Tag Archives: Bluegrass State

The Beauty in Bourbon’s History

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Spirits Tank, George T. Staggs Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY.  

Whiskey making has been an integral part of American history since frontier times. Kentucky is home to more barrels of bourbon than people, and ninety-five percent of all of America’s native spirit is produced in the Bluegrass State. In Kentucky, early settlers brought stills to preserve grain, and they soon found that the limestone-filtered water and the unique climate of the scenic Bluegrass region made it an ideal place for the production of barrel-aged liquor. And so, bourbon whiskey was born.

More than two hundred commercial distilleries were operating in Kentucky before Prohibition, but only sixty-one reopened after its repeal in 1933. Though the businesses were gone, most of the buildings remained, unused, slowly deteriorating for decades. Now, thanks in large part to the explosion of interest in craft bourbon, many of these historic buildings are being brought back to life, often as new distilleries. As the popularity of America’s native spirit increases worldwide, many historic distilleries are being renovated, refurbished, and brought back into operation.

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Spears Warehouse, Second Floor, Jacob Spears Distillery, Bourbon County, KY.

In The Birth of Bourbon: A Phorographic Tour of Early Distilleries, award-winning photographer Carol Peachee takes readers on an unforgettable tour of lost distilleries as well as facilities undergoing renewal, such as the famous Old Taylor and James E. Pepper distilleries in Lexington, Kentucky. This beautiful book also includes spaces that well-known brands, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace, have preserved as a homage to their rich histories. By using a photography technique called high-dynamic-range imaging (HDR), Peachee captures the vibrant and haunting beauty of the distilleries. HDR photography is a process that layers three or more images taken of the same scene at different shutter speeds. The technique creates a fuller range of luminosity and color and gives the photographs a striking, ethereal quality.

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Knobs and Pipes, J.E. Pepper Distillery, Lexington, KY. 

“Photographed again today,” Peachee explains, “they would look different, which would make some of the images, barely four years old, a relic in their own right.” In 2010, the James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington was the first set of ruins that she photographed. Four years later, the location was repurposed and commercialized.

Just months after Peachee visited the Old Crow Distillery in Millville, the ruins were sold to entrepreneurs who built Castle & Key Distillery, home to Kentucky’s first female Master Distiller Marianne Barnes. Likewise, the Dowling Distilleries warehouse in Burgin was photographed in the process of being torn down. Major buildings at other sites like Buffalo Springs Distillery in Stamping Ground did not survive to be photographed.

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Pillar and Engine, Old Crow Distillery, Woodford County, KY.

As more and more historical distilleries are lost or altered, these images provide an important glimpse of the past and detailed insight on Kentucky’s relationship with bourbon. The Birth of Bourbon is a tour of Kentucky bourbon heritage that might have otherwise been lost if not for Peachee’s determination to save it. The results not only document what remains, but they also showcase the beauty of these sites through a meditation on impermanence, labor, time, presence, and loss.

Carol Peachee is a fine art photographer and cofounder of the Kentucky Women’s Photography Network. She is the winner of the 2010 Elizabeth Fort Duncan Award in photography from the Pennyroyal Art Guild.

 

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#UPWeek The Importance of Regional Publishing: Because Nobody Understands Kentucky Like We Do

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All week, we’ve been celebrating University Press Week and sharing with all of you what it means to be a University Press and what makes UPs so great. One of the subjects we’re best known for is a subject closest to all of our hearts: Kentucky. Our regional books editor, Ashley Runyon, is a born-and-bred Bluegrass Girl. For University Press Week, we asked her to share why Regional Publishing is so important both to her and to the Press. Herewith, Ashley’s take on UPK’s regional publishing program, and a few reasons why we love our state.

Kentucky is home. As a toddler, I was first pictured in my University of Kentucky Wildcats cheerleading outfit rooting for the Big Blue. But the Bluegrass State is more than just basketball. Or bourbon. Or horses. It is the experiences and stories of people and places throughout the region that define what makes Kentucky great.

As a publisher of regional books, we are in a unique position to offer an exciting and inviting look at Kentucky’s history, heritage, and community. Offering more than just a chronicle of Kentucky’s past, we have the opportunity to engage, enlighten, and entertain. In the past year alone, we have shown Kentuckians the best places in the state to travel to for barbecue, bourbon, gems, and ghosts, revealed one of the best but forgotten jockeys, taught our readers how to make the perfect Old Fashioned cocktail, and offered a comprehensive look at the inner workings of government and politics in Frankfort and beyond. The tradition of the Bluegrass State is wide and far-reaching. Every week I learn something new about my home state and I hope we also offer that to our readers.

Regional publishing showcases the many truths of our region and community, whether it be The Good: A vibrant writing community, love and appreciation of the land. The Bad: The Louisville Cardinals (Go Big Blue!). And the Ugly: Poverty, prevalent drugs, and a poor education system. It is our job to tell the stories of our state.

The heritage of Kentucky is rich and it has been our privilege to enrich our community for the past 70 years.

Why do we publish books about Kentucky? …Because nobody understands Kentucky like we do.

Because we love that there are more barrels of bourbon than people in Kentucky.

More Bourbon Barrels than People

And we love to drink it! (even our beer tastes like bourbon)

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Because it is perfectly acceptable to call into work to go bet on the horses at Keeneland or Churchill Downs

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Because NOBODY is a bigger basketball fan than we are. (We still can’t believe the UK-UL game in the 2012 Final Four didn’t result in the apocalypse)

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Because speaking of the apocalypse…Berea, Kentucky is the safest place to be

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Because in Kentucky, you can visit Paris, Rome, Bagdad, Bethlehem, Cuba, Sweeden, London, and Versailles (pronounced Ver-sales) in a day. Or towns like Monkey’s Eyebrow, Possum Trot, Big Bone Lick, Bugtussle, Oddville, Rabbit Hash, Shoulderblade, or Pig.

