Peerless Defies the Odds, Crafting a Century-Inspired Bourbon through Extraordinary Challenges

Peerless Defies the Odds, Crafting a Century-Inspired Bourbon through Extraordinary Challenges

The Journey into History

Think about the last time you enjoyed a glass of bourbon. The complex, rich flavors dancing on your tongue. The satisfying warmth that fills you with each sip. Now, imagine that experience elevated to phenomenal heights. This is what Peerless Distilling Co. aimed to achieve when they decided to revive their bourbon production after a century’s-long hiatus. How did they manage that? Here’s the intriguing story.

The Origins of Peerless

Peerless enjoys a rich history that dates back to 1881 when it was founded by Colonel Henry Kraver. Peerless made significant inroads in the whiskey industry, and by 1910, the distillery was producing over 10,000 barrels of bourbon every year. But then in 1917, Prohibition loomed, and the distillery ceased production, marking a dry spell that would last for almost a century.

Rebirth and Resilience

The thought of reviving Peerless distilled whiskey was not conceived until 2014 when fourth generation Kraver, Corky Taylor, and his son Carson decided to resurrect their forefather’s legacy. The duo knew that this wouldn’t be an easy task. They had the formidable challenge of crafting bourbon that honors their legacy while keeping pace with the discerning palates of the 21st-century consumer.

The Unconventional Route to Bourbon Making

Most would imagine that Peerless might take a commercial path to re-introduce their bourbon. Fast track the aging process maybe, or purchase some sourced whiskey, slap their name on it and put it out on the shelves. They didn’t. Instead, Peerless invested in a long, intricate process, keen on ensuring they brought nothing but the finest bourbon back to life.

Sweet Mash Process

Peerless decided to run with the sweet mash process instead of the widely used sour mash. Sour mash involves incorporating some spent mash (already fermented mash) into the new mash to control bacterial growth and maintain consistency. Sweet mash, on the other hand, is all fresh ingredients – a more risky and costly process as it renders the mash prone to bacterial infections. However, the sweet mash process results in a robust flavor profile which was an acceptable risk to Peerless in pursuit of their exceptional bourbon.

Non-Chill Filtration and Barrel Proof

The team at Peerless also chose non-chill filtration, a decision that proposes a distinct trade-off. Chill filtering removes residual impurities and fatty acids, making the bourbon crystal clear, even when chilled. The process, however, inevitably strips away some flavors. By choosing non-chill filtration, Peerless preserved every bit of the bourbon’s rich complexity, albeit at the risk of slight hazing when cold.

In addition, Peerless released their bourbon at barrel proof, meaning no water was added post-barrel to bring down the proof or alcohol by volume (ABV). Every bottle retains its unique profile dependent on the evaporation of water and alcohol throughout the aging process in the barrel. This method ensures the bourbon is unaltered, straight from the barrel to your glass, but it also creates varying proofs from bottle to bottle.

Aging and Logistics

Housing the barrels was another challenge Peerless gracefully overcame. They racked their barrels in a single, 24-barrel tier. This unique style of racking barrels allows for better air circulation and a more consistent temperature, hence a more controlled maturation. The downside? It demands a lot of warehouse space. But it’s a price Peerless was willing to pay to make sure their bourbon was flawless.

The Opulence of Time: Peerless Bourbon

After so many intentional, meticulously calculated decisions and five years of patience, Peerless released its first batch of bourbon in over a century in June 2019. The response was overwhelming. Peerless bourbon was met with exultant delight from bourbon enthusiasts who reveled in its delectably rich flavors and applauded Peerless’s unerring dedication to quality, despite the challenges and time invested.

The journey of Peerless is a testament to the ethos of ‘quality over quantity.’ Instead of taking shortcuts or the easy way out, Peerless chose the harder roads. The result? A bourbon that announces its presence in every sip, a celebration of a storied legacy, and proof indeed that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

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Written by Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis has been writing about spirits for over 10 years. He is a frequent speaker at whiskey festivals and events around the country and has been a judge at several international spirit competitions. He is passionate about educating people about the history and culture of whiskey and bourbon and loves to share his knowledge with others.

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