I'm not a bourbon drinker; however, when you visit a friend in Bourbon country... when in Rome. A couple of weeks ago, I visited the oldest working bourbon distillery in the United States, Woodford Reserve, a National Historic Landmark.
Woodford traces traces its origins to 1797 when Elijah Pepper began distilling in Woodford County. After Elijah Pepper's passing in 1825, his son Oscar Pepper took over the farm and distilling. Oscar Pepper and Scotsman James Crow in the 1830s revolutionized the bourbon industry by using scientific and hygienic practices and writing down their processes, said Chris Morris, present day master distiller at Woodford Reserve. He hired James Christopher Crow to be his distiller, and Crow worked most of his life in that stone building," Morris said.
"Historians credit Pepper and Crow with pretty much defining bourbon as we know it today. They have no claims on any inventions — they did not invent the sour mash process but they perfected it. They did not invent charring and using new barrels but they perfected it. ... And the most important thing they did was they wrote this down. ... We owe those two gentlemen a lot." "He built our current distillery between 1838 and 1840." Elijah Pepper's son, Oscar, and Scotsman James Crow in the 1830s revolutionized the bourbon industry by using scientific and hygienic practices and writing down their processes, said Chris Morris, present day master distiller at Woodford Reserve.
Stone buildings built from 1838 are still used today by Woodford Reserve, along with post-Prohibition warehouses.
As we moved from building to building following the whiskey process, the sweet and woody aroma singed my senses. Upon entering the barrel room, we were swallowed up by the thick smell of whiskey aging, for eight years to be exact. This place is steeped in history with buildings dating back to the late 18th century and the whiskey process continues on unchanged since its inception. Thankfully the creators of Woodford realized the importance of celebrating and utilizing the heritage of the Peppers' original distillery and created a truly memorable experience. Cheers!
P.S. The bourbon balls are the bomb.
Woodford Reserve is just one of many on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail but if you love whiskey and or history this is a great way to spend an afternoon. Check out the full trail here: http://kybourbontrail.com/
Lexington Herald Ledger