James E. Pepper Distillery Now and Future

The James E. Pepper Distillery or Jas. E. Pepper Distillery was one of the few distilleries in the country to survive Prohibition. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive the 50’s. The distillery that was founded in 1879 was mothballed in 1958 and for the most part the building and its contents has sat rotting for the past 50 plus years. That’s all about to change.

James E. Pepper Distillery Coming Back to Life

James Pepper Distillery Announcement - Lexington, KY
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Amir Peay, founder and owner of the Georgetown Trading Co. raising a glass. Photo courtesy of Commerce Lexington.


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The Georgetown Trading Co., steward of the James E. Pepper ‘1776’® whiskey brand, has announced plans for the renovation and rebuilding of the historic James E. Pepper Distillery, a National Historic Landmark, bringing the iconic brand back to its rightful home in Lexington, KY. The announcement includes plans for a distillery, museum and tourist destination in the historic remnants of the original James E. Pepper Distillery.

Already on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour

The Lexington Distillery District
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The original distillery and its many buildings were once the anchor tenant in an area now known as “The Lexington Distillery District.” The current rebuilding effort is no stranger to distilled craft spirits or brewing. The district is already home to Barrel House Distilling Company, makers of Devil John Moonshine and Ethereal Brewing makers of Belgian farmhouse and American craft beers. Barrel House Distilling is already on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour and Town Branch Distillery also part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is about a mile down the road.

The original distillery was founded in 1879, when the legendary Colonel James E. Pepper—in whose honor the Old Fashioned cocktail was created—built his distillery on the site, which he then operated until his death in 1906. The distillery continued to operate and was one of a handful of distilleries to provide “medicinal whiskey” during Prohibition. You can see a photo below that claims the James E. Pepper Bottled in Bond Whiskey was endorsed as “Clinically Pure by 37,814 Doctors.” The distillery continued operations until 1958, when it was shuttered.

Thorough historical research and the collection of historic materials over the years will play an important role in rebuilding the distillery and museum. Materials include detailed mechanical drawings of the old distillery, a large collection of preserved, vintage Pepper whiskey, and historic letters from Colonel Pepper.

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“Truly a momentous day for the Pepper brand”, said Amir Peay, founder and owner of the Georgetown Trading Co. “This has been a dream project for many years and we are thrilled to finally make it a reality. I would like to sincerely thank the developers and businesses in the Distillery District, and the City of Lexington, for all the passion and cooperation they have extended to work together and bring this iconic brand home. We also owe a huge thank you to Colonel James E. Pepper, for giving us such an amazing story and whiskey to share.”

“Our authentic history is distilling new jobs in the Distillery District, which has become an important area for economic growth and tourism downtown,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “Congratulations to the Georgetown Trading Company for honoring and growing the James E. Pepper brand.” Developer Teri Kelly, of Peppermill, LLC, added “Reviving the old distillery was something we were meant to do and we were happy to discover that someone still cared about the Pepper whiskey brand and had not forgotten about its great legacy. They will soon come full circle and be the newest and one of the oldest, companies to do business in the Heart of the Bluegrass.”

A grand opening for the new James E. Pepper Distillery is planned for mid-2017.

Photos of the Historic James E. Pepper Distillery Over the Years

Click on any image below to enlarge.

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