Relaunching Kentucky Peerless Distilling
Rebirthing an enterprise that had been dormant for over a century, one that had once stood among the giants of the whiskey industry, was never going to be easy. The challenge is even more significant when that enterprise is a bourbon distillery. That was the road taken by Kentuckian Corky Taylor and his son, Carson, when they decided to relaunch Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., more than 100 years after it had closed its doors.
But the Taylors weren’t content to take shortcuts. Despite the hard path they had chosen, they wanted to take the most arduous route possible. They even chose not to use the minimum aging requirements for bourbon, instead, decided to let the bourbon mature naturally and take as much time as it needed.
Taking the Hard Path
Several shortcuts could have made the journey much more comfortable for Kentucky Peerless. As with any whiskey product, cost reduction and faster production times are tempting routes to profitability.
For instance, they could have sourced their whiskey. This is a route taken by many burgeoning distilleries, where they buy whiskey from other distilleries and bottle it under their own label. This way, they can get a product to market much quicker. But, the Taylors eschewed this path, choosing instead to create their whiskey, grain to glass.
Peerless Bourbon – Grain to Glass
Practicing a grain-to-glass philosophy meant the entire bourbon production, from milling the grain to distilling, aging, and bottling, happening under the exacting supervision of the Peerless team. Not only does this assure quality, but it also helps maintain the rich authenticity associated with the brand’s storied past.
Another avenue that Peerless bypassed was the use of technology at the expense of time-honored artisan techniques. Modern distilleries frequently employ advanced technology to control the consistency and taste profile of the batches. Instead, Peerless continued using traditional distillation techniques, which demand more of the head distiller’s expertise, thereby ensuring the bourbon’s unique identity.
Focusing on Quality Over Quantity
Kentucky Peerless also opted against mass producing bourbon, focusing instead on small batches. This approach allows for more meticulous quality control and a closer relationship with each batch produced. The intention behind this move was clear – they were producing not just bourbon, but truly high-quality bourbon.
After all, the purpose of the renaissance was to pay homage to Henry Kraver, Corky’s great-grandfather, who had initially built the Peerless legacy. He had made the distillery one of the top whiskey producers in Kentucky in the early 1900s. As a tribute to him, and to protect the name he had worked so hard to build, the Taylors knew they had to do things the right way, even if it meant taking the harder path.
The First Bourbon in a Century
Finally, in 2019, Kentucky Peerless released its first bourbon in 102 years. Despite the anticipation, they refused to rush the aging process. Their Sweet Mash Reunion bourbon, aged for more than four years, quickly made waves in the industry. Before long, it was found on ‘best of the year lists, proving that their commitment to tradition and quality had indeed paid off.
Despite the pressure to cut corners and speed up profitability, the Taylors of Kentucky Peerless insisted on adhering to traditional techniques and patiently waiting for their bourbon to mature naturally. This adherence to quality over quantity, and process over product, results in a bourbon that stands out for its superior quality. Their story is a testament to the value of resilience and determination in the face of hardship and a reminder that some things are worth waiting for.