James E. Pepper Distillery - Groundbreaking for New Barrel Warehouse in Midway, Woodford County, Kentucky

James E. Pepper Distillery owner Amir Peay kicked off the rickhouse groundbreaking ceremony with a quick statement to get everyone’s attention.

“I promise we will keep this short and at the end there will be whiskey!”

Amir Peay, Owner James E. Pepper Distillery

Now, that’s the way to get people’s attention, especially when the sun is blaring down on a hot and humid Kentucky morning.

This historic James E. Pepper Distillery is one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Kentucky. The original distillery site is now operated as the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Woodford County, Kentucky. The brand left Woodford County for downtown Lexington until it closed in 1958. The distillery sat vacant and unchanged until Peay decided to rebuild the historic distillery back in 2016.

In December of 2017 the distillery once again opened its doors and began distilling its own bourbon and rye whiskies for the first time 59 years. That was four years ago and now, James E. Pepper Distillery barrels are spread out among three locations around the state but that is about to change.

James E. Pepper Distillery Breaks Ground on $3 Million Barrel Warehouse Project

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Peay and team along with many dignitaries including Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking.  

The James E. Pepper Distillery acquired a seven acre piece of land just outside of Lexington in Midway, Woodford County, Kentucky to build its first barrel warehouse. You could say it’s a homecoming of sorts to once again be aging James E. Pepper whiskey in Woodford County. The new rickhouse and propery represents a $3 million investment by the distillery. The new barrel warehouse will be nearly 18,000 square feet and have room for up to 11,000 barrels of bourbon and rye whiskey. There’s also room for expansion to add a second warehouse on the property.

“We can’t bottle our whiskey fast enough,” said company owner Amir Peay. “By building our own warehouse, James E. Pepper can double production capacity at the historic distillery. We’re proud of the success we’ve experienced in revitalizing this iconic American brand, and we will have some exciting releases coming out in the near future.”

Their plan is to add a second shift which will allow them to double capacity.

Kentucky Governor Celebrates Pepper Warehouse Groundbreaking

“Today’s announcement is more proof that Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry is thriving,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Congratulations to James E. Pepper and their project team as they start construction on a new warehouse to meet rising demand for its award-winning spirits.”

“Woodford County is the bourbon capital of the world, and we give our heartiest welcome to another world-class bourbon distiller in James E. Pepper Distilling Company,” said Woodford County Judge/Executive James Kay. “No place compares to Woodford County’s support for the jobs and opportunity created by the best crafted bourbon, and we are proud to welcome and support James E. Pepper and its wonderful family of employees to our community.”

On a side note, the folks in Bardstown, Kentucky may have a differing view on where exactly the Bourbon Capital of the World is but I suppose that’s a different story (hehe).

“It’s a truly wonderful day in our city as we welcome another thriving business,” said Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. “With our rich distilling history, the renowned James E. Pepper company makes a perfect pour with us here in Midway, Kentucky.”

The warehouse was designed by Joseph & Joseph + Bravura Architects along with Poage Engineers & Associates and Carman Civil Engineering. The Bristol Group, Inc. will be serving as the project’s general contractor. Truist Bank will provide financing for the project. Construction on the steel rickhouse is expected to be complete by spring 2021.

“Bristol Group is proud to bring our 25 years of industrial construction experience to James E. Pepper, a company with its own storied history,” said James Croley, Vice President – Business Development and Design for Bristol Group. “We look forward to delivering this bourbon barrel warehouse on time and on budget for James E. Pepper.”

“We’re extremely proud and thankful for James. E. Pepper’s continued investment in Kentucky,” said Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. “Amir and his team have done an incredible job growing their distilling operations and reviving this historic brand. Amir is one of Kentucky’s finest global bourbon ambassadors, and we congratulate him and James E. Pepper on their success.”

Whiskey entrepreneur Amir Peay relaunched the James E. Pepper brand in 2008. Peay embarked on a decade-long campaign of research and collecting historical materials to retell the lost story of this American whiskey brand and to distill new stocks of “Pepper” whiskey. To initiate the relaunch of the brand the Peay partnered with the Lawrenceburg (MGP) Distillery in Indiana and the Bardstown Bourbon Co. in Kentucky.

Even throughout 2020s global pandemic the James E. Pepper Distillery experienced significant growth with sales up 45% and year-to-date sales trending on a similar course. Click the image below to enlarge.

Learn more about James Pepper Distillery.
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