Kentucky Bourbon Trail Part 19: Kentucky Artisan

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Eventually all good things come to an end. The odd thing is most of them you kind of look forward to as the goal, the date on the calendar you can’t wait to reach. I remember the date of my college graduation like that. Within days of arriving at school I had a green military ID card with the expiration date four years in the future which would become my graduation day. It was always out there, goading me on to put up with the crap like the proverbial carrot the donkey wants bad enough to pull a ridiculously heavy cart up a hill. Then, with the cloudiness of time, I look back and think about the good times and forget the bad, and reminisce with compatriots about them. It’s strange, but I remember the bad times with the same fondness as the good.

Anyway, my time in Louisville was over and I headed home for the last time in 2017. My duties had been completed and I was returning to my beloved Bella until the next call to duty took me to another distant city. I was thinking back on all the trips to bourbon distilleries and I saw a sign promoting the Kentucky Artisan Distillery. I’ve passed the sign multiple times, but never when I had time to stop whilst the place was open. The moon and stars aligned and I pulled off the highway, followed the signs, and arrived at the small distillery.

I knew a bit about this place since I’ve seen the Jefferson’s Reserve and Jefferson’s Ocean Aged (really… – more lated).

Jefferson’s Reserve and Ocean Aged

Arriving during the work day gave me a chance at my one and only PRIVATE tour, as in, I was the only guy there.

Whiskey Row

It turns out this distillery was founded by a guy who wanted to be able to make “ridiculously small batch” bourbon on consignment for other people. The bulk of their proceeds go into these brands.

Jefferson’s, Whiskey Row, and Highspire Rye
Artifacts
More artifacts

I got the impression the guy who started this is a big enthusiast who collected so much stuff his wife became fed up. In an effort to appease her and keep his collection going he opened a warehouse and filled it with stills and started experimenting with them.

Bourbon and whiskey process

He uses the same basic process as everybody else in Kentucky.

Fermenting

He has an antique fermenting tank as well as one that has been around the block a few times that was rescued from the ash heap of history.

Still
Still
Still
Still

He has column stills, pot stills, and even a combo that’s a bit of both. Some are quite old and some are new. One belonged to Old Forrester before it was shuttered and the irony is that the original owner wants it back for their marquee storefront being opened on Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville. That will be an interesting negotiation.

Barrels

Typical places lay the barrels on their sides and drill the bung hole in one of the wider staves. Why? Because they’re heavy and it’s easier to roll them than lift them. Nowadays we have these great inventions called “fork lifts.” Why not stick them on pallets and drill the bung hole in the top of the barrel? Just throw tradition to the wind when it suits you? Why not?

Barrel end with bung hole

It was a pretty cool place. If I ever get the wild hair that tells me I have stumbled on the best whiskey recipe, I now know where to get a couple barrels filled and then bottled, years later.

I mentioned the Jefferson’s Ocean. The concept is interesting. The barrels are filled, aged to some degree in a local warehouse, then transported to an actual ocean going transport ship. They’re loaded onto the ship and spend about 9 months sailing around, sloshing inside the barrels, picking up the salt air, hoping to not be tapped by thirsty sailors who fancy themselves to be pirates. The first 5 barrels in the pilot program somehow only produced three barrels. Strange… Unfortunately, the marquee brand wasn’t part of the tasting, but I did have the entry level Jefferson’s, the Whiskey Row (quite good with a dash of water), the Highspire Rye (not my cup of whiskey), and a Jefferson’s Manhattan (I don’t like cocktails – just give it to me the way God intended it).

Pickup

Pretty truck, huh?

I thanked my tour guide and was on my way. I quite enjoyed my time and would recommend a visit. They’re part of the “Craft Bourbon Trail” or something like that. There’s another passport to get stamps and all. Maybe next time I’m deployed to the Louisville area…

Kentucky Bourbon Distillery
6230 Old LaGrange Rd
Crestwood, KY 40014

~ Freddy

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Freddy

I’m an engineer, a veteran, and an avid traveler. I agree with Robert Louis Stevenson – “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

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