Whiskey Nips: The King of Bootleggers, George Remus

At a young age, George Remus worked for his uncle at a pharmacy, and in just a few years became the owner. He practiced other areas of medicine, and bought some more pharmacies, trying to become part of the upper tier class, while struggling because he was an immigrant. He went on to study law and eventually became a very successful lawyer.

In practicing law, George represented many of the lower tier criminals that could barely him, but after prohibition hit, they start producing wads of cash. Turns out some of the men he was representing were associates of Al Capone. George knew that Al and his crew were bootlegging whiskey, but George felt that he was smarter than these guys, and wanted his piece of the pie. With his knowledge of the law, he could use that to his advantage to be successful.

George still had a medicinal license, so he was able to produce, buy, and sell liquor legally for medicinal purposes. The government seized millions of gallons of liquor under prohibition, and George could have access to it. He set up in Cincinnati and had a lot of access to liquor in that  location. It was also a prime location for distribution. He began buying warehouses of liquor from the government and distributing it some of his pharmacies, as well as many other legal ventures. Every once in awhile his drivers’ shipments would be “stolen”, by his own men. He would sell the truckload to bootleggers, while also being paid by the pharmacies and insurance companies.

In his first 2 years of business, George netted $80 million dollars. This was A LOT of money, especially at that time. He got real egotistical, and began referring to himself in the third person. He realized that the money alone didn’t buy his way in with the higher up politicians, so he began throwing extravagant parties with outrageous gifts such as diamond gold watches and brand new cars to try to reach a higher social status. His ego would eventually be his downfall.

In 1925, George was sentenced to prison for 2 years in a federal prison for bootlegging. Where he was staying in the prison was referred to as ‘Millionaires Row’ because of all the rich bootleggers there. He considered this a cost of doing business, and was fine with it. While in prison, an undercover agent, Franklin Dodge, posed as a bootlegger and tried to get information from him. Franklin got out of prison before George, and got in contact with George’s wife. They developed and relationship and eventually sold most of George’s assets, including all the Kentucky bourbon, at a very low price to other bootleggers.

When George was released from prison in 1927, he came home to almost nothing. Furiated, he tracked down his wife and killed her. George represented himself in his trial, and was found not guilty. After all of this, he tried to get back in the business of bootlegging, but was not as successful as he was previously. He stayed pretty low key until his death in 1952.

 

Be sure to check out Bourbon History on The ABV Network Channel on your favorite podcast provider to learn about more bourbon history like this. And if you have any questions about whiskey and would like me to cover them in this blog, please send me a message on Instagram @glassofwhiskey86 or email tony206@gmail.com. Cheers!

Jordan GrigsbyComment