Add Event My Events Log In

Upcoming Events

    Eat & Swig

    Tracking The Progress Of Kentucky Peerless Distillery
    Print this page

    It’s a popular and pervasive myth that Distillery Row on Main Street was lined with bourbon distilleries up until prohibition.  To the contrary, it mainly consisted of offices for distilleries, (that is, unless you go back to early settlement times.)  Several distilling companies have kept offices on Main Street throughout the decades, and some of the facades on Whiskey Row are still emblazoned with names like J.T.S. Brown and Sons.  Thanks to the bourbon boom, though, several distilleries have chosen to open operations on Whiskey Row in order to tap in to Louisville’s rich bourbon heritage.  The first to open distilling operations on Main Street was The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, and Michter’s, Angel’s Envy, Old Forester, and Kentucky Peerless will be soon to follow.

    The original Kentucky Peerless Distillery was opened in Henderson, Kentucky in 1889 by Henry Kraver.  At the height of production it was the second largest distillery in Kentucky, producing over 200 barrels of bourbon per day.  Prohibition closed this distillery down and Kraver spent the following years selling off his stock and equipment.

    I spoke with Henry Kraver’s grandson, Corky Taylor, back in the fall about the progress of the distillery.  He remembers fondly the memorabilia from Kentucky Peerless that surrounded him as he was growing up.  While he didn’t grow up at a distillery like a lot of Kentucky kids whose families have distilling roots, the family’s distilling history was always remembered proudly.  According to Taylor, there were always pictures of the distillery, bottles of Kentucky Peerless Bourbon, and various jugs and glasses in all the family members’ homes.  He even has his great grandfather’s original roll top desk that was in the distillery, and it has been refurbished and will be in use in the new distillery.

    Kraver’s great grandson, Corky Taylor, and Taylor’s son Carson decided to reopen the family’s operation, taking advantage of Louisville’s booming bourbon culture by locating here.  They wanted to revive the family business and turn it into “a good, sound family operation we could be proud of,” according to Corky Taylor.  The location was chosen because it’s the first thing you see when you enter the city from the West, a nod to the family’s Henderson roots.

    When the distillery reaches full operating capacity, it will produce about 1 barrel per hour.  They are starting off with moonshine while they get things up and running, which is one of the two ways bourbon distilleries can start from scratch.  They will distil a rye whiskey first, according to Taylor, which should be released when it is around two years old.  Then they will distil a batch of bourbon that will age approximately four years.  (Of course, they might choose to delay the release of these products down the road if they feel the products aren’t ready to be released yet.)  Getting a distillery up and running from scratch is a tricky business.  You can’t make a great bourbon one day and bottle it the next day like you can with vodka.  It has to be given time to mature in the new charred oak barrels before it ever makes it to the consumer market.

    When I spoke to Corky Taylor back in the fall, he explained they have opted not to name a Master Distiller out of respect for the industry, noting that being named a Master Distiller is something that happens after years in the industry.  According to Taylor, they will learn as they go, refining this “grain to bottle” operation with help from consultants.  While the Taylors have always been aware of their family’s distilling background, they recognize they will have to go through the learning process to get their product just right.

    Louisville.com’s own Max Sharp has been photographing the progress of this distillery over the last few months, capturing the labor of love that goes into building a brand new distillery from scratch.  Construction began in February of 2014 and the distillery is expected to open some time in 2015.  Where there was once an empty shell of a building now there are mash tubs and stills.  Things are starting to really take shape inside and out.

    Kentucky Peerless will begin production in just a few weeks, if everything goes according to schedule.  They have applied for and received their Distiller’s License.  What’s more, they were able to apply for and obtain the same Distiller’s License the original Henderson, Kentucky distillery had before Prohibition: DSPKY50.

    The Taylors aim to have a soft opening of the distillery before Derby so tourists can take advantage of the new facility.  They plan to have a grand opening some time after Derby, approximately May 15.

    Welcome to Whiskey Row, Kentucky Peerless!

    Photos Courtesy of Max Sharp Photography

    Maggie Kimberl's picture

    About Maggie Kimberl

    I'm a Louisville native with a passion for traveling and homegrown tomatoes. I write the bourbon news, which keeps me plenty busy since Louisville is the center of the bourbon universe. See bourbon news happening? Contact me on Twitter @LouGirl502!

    More from author:    

    Share On:

    Upcoming Events

      Event Finder

      Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or RSS