While Margaret and I were in Kentucky a few weekends ago, we visited four distilleries. Two were in Lexington, and the other two were in nearby Frankfort. We’ve been on enough distillery tours now that there’s little new for us to learn about the whiskey-making process. We just want to cut right to the tasting at the end! Fortunately, during COVID, many distilleries are dispensing with their tours in favor of quick tastings, either outside or in a very well ventilated space. That’s just fine for us!
The first distillery was Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington’s Fayette Park neighborhood. They started with a tasting, and then walked us quickly through their small facility. Their most interesting spirit is a bourbon distilled from blue corn.
Our next stop was at Castle and Key Distillery near Frankfort. They were open only for walks around the grounds, although you could buy flights of their product to sample while you were there. They distill gin and vodka in addition to bourbon and rye. We sipped every spirit they offered and thought their Autumn 2019 gin was the most delicious. This site was originally the Old Taylor Distillery, and its sign still hangs over the main door.
Next we visited the Glenns Creek Distillery, which is on the original site of the Old Crow Distillery. If you ever visit, do not let your map application take you down Hanly Lane to get there, as we did. The last segment of it is barely one lane wide with a steep dropoff on one side. It is a butt-puckering, white-knuckle drive. When we left we went the other way — and within a half mile passed Castle and Key, on a wide and safe state highway. Had we only known!
Where Castle and Key was polished and shiny, Glenns Creek was, well, decrepit and dumpy. But we had the best experience of our weekend there. They offered only a tasting, but the fellow who led it was fun and entertaining. He is also one of the distillery’s owners. He grew up in Panama, played professional basketball for a while (including a stint with the Indiana Pacers), and has turned to distilling later in his life. His stories were incredible. So was their OCD #5 bourbon.
Finally, we returned to Lexington to visit the James E. Pepper Distillery. This is an old name in distilleries, but it is only recently reopened after a 50-year hiatus. Really, this is a new distillery with an old name. It looks like they are only now beginning to sell whiskeys they distill on site; previously, they sold whiskeys they bought from other distilleries (mostly the giant MGP in Indiana). Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Nikon Df, 28-80mm f/3.4-4.5G AF Nikkor