A Journey Begins with a Drop of Whiskey
In the vast landscape of bourbons, where the well-known giants of the industry stand tall, there exists a craft distillery that decided to take the uphill battle to success, all for the sake of making the best product they possibly could. Peerless, a family-owned distillery, based in the heart of the Bourbon Trail in Louisville, Kentucky has successfully rattled the industry’s cage and put itself firmly on the bourbon map, after almost a century of inactivity.
Defying Conventional Wisdom
Peerless Distilling Co., at first glance, does not appear any different from the hundreds of other craft distilleries that have cropped up over the last decade or so. The building itself is beautiful and historic – a renovated 115-year-old structure that was originally a tobacco warehouse. But it’s not the edifice that sets Peerless apart from the rest. It’s their approach.
The Road Less Traveled
This distillery took a path that absolute madness or genius might dictate. Instead of sourcing spirits for their initial offering, they decided to distill their own, right from the start, under the guidance of master distiller, Caleb Kilburn. Not just that, they chose to age their alcohol, waiting for the right moment when the spirit becomes the perfect elixir. The Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey was the first product to come after this meticulous process, released in 2017. It was the first whiskey to be produced in-house by Peerless in nearly 100 years.
Distilling the Old Fashioned Way
The path that Peerless chose was to do things the old-fashioned way, with a focus on quality over quantity. Caleb was determined to not cut corners. Peerless adheres strictly to a sweet mash procedure, instead of the more commonly found sour mash. In a sweet mash process, the bourbon is distilled from fresh yeast rather than using the leftover yeast from a previous batch.
Commitment to Craftsmanship
A part of the meticulous method that Peerless takes so seriously is its handcrafted heating process. The distillation process at Peerless involves heating the grains to a very specific temperature – a craft that requires a fine balance between science and art. Further enhancing its handcrafted technique is the use of copper stills that maximize contact between the grain and the distillate, which results in the most flavor-rich spirit possible.
Skipping the ‘Shortcuts’
Peerless infamously avoided a technique known as “barrel-entry proof,” which essentially allows for diluting the spirits before aging, enabling distilleries to get more bottles out of a barrel. Instead, Peerless put all their spirits into barrels at full strength – a costly approach that helped make their whiskeys silkier, with a complex flavor profile.
First Bourbon in a Century
After all the waiting and hard work, Peerless released their first bourbon in over a 100 years in June 2019. This momentous event marked the pinnacle of their journey – a defining moment of their ethos of quality, patience, and handcrafted perfection.
This award-winning Bourbon reintroduction is both a tribute to its historical roots and a statement of its future. A history which dates back to the pre-Prohibition era, when the then owner, Henry Kraver revived the distillery after the economic downturn in the late 1880s.
The Taste Test
So how does a Peerless bourbon hold up to the taste test? And is it worth the high price tag attached to it? Although these queries are subjective, most would agree that the depth of flavor and the smooth finish make it worth the experience. The bourbon is rich and uncompromising, offering notes of caramel, toasted oak, citrus, and spices. It’s a full-bodied testament to the belief that good things come to those who wait.
Peerless has certainly taken the path of most resistance to their first Bourbon in a century. They’ve endured challenges, defied odds, and, more importantly, refused to take shortcuts, all in the name of crafting the best possible product. The end result of this effort is a beautifully-made, artisan bourbon that stands tall amongst the giants. Indeed, they’ve shown that the path less travelled, while far more challenging, can also be decidedly more rewarding.