64 acres just off of Kentucky Interstate 64 leads to the construction site of one of Kentucky’s newest distilleries, Jeptha Creed Distillery. The Jeptha Creed Distillery startup story is like many other craft spirits distillery startup stories with one exception, this new distillery operation is run by Joyce and Autumn Nethery, a dynamic mother-daughter duo.
They broke ground on the 15,000 square foot distillery on 64 acres in November 2015. They chose this location because it was right off the interstate, has natural gas, three phase electric and sewer access. The property also has two creeks. Joyce tested the water and found it to be limestone rich and iron free, perfect for Bourbon. Not to mention its on the way to several other distilleries that are already on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The family actually owns about 1,000 acres around Shelby County so they have plenty of room for expansion.
Wet, Dry or Moist?
Another reason they ended up at this location is the fact that of the 120 counties in Kentucky, only 36 are totally wet. Some are dry, some are wet and some are moist. Seriously, in the state that is home to the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” of 120 counties 36 are wet, 31 are dry, and 53 are moist. What’s moist? Moist means one or more cities inside the county have voted to allow alcohol sales, alcohol may be sold at restaurants, golf courses or historic sites or the operation of a winery. Even at this location, it started out dry but was annexed into the city of Shelbyville to allow them to serve samples of the bourbon, moonshine and vodka products they will soon be crafting.
Jeptha Creed Distillery Craft Spirits Label Design
Stay Informed: Sign up here for the Distillery Trail free email newsletter and be the first to get all the latest news, trends, job listings and events in your inbox.
Why a Distillery?
Joyce says, “Our story begins with the fact that we love our family history and heritage and wanted to build a legacy for our children. We wanted them to have a business they could grow and make a living from. Since both my husband and I were born and bred in Kentucky, we knew nothing could be better than a distillery that produced bourbon.”
Joyce is no stranger to distillation. She has two degrees in chemical engineering and worked many years at Rohm & Haas as a process engineer in an industrial‐scale distillation process operating a 6′ diameter, 6 story tall still. And daughter Autumn recently spent an entire year in Edinburgh, Scotland studying Brewing and Distilling at Heriot‐Watt University.
You Say Corn, I Say Corn, Joyce says, “Heirloom – Bloody Butcher Corn”
One thing you’ll find with most grain to glass craft spirits startups is transparency and authenticity. They have a story that makes them unique and they want to share it to help market their products. Jeptha Creed Distillery is no different. Their “secret sauce” is their use of an old artisanal corn. Yes, it’s non-GMO corn but lots of distilleries can claim non-GMO corn. In this case they are using an heirloom corn that dates back to 1845.
Why Bloody Butcher Corn?
Joyce tells the story like this. “For quite some time, I’d been on the search for an old‐fashioned‐tasting tomato, the kind of tomato I remember eating straight off the vine in my mother’s garden. Juicy and delectable. The tomatoes at the grocery store tasted like wet cardboard, so I made up my mind to try my hand at growing my own. The Hybrid variety looked perfect and red in my garden, but barely tasted better than the grocery store tomatoes. Then I tried planting Heirloom tomatoes. They grew all over the place and came out white, pink, yellow, and striped. However, one taste was all I needed to realize I’d discovered the old‐fashioned tomato flavor I’d been searching for for years!
Pretty soon I had expanded my garden to include all kinds of produce: squash, beans, cucumber, watermelon, Heirloom corn, and all of them tasted so much better than the sludge I had been buying at the grocery. My particular favorite was the Heirloom corn, a red variety called Bloody Butcher. It made delicious cornbread, which gave me another idea… maybe this corn could make delicious bourbon as well. A unique Heirloom corn with old‐fashioned flavor.
Could this Bloody Butcher Corn Make a Tasty Bourbon?
Joyce says the final link in the story was figuring out if this beautiful, red, delicious corn could actually make good bourbon. So they decided to test it. “We took some of our harvest to a craft distillery to produce a small amount of bourbon for us to test out. The Bloody Butcher changed color in the cooker but fermented beautifully. One taste of the amazing product that came off the still was all I needed. A corn that can be made into great tasting bourbon.” A distillery was born!
The test went so well that they ended up expanding their product line before they ever started. They had planned on creating one bourbon but, after their initial distillation with different grain combinations, they went from one to three bourbons.
“When we started out, we were going to have just one (bourbon.) And we kind of had this argument going on in the family. I like the high wheat and my husband likes the high rye and we did some experimentation with the bloody butcher corn, actually distilling it to make sure it would make good bourbon. And we did a high rye and a high wheat version. I just loved the wheat when it came off the still, it was so good and smooth, and then the rye came off and all of the guys just went gaga over it and then we decided we would have both.”
The plan right now is to launch with three bourbons, three moonshines and three vodkas.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Available 2018)
- A high wheat bourbon
- A high rye bourbon
- A four grain bourbon – adding Barley
- Jeptha Creed Blackberry Moonshine
- Jeptha Creed Apple Pie Moonshine
- Jeptha Creed Louisville Lemonade
- Jeptha Creed Blueberry Vodka
- Jeptha Creed Apple Cider Vodka
- Jeptha Creed Honey Vodka
Construction on the Jeptha Creed Distillery project is moving along. The distillery is expected to be in operation the summer of 2016 with the distillery opening for tours in the fall of the year.
Jeptha Creed Distillery Construction Photos
(Click any image to enlarge.)
Have your own startup story to share? Email us at Info@DistilleryTrail.com for consideration.