After 100 Years, Distilled Spirits Once Again “Made by Ghosts”
It is easy to get wrapped up in puns about spirits this close to Halloween, but there is a new presence in Northern Kentucky harkening back to 1833. Boone County Distilling, with their tagline “Made by Ghosts – Born in 1833, Reclaimed in 2015” has taken root again within a short drive of the original Petersburg Distillery.
The reincarnation of this distilling legacy will not come close to the volume of days gone by, but instead desires to make award winning whiskey while honoring those that once made the water of life nearby. After two and a half years of planning the new facility, constructed by Toebben, is targeting five barrels a week and houses a 1,200 square foot gift shop and a 5,000 square foot operations center. The 3,300 square foot rick house has an 800 barrel holding capacity and is located 100 ft away from the other structure to accommodate building codes and fire safety. Employee count is two full-time employees and two support resources being guided by Larry Ebersold, former MGP Master Distiller and recent guide to New Riff Distilling in Newport, Ky. It was exciting to be one of the first non-associated souls to walk the property.
In contrast, the former scale of production at the old 1833 Petersburg Distillery is described below:
“By 1860, William Snyder had $50,000 in capital invested in his milling and distilling complex, which included a sizeable cooperage. That year, 80,000 bushels of wheat worth $90,000 were on hand at the mill and a staggering 300,000 bushels of corn valued at $150,000 were stored at the distillery. The mill ground 16,000 barrels of flour worth $95,000 and the distillery produced 1.125 million gallons of whiskey valued at $225,000. The complex employed more than 30 men, including 16 coopers managed by “boss cooper” William Smith. Millers, distillers and distillery hands, day laborers, and even a boiler cleaner worked for Snyder and came from as far away as France and Germany. Snyder, by now 60 years of age, listed his occupation as miller and distiller and indicated that he had real estate valued at $42,000.” ~ Matthew E. Becher, 2002
Many new entrants to the craft spirits market purchase juice from established players while their new product ages. This has been a successful approach elsewhere and the initial offering here will be, Eighteen33, a ten year old straight bourbon whiskey distilled at MGP in Indiana. Other vitals include: 90.8 proof and a mashbill of 74% corn, 21% rye and 5% malted barley. It will be distributed by Seligman as well as Bottles and Barrels a division of Kentucky Eagle and will be on shelves soon. Just under 90 barrels are currently on-site. The bottles and labels were the brainchild of Neltner’s Small Batch and printed by Steinhauser, another regional entity. A whisper in the autumn wind predicts a cask strength offering in the future and hopefully another stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
A few days ago, legal distilling in Boone County happened for the first time in over 100 years at the facility. The upstart distillery credits Vendome for its prudent guidance in operations, equipment and process design. The floor area dedicated to distilling operations is compact, but complete and includes a grain mill, cooker, four fermentation tanks, pot still, and piping to remove the spent grain. Talks are underway with local farmers to use the spent grain for animal feed.
New, heavy charred barrels from Kelvin Cooperage and Independent Stave are also on-site awaiting the new distillate. The bottling machinery is similar to what Angel’s Envy started with – I hope craft, hard work and fate offers them a similar reward. For me, I am glad more bourbon is being made in Kentucky, offering fans another option and employing more folks while building up Kentucky and honoring its rich bourbon history!
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Here are several photo’s from our exclusive Boone County Distilling tour!