Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co: The Rebirth of a Brand

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word peerless as “matchless, incomparable, having no equal; unrivaled.”  Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. sets them selves apart from their competition like no other.  Their attention to detail, small scale production, and family atmosphere leaves no stone unturned. 

I recently visited Kentucky Peerless Distillery and was highly impressed, and not just with their final product, but with my overall visit.  They are located extremely close to the Ohio River in in an up and coming part of downtown Louisville.  Their entrance feels more like a rustic ski lodge rather than a top of the line distillery gift shop.  It really sets the mood for an authentic, history laden, whiskey experience. 

Honestly, between us friends, I didn’t know a lot about Peerless before taking this tour.  I previously saw that they had been rated top 20 whiskey in the world by one organization, but that was all I really knew about them.  Walking down the halls I really started to understand how much history was in this relatively “new” whiskey brand.  Well, new to anybody that is probably reading this, as they actually started distilling in the mid 1800’s.  Due to new legislation in 1917, Peerless stopped producing alcohol because resources were needed during World War I.  In 2014, the 4th and 5th generation decedents of Peerless, Corky and Carson Taylor, found a 115-year-old building in downtown Louisville, Kentucky and began construction.  In mid-2015, they filled their first barrel and began to bring Peerless into whiskey relevance once again. 

Soon after learning the history, I was excited to see Peerless in action.  Smelling mash cooking is one of my favorite things about visiting distilleries.  I don’t know what it is about the smell of the mash, but it brings an overwhelming sense of comfort.  Peerless did not disappoint.  The old building’s smell danced elegantly with the smell of cooking mash to create a one of a kind aroma.  If someone could figure out how to capture that smell and put it in a candle, I’d buy a whole case. 

After meeting Caleb Kilburn, the Head Distiller, I began to understand why he was one of the best up and coming Distillers in the business.   His combination of technology with old school techniques is unmatched.  He even wanted to meet up with me during the tasting and find out what I thought about his whiskey.  Caleb Kilburn wanted to find out what I thought about his whiskey?  He didn’t need to know what I thought!  My respect for this guy grew exponentially for something so simple.  Elon Musk, one of the best inventors of our time said it best.  “I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” This gesture was extremely telling regarding his attitude toward the betterment of his whiskey and business.

I sampled four different versions of their single barrel program.  All four were extremely smooth and complex.  The mouthfeel accurately reflects that of a non-chill filtered whiskey and the barrel proof truly lets the range of flavors shine without limitations.  My taste for rye whiskey has only recently started to take shape. I truly enjoyed these samples.  The balance of spice with sweetness mingled together in a way no other company has done. Shall I say they were peerless?

I thoroughly appreciated my time at Kentucky Peerless Distillery and can’t wait to return sometime in the near future and possibly get a taste of their upcoming release of bourbon.  Seeing a smaller operation run the way theirs does, gives me hope in the current direction whiskey is headed.

 

Jordan Grigsby

Editor and Chief of the Whiskey Corner Blog

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