We recently announced the start of the Jackson Purchase Distillery in Hickman, Kentucky. The distillery commonly known as the Jamieson’s Distillery was built around 2008 by Memphis, Tennessee attorney Ray Jamieson. The distillery has been sitting idle for years until a group announced it was taking over the operation in 2018. It turns out they actually produced more than 100 barrels of bourbon but beyond that nothing ever happened and the facility once again sat idle.
That all changed with last week’s announcement that Jamieson had sold the entire operation to a group of Kentucky investors who planned on (re)starting the operation to produce up to 25,000 barrels of Kentucky bourbon a year.
The Jackson Purchase Distillery ownership team is made up of President and CEO Lloyd R. Jones, COO David K. Salmon and Chairman Van Carlisle. Each of the principles have a long history in manufacturing. Salmon’s expertise includes 30+ years in the whiskey business with stints at Maker’s Mark Distillery and Heaven Hill Distillery. The new operation does not plan on creating their own brands but is planning on offering distillation of bulk spirits to other people in the industry.
We had a chance to catch up with Lloyd and Salmon to get the inside story on what they have planned for their nearly $9 million investment in the distillery and surrounding property. Our discussion included the announcement that they had hired two Kentucky bourbon industry veterans to run their distillation operations including one of the most famous names in Kentucky bourbon – Beam.
“Our team consists of myself,” said Jackson Purchase Distillery CEO and President Lloyd Jones. “I have a 30 year manufacturing background, David Salmon he’s our bourbon industry guy, Van Carlisle who is the former President of Fire King Security Products LLC and Doug Voght who was the CFO there. We were a good size manufacturer of all types of security products. In the process of those 30 years we built a brand name as well as bought and sold several different companies. So, coming into this Jackson Purchase Distillery which was the Jamieson Distillery when we bought it was something we had done several times after purchasing 10 or 15 companies. After those acquisitions you kind of figure out how to go through the due diligence and go through an acquisition like this, so this wasn’t our first rodeo.
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“The distillery actually did produce 119 barrels of whiskey about two years ago (2018). This distillery was built and put together by Ray Jamieson over a long period of time. I won’t say it was a hobby business for him but he wanted to build a distillery in Kentucky to manufacture Kentucky bourbon. And this was long before the bourbon craze hit the United States marketplace. Like many projects it started out and it took him a long time to get it completed. Based on the facts that we know the distillery was actually built in 2012 but it didn’t become operational until 2018 when they produced some bourbon. And then it was closed again. We came in about a year later and took over and had an asset purchase agreement signed with Ray in October 2019. It took us a while to get it all done because of the due diligence process and Covid, Covid slowed things down dramatically. We finally got through it closed on the deal about a month ago and we are very close to getting things up and running.”
“Covid slowed our progress down by about a year,” Salmon added. “We are here now and we are just weeks away from firing up our facility.
“One of the things we learned about Ray during our due diligence was he wanted to build this distillery the right way. He wanted to make sure that all of the equipment was the best that you could get and that’s one of the things that attracted us. He built it with a 24 inch, 30 foot tall, 100% copper Vendome Copper & Brass Works column still.
“Our distillers believe the whiskey they are going to be able to make off this still will be very, very good. He built this distillery here because he wanted a distillery he could get to easily from Memphis, TN. That’s why we are located in the Southwestern corner of Kentucky. It’s as close as he could get to from Memphis but still be in Kentucky.
“Another piece of us that makes us unique is that when they drilled for the well here they hit a limestone aquifer. We will be using limestone water for our production. The other thing that’s great about this part of the state is we have some of the best corn that’s grown in Kentucky. We plan on sourcing our corn from this region of the state.
“Our plan is to expand our distillery to its maximum capacity. We have no plans at this time to have our own brands. We are planning to be a production facility for other companies and other people. Our goal is to produce great bourbon for the state. To that end we are assembling what we consider an all-star team of players.
Jackson Purchase Hires Master Distiller Craig Beam
“Our Master Distiller and Assistant Master Distiller are very well known, very experienced guys. Our Master Distiller is Craig Beam. The world knows Craig from his tenure at Heaven Hill Distillery. He’s a seventh generation distiller. His family has been the distillers at Heaven Hill since the distillery started production just after Prohibition. He’s honored us by wanting to be involved with our distillery. He’s very excited about the opportunities for him and to make great whiskey.
Craig Beam is a seventh generation distiller. Craig got started at Heaven Hill Distillery in the early 1980s while on summer break from school, he cleaned pigeon droppings in a vacant warehouse purchased by Heaven Hill. He later drove a truck for the distillery and worked in the bottling operation. By 1983 Craig became Co-master Distiller alongside his father Parker. Parker Beam had the title of master distiller emeritus at Heaven Hill at the time of this death in January 2017 from a long and courageous battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Craig left Heaven Hill around that time to help his father and during his battle with ALS.
Jackson Purchase Hires Assistant Master Distiller Terry Ballard
“In addition to Craig, we’ve brought on board as our Assistant Master Distiller Terry Ballard from Willett, the Head Distiller from Willett Distillery. Terry is another guy known in Kentucky and the US for making great whiskey and has a plethora of experience in running a distillery and making whiskey.
“Our plans right now are to make Kentucky bourbon whiskey. We will have various mash bills. We’ll have some standard mash bills and we are open to producing custom mash bills for our customers. We’ll also offer different char levels on barrels as well as barrel entry proof. And we’ll do a rye bourbon and a wheated bourbon if there is a demand for it. Ultimately, our customers will dictate that based on demand.
“We are targeting to be up and running by early July 2021.”
Hickman, Fulton County, Kentucky is located in the western most part of the state of Kentucky. It’s about a four hour drive from Louisville, four hours to St. Louis and two and half from Nashville. As of right now, Jackson Purchase Distillery is not looking to be a part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail since their main focus is not about building their own retail brands but rather to focus on the distillation and sale of bulk spirits including Kentucky bourbon, rye and possibly a wheated whiskey. Expansion plans are already under way with distillation expected to start in July.
The Western Most Point in Kentucky
Factoid: Kentucky Bend or New Madrid Bend – Did you know Kentucky has a peninsula-like piece of land that is isolated from the rest of the state? The only way to get to this 11 square miles piece of Kentucky is by driving north from Tennessee. The northern, eastern and western portions are surrounded by the Mississippi River which border Missouri. There is no bridge connecting this part of Fulton County to the rest of Kentucky. It is the western most point in the state.