Like most distilleries across the country, Prohibition was the death nail for Distilled Spirits Plant No. 50 (DSP-KY-50). Originally founded in the early 1880s in Henderson, Kentucky, what was to become the Kentucky Peerless Distillery Co. was making 200 barrels a day in its heyday in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, the distillery didn’t survive this country’s 13 year dry spell and the distillery was dismantled never to reopen at that location again. But, that all changed in 2015 when Henry Kraver’s fourth generation great-grandson, Corky Taylor and his son, Carson Taylor reopened the distillery as Kentucky Peerless Distilling in downtown Louisville, Kentucky along Whiskey Row.
When the Taylors started their journey of building a distillery they knew they needed to hire a distiller. They turned to many industry professionals looking to find the right talent that would fit in to help restart the family business.
“When the Taylors asked me if I knew anyone they could hire to help oversee the distillery construction, and possibly be their distiller, Caleb (Kilburn) was the first person who came to mind,” said Rob Sherman – Vice President Vendome Copper & Brass Works. “I had just met Caleb at a distilling class, and it was easy to see he was very bright, very interested, and motivated to get into the distilling industry. Not to mention very likable, and had a great attitude.”
Kilburn’s early success in the industry has been accredited to his interest and skill in the craft of making whiskey. Randy Allender, former mentor to Caleb and current instructor at Moonshine University, would agree. Allender said, “It’s not often I see someone that has dedicated their life to a craft the way Caleb has taken to distilling. He is deserving of the title of ‘Master Distiller’ and will serve as a great example to others that may follow him into the industry.”
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Corky and Carson Taylor eventually hired Caleb Kilburn, a young, energetic, hard working man that knew the meaning of hard work. Kilburn was raised in Salt Lick, Kentucky on his family’s dairy farm. These years taught him the meaning of hard work and endowed him with an impressive array of mechanical skills, which would prove invaluable when he was called to help restore Kentucky Peerless Distilling.
“Dairy farming isn’t a 40-hour a week job; it is a way of life and you had better love it,” said Kilburn. “There are no sick days, no vacations or days off. It is a full day of work every day of the year, and that really defined work ethic for me. I was always raised to do my absolute best at whatever I did and to take a real passion in it.”
Despite his uncanny intellect and rise in the craft spirits’ world, Caleb remains modest regarding his accomplishments. Caleb never considered himself a master distiller. On March 4, 2015, Caleb distilled Peerless’s first barrel of whiskey in 98 years, which legitimized his position in a moment that he claims to be a dream come true. In the fall of 2017, this dream continued as Peerless’s Kentucky Straight Rye earned industry-wide respect when it was named the No. 15 whiskey in the world by Whisky Advocate at just two years old.
Caleb Kilburn Earns Title of Master Distiller
After years of refusing the title master distiller, Kilburn has accepted the title from Peerless Chairman Corky Taylor. Kilburn never hesitated to correct someone who called him a master distiller, as that was a title reserved for his heroes and his mentors. Kilburn wanted to earn the title after making his mark on the distilling industry.
I am so proud to announce that Caleb Kilburn, our head distiller, has earned the distinction of Master Distiller.
~Corky Taylor, CEO & 4th Generation Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.
If you are in Louisville visiting the trail head for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail at the Frazier History Museum, make sure you make the short walk just a few hundred feet away to Kentucky Peerless Distilling and take the tour to meet Master Distiller Caleb Kilburn in person, you’ll be glad you did.