Peerless Takes the Road Less Traveled: Crafting their First Bourbon in a Century

Peerless Takes the Road Less Traveled: Crafting their First Bourbon in a Century

A Leap of Faith in the Midst of a Market Flooded with Spirits

It’s been just over a century since the Peerless distillery in Kentucky shuttered its doors. For those not familiar with the brand, Peerless was once among the top bourbon producers in America. Its story began in the late 1880s and the company continued production until just before Prohibition. Now, after a seeming eternity away from the bourbon game, Peerless has made a dramatic triumphant return – renowned for its commitment to quality above all else.

The Revival of Peerless: A Labor of Love

The Peerless name lay dormant for nearly 100 years until the brand was revived by Corky Taylor in 2014, the great-grandson of the distillery’s founder. Occupying an imposing redbrick building in Louisville, the resurrected Peerless started distilling rye, with a firm resolve to start from scratch, and do it right, no matter how much time and effort was required.

Against All Business Sense

Instead of sourcing whiskey and branding it under their name like many startup distilleries, Peerless was committed to producing their bourbon in-house. This decision was costly – both in terms of time and money – but nothing worth doing ever comes easy. This decision against the grain showcases the uncompromising ethos of the distillery.

From Rye to Bourbon: A Journey Through Time

Before diving into their roots in bourbon, Peerless took a significant leap of faith by introducing a Craft Rye Whiskey. It took four years to mature their first craft bourbon and that patience definitely paid off, as they quickly garnered recognition in the industry. However, the goal was always to return to their bourbon roots and in 2019, the distillery revealed its first bourbon – precisely 102 years since the family last distilled bourbon in Kentucky. Remarkably, this bourbon had been aged for a total of four years – an eternity in craft distilling terms.

The Peerless Sweet Mash Method

What sets Peerless apart can partly be found in their distinct commitment to the sweet mash method. Instead of the sour mash methods employed by most distilleries, where a portion of the spent mash (the leftover grains after the first round of distillation) is used in the new mash to ensure consistency, Peerless uses a sweet mash method, which means every drop distilled is from a fresh batch. This approach is risky and labor-intensive – it trumps the reprieve of easy repeatability – but Peerless is devoted to its ethos of ‘be the best, not the biggest’.

Faith in Their Process: Quality over Quantity

Sweet mash production yields a cleaner, fruitier, and richer product, but its production isn’t easy. It’s a volatile method prone to bacterial infections which may spoil the whole batch. Despite the challenges, Peerless embraced this difficult path, confidently prioritizing quality over quantity.

A Steep Learning Curve

It’s not just producing the bourbon; it’s also about barrel selection and perfecting their singular bottling process. Every step of the bourbon-making journey at Peerless was a steep learning process, from grain selection to mashing, fermentation, distillation, maturation, and bottling. Despite the obstacles, they took it upon themselves to ensure that every step met their high standards.

Conclusion: The Peerless Endeavor

Corky Taylor and his team seem to relish the idea of defying conventional wisdom to create something truly remarkable. They took the road less traveled and their commitment to doing things the hard way – the right way – is thoroughly apparent in their products. Their success offers encouraging validation that, in a market often dominated by mass production and corner-cutting, there remains a place for those who prioritize quality and tradition over profits. Peerless indeed took the path of most resistance to their first bourbon in a century, but the results have unequivocally proven that it was a worthwhile journey.

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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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