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Because we know its Loo-uh-vuhl, not Louie-vill

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Because one-half of the most infamous feud in America were Kentuckians

Because we were the original Land of Lincoln (sorry Illinois!)

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Because along with Lincoln, we claim Muhammed Ali, George Clooney (all the Clooneys, really), Johnny Depp, Jennifer Lawrence, Diane Sawyer, and a hell of a lot more writers (Robert Penn Warren), Politicians (Henry Clay), Musicians (including the Judd family and 2/5 of the Backstreet Boys), Scientists (Robert H. Grubbs), Athletes (Tyson Gay), Artists (John James Audobon), and Chicken Impresarios (Col. Harlan Sanders)

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Because we’re well-fed on BBQ, fried chicken, and doughnuts

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Because even our madams are (in)famous

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Because its hard not to tear up every time this happens before the Kentucky Derby

Because, as former Governor Happy Chandler said, I Never Met A Kentuckian Who Wasn’t Either Thinking About Going Home Or Actually Going Home.”

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Sounds of the Bluegrass

This week’s giveaway, A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music by Jason Howard, offers an inside look into the lives of some of the greats in American music born right here in the Commonwealth. These musicians come from varied backgrounds and play music from diverse genres, but they all have one thing in common—roots in the Bluegrass State. Their Kentucky upbringing has shaped their musical foundation and continues to influence their sound. Take a look at the photo gallery of some of the musicians featured in A Few Honest Words. 

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Check out the soundtrack of A Few Honest Words and enter our giveaway by 1 pm Friday, March 8 to win a copy of the book

Your Call to Post: It’s Derby Time!

This Saturday marks the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” There are few other Kentucky traditions that fully encompass what it is to live in or visit the Bluegrass State. The Derby has it all: beautiful horses, the twin spires in the background, roses, hats, mint juleps, and of course who doesn’t get chills at the Call to Post and the playing of My Old Kentucky Home during the post parade?

Herewith, a few of our favorite Derby-themed books:

The Thoroughbred Horse has an unparalleled significance to the state of Kentucky. The breeding, training, selling, and racing of these remarkable animals today amounts to a multibillion dollar sporting business, and the development of that industry serves as a compelling history of both the state and the Sport of Kings itself. The Kentucky Thoroughbred tells that story, chronicling racing’s history through tales of its most dominant, memorable stallions.

“Hollingsworth writes with authority and a good deal of polish about an exotic industry in which Kentucky has led the world for at least a century, and about equine feats that today’s horseplayers may find virtually incredible.”–Louisville Courier-Journal

In her debut book, How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders, former turf writer Maryjean Wall explores the post–Civil War world of Thoroughbred racing, before the Bluegrass region reigned supreme as the unofficial Horse Capital of the World. Wall uses her insider knowledge of horse racing as a foundation for an unprecedented examination of the efforts to establish a Thoroughbred industry in late-nineteenth-century Kentucky. How Kentucky Became Southern offers an accessible inside look at the Thoroughbred industry and its place in Kentucky history.

“When the nation’s attention focuses on Churchill Downs again next spring and Louisville turns on the charm, we will now know . . . what exactly it is what we’re drinking to when we raise that first mint julep.”–Wall Street Journal

Thanks in part to the general popularity of cocktails and the marketing efforts of the bourbon industry, there are more brands of bourbon and more bourbon drinkers than ever before. In The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler provide a reader-friendly handbook featuring more than 100 recipes including seasonal drinks, after-dinner bourbon cocktails, Derby cocktails, and even medicinal toddies.

“Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler showcase the world of bourbon in a reader-friendly format, highlighting techniques, ingredients, food selection, and glassware for the professional or home bartender. . . . Everyone, from the bourbon connoisseur to the amateur enthusiast, can appreciate this how-to guide, which embraces the rich heritage and sophistication of a true Kentucky classic.”--Kentucky Post


Lighthearted, entertaining, and informative, The Kentucky Mint Julep explores the lore and legend of the Kentucky Derby’s traditional tipple.Information on julep cups, tips on garnishing and serving, and reminiscences from the likes of Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, and General John Hunt Morgan give a fun, historic look at Kentucky’s favorite drink. The book includes numerous recipes—for classic juleps, modern variations, non-alcoholic versions, and the author’s own thoroughly researched “perfect” mint julep.

“Mint, syrup, bourbon. Horse-racing fans instantly recognize those ingredients for a mint julep, the signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. The book has more than 20 recipes. . . . It’s definitely a book to read before you buy silver julep cups.”– New York Times


In Kentucky Horse Country: Images of the Bluegrass, renowned photographer James Archambeault captures the natural beauty of Kentucky’s Bluegrass region and the thoroughbred industry for which it is famous. Kentucky Horse Country contains 165 full-color images, from tender scenes of mares and foals grazing, to the excitement of race day at Keeneland, to gorgeous landscapes of white fences enclosing lush rolling hills.

“Internationally renowned photographer James Archambeault has done it again—captured the beauty of our state with his lens and preserved it within the pages of a coffee-table book that any Kentuckian would be proud to own, or place under the Christmas tree for some other fortunate reader.”–The Voice- Tribune