Tag Archives: bourbon trail

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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Kentucky Bourbon Country

If you’re from the state of Kentucky, you know that bourbon is a part of our culture. Whether you’re sipping some Maker’s Mark at a tailgate or savoring a glass of Woodford Reserve at dinner, you’re contributing to Kentucky’s economy by enjoying one of our signature industries.

bourbon tasting

Kentucky, the birthplace of bourbon, produces 95 percent of the world’s supply of America’s only native spirit. According to the Kentucky Distiller’s Association, “There are more barrels of bourbon aging in the Bluegrass than there are people (4.3 million) and horses (242,000) living in the Commonwealth.” That’s a whole lotta bourbon!

KY bourbon

Susan Reigler discusses this and more in her book Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide. Reigler offers essential information and practical advice to anyone considering a trip to the state’s distilleries or to the restaurants and bars on the Urban Bourbon Trail. Featuring more than 150 full-color photographs and a bourbon glossary, the book is organized by region and provides valuable details about the Bluegrass—including attractions near each distillery and notes on restaurants, lodging, shopping, and seasonal events in Kentucky’s beautiful historic towns.

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This book is the perfect gift for not only bourbon-lovers, but also anyone who has a love of Kentucky and its many outstanding qualities. If you’re interested in buying the book, head on over to our website for details.

 

Which Came First: The Bourbon or the Rye?

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Just why is it that we Kentuckians insist on Old Fashioned’s made only with the best bourbon whiskey and eschew the rye? Well it turns out the first pour of bourbon in an Old Fashioned was just convenience and a little bit of state pride, of course!

According to Albert Schmid’s The Old Fashioned, “Although the original cocktail was made with rye whiskey. . . . The Kentucky bartender would have had greater access to bourbon and most likely substituted that for rye.” So really, it was a matter of practicality. Why would someone from Louisville, Kentucky, use an imported whiskey to make a cocktail where there was just so much bourbon around to be had?

So which do you prefer to see poured into your Old Fashioned glass? Does it matter which came first: the bourbon or the rye?

Don’t forget to register for our giveaway this week by Friday at 1PM! One lucky entrant will receive a copy of Albert W. A. Schmid’s The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide to the Original Whiskey Cocktail.