers, owners also of the Old Crow distillery a mile down the creek and the Old Grandad Distillery on the other side of Frankfort. Though employed on the maintenance side, he felt so passionately about the whiskey they made that when Jim Beam took them over and closed those ancient distilleries down – an action he never forgave – he raised enough capital to buy the dilapidated buildings and warehouses of the famous Old Taylor Distillery.

He dreamt of bringing the distillery back to life. Not with the massive continuous stills, that were just about intact in the still house, but with a litt...

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