RIP Elijah, famous bourbon-distillery cat

July 25, 2014 • 12:14 pm

Via reader Kurt and (the site of the Lexington Herald-Leader), I am saddened to hear of the passing of Elijah, the resident cat and mouser at the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Elijah died on June 30 and was at least 20 years old (the age was unspecified, but he’d been at the distillery for two decades).

Woodford Reserve happens to be my absolute favorite bourbon—it’s mellow and smooth, and remarkably free of mouse droppings.

As the paper notes:

“We’re deeply saddened to announce the passing of Elijah, our beloved distillery cat-in-residence,” Woodford Reserve announced late Wednesday night on Facebook. “Elijah called the Woodford Reserve barrelhouse ‘home’ for two decades — often taking the night shift to keep watch over the barrels, ensuring the angels never took more than their share.”

. . . In his honor, the distillery lowered its Woodford Reserve flag to half staff. In a show of camaraderie, Maker’s Mark’s tour team posted condolences.

Fans of the bourbon and the cat also posted hundreds of remembrances on social media, many including photos of Elijah at work or asleep (roughly the same thing.)

“I have never been a cat fan, but any cat that likes bourbon is a friend of mine!” one fan said on Facebook.

“He’s having the angel’s share tonight,” another tweeted, a reference to the whiskey lost to evaporation in the barrel.

Several called for a limited-edition bourbon dedicated to the orange-and-white cat who roamed the rackhouse and watched over the whiskey.

For many people, no tour of the Woodford County distillery was complete without a chance to meet, photograph and possibly pet Elijah, named for bourbon pioneer Elijah Pepper, the first distiller on the site in Woodford County.

Officials plan to honor Elijah with a plaque on the distillery’s grounds.

I’m in favor of the special-edition cat bourbon! Here’s Elijah with a few bottles of their splendid bourbon:
Elijah had a good long life with many admirers and fusses, and that is the best any cat can hope for.

25 thoughts on “RIP Elijah, famous bourbon-distillery cat

  1. I toasted Hitch with a bit of Johnny Walkers, so I guess now I’ll toast Elijah with a spot of Woodford Reserve.

  2. I would by a bottle of fhat.

    This is the 2nd cat death I’ve heard of today. This morning I received a text about the death of a tiny stray my children had befriended. They are visiting my mother, wbo cares for strays. The kids found him collapsed on the porch this morning. They rushed him to the vet, but he could not be saved. The kids were very upset.

    1. Sorry to hear about the stray. They have a difficult life, and sometimes you do the right thing and it still isn’t enough. It must’ve been hard on the kids. I hope they understand that their efforts did matter, and such compassion is never wasted.

  3. There is a venerable eatery here in Williamsburg, Virginia, called The Old Chickahominy House. For years, a cat named Mr. Biscuit had the run of the place, health department be damned. I saw him once in the restaurant itself, but usually he could be found over on the gift shop side. He would make himself a lair among the souvenirs and survey the tourists with a look of disdain. I like to think he looked more benignly on locals, but he sneered at me, too. When Mr. Biscuit died, the proprietor placed an obituary ad in the local paper.

  4. If there is no scotch and one must drink bourbon, then Woodford is the best choice. I’m glad Elijah was loved and had a good life among the barrels.

  5. I initially misread the last line and thought that the distillery was offering special-edition catnip flavored bourbon.

  6. “Woodford Reserve happens to be my absolute favorite bourbon”
    I’ll have to try this one day. It’s hard to know where to begin with bourbons, so I just stick to Maker’s Mark.

    1. When I drink, I drink only bourbon (except for the occasional beer I drink with my brother (oh, the sacrifices we make for family!).

      While Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23-Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey bottled at the old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, Frankford, KY is the Château Latour of bourbons, it and its younger cousin Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20-Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is impossible to find, (and unbelievably expensive) due to the incredible amount of hype (not that it isn’t well deserved) it has received in the recent past. But both Jefferson’s 18 Year Old Presidential Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey (age unspecified) are credible substitutes for the two Pappy Van Winkles, and a hell of a lot less expensive.

      If the 23-year old Pappy rates a score of 100, and the 20-year old Pappy rates a score of 95, then Blanton’s comes in at 97 and Jefferson’s at 96. To my mind, on this scale Woodford finishes at roughly 88 points.

      Of course, there’s no accounting for taste, which is why we have both vanilla and chocolate ice cream (and many other flavors). But it is fun to discover what the favorites of other people are.

      1. I’ve been trying to find even a taste of Pappy once learning of it during a scientific meeting in Lexington in 2010, but keep coming up empty. I have been able to get some Jefferson Reserve, tho, which was recommended as the next best to Pappy.

        I guess Reserve is a few notches below the 18y/o solution tho?

      2. “When I drink, I drink only bourbon”
        Wow. I really wouldn’t know how to limit myself that way, though when it comes to spirits I’m almost that way with scotch these days.

        I think the problem with a lot of bourbons is that it’s hard to find them in my neck of the woods (Australia), so a lot of the ultra premium stuff just isn’t available. There’s a number in the $40-$80 price range (which, to be fair, is my price range), but I just haven’t a clue as to where to begin. I really enjoyed the Gentleman Jack when I tried it, but outside of that and Maker’s Mark, they’re just names and price tags to me. So it’s easier just to get scotch because The Glenlivet 12YO is a sublime drop.

        Thanks for the info. I’ll definitely keep an eye out and see what I can find around here.

    2. I’ve been sipping bourbons for some time years (and Woodford Reserve is quite good) when, visiting a friend, I was offered some rye whiskey. I became a convert overnight. So now I’m testing those waters.

      1. I’ve been meaning to try a rye bourbon for a while, though the range is pretty limited here. (from memory, it’s either Jim Bean rye or Wild Turkey rye)

    1. Isn’t Islay the windiest place in the British Isles? So that explains it – the cat kept on getting blown away, so they had to get something less limber and rodent-effective.

  7. That stuff is actually drinkable – they have it in most 200+ whiskey bars. At least, on this coast – the teuchters out west may have different ideas.

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