Tag Archives: bourbon country

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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Travel the Urban Bourbon Trail!

Riddle me this: What do stamp collecting and bourbon have in common?

It’s no secret the Bluegrass State is the heart of bourbon country and there’s no better place to sample the best bourbon in the nation than on the Urban Bourbon Trail. Take a road trip to a few of downtown Louisville’s finest restaurants and bars famed for serving up some of the best bourbon cocktails and unique, bourbon-inspired cookin’. Each location on the trail is well stocked with anywhere from 50-150 bourbon varieties.

Legendary bartender Joy Perrine, co-author of The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, is one of many bourbon experts featured on the Urban Bourbon Trail.  Joy’s creative and classic concoctions can be found at Equus & Jack’s Lounge, an upscale bistro serving refined American cuisine since 1985. Be sure to sample her Burbonball, the official drink of Jack’s Lounge, and many more of her award-winning bourbon cocktails!

Log your travels on a printed booklet passport or an electronic app. Check out the map below to plot your stops on the trail. Collect stamps from any six stops on your bourbon adventure and earn your status as an official Bourbon Country Citizen! Pick up your passport and hit the bourbon trail!

Don’t forget to sign up by 1 pm Friday, April 12 for our giveaway of The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book!

(Photos and map from the Urban Bourbon Trail.)