I remember my initial impression of Peerless Distilling. Immediately my mind flashed to the countless brands that we’ve seen created in the last five years in the whiskey world – some of them with flat out fictitious stories of the first person to distill “fill in the blank” or only distillery to “fill in the blank.” As soon as I met Caleb Kilburn, the master distiller – that all changed. Within a few minutes, I could tell that if the brand was half as authentic as this guy was, they were going to be putting out some great stuff. We hope you enjoy!
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits
Peerless Straight Rye – Aged 2 years in New American Oak | 53.7% ABV Distilled & bottled by Kentucky Peerless Distilling, Louisville, KY DSP-KY-50
The story of Peerless whiskey dates all the way back to 1889 in Henderson, Kentucky when Henry Kraver bought the E.W. Worsham Distilling Company. Sales to other markets like Chicago and St. Louis continued to grow over the next decade while he was operating as the Worsham Distilling Company, until 1907 when he incorporated it into The Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company. By 1913 the company employed almost 50 workers and was cranking out 10,000 barrels. All the while Kraver continued investing in businesses in Henderson, including the Henderson Brewing Company and later a bank and a theater. Production continued to ramp up when in 1917 they were up to nearly 23,000 barrels a year with upwards of 60,000 in warehouse. It was during this time that production at home was turned towards supporting the war efforts abroad, so the conservation of corn became vital. The final nail in the coffin was the passing of the 18th Amendment, which ushered in prohibition and for the first time since 1881, the distillery sat silent.
Despite not being granted a producers license during Prohibition, the bonded warehouses were still used for whiskey storage, and for a period of time were available by prescription only. Kraver passed away in 1938 and the brand fell silent with him until his grandson Corky Taylor and his son Carson Taylor resurrected the name and brand in 2014. Construction began shortly after in a 115-year-old building in downtown Louisville and was completed just a year later. Peerless Distillery was able to obtain the original DSP-KY-50 license from the original distillery in Henderson. They released their first Rye whiskey to the public in May of last year.
Whiskey is distilled from a mash of roughly 61% rye, 31% corn and 8% barley on a 26-foot tall Vendome column still. A very important difference in their spirit is the use of sweet mash fermentation as supposed to sour mash. Spirit rolls off at about 132-proof before being watered down to 107-proof prior to barreling. Each bottle is a result of micro-batching where only six barrels are blended to create a batch, much less than the standard ‘small batch’ whiskey, which can contain 20, 50, 150 plus barrel batched in together. The barrels are aged in warehouses that can reach temperatures upwards of 110 degrees making aging in wood a faster process.
Kentucky Peerless Rye pours into the glass a beautiful burnished autumn orange, much darker than you’d expect from just a two year old whiskey. Immediately upon sniffing you can tell this is rye whiskey, as the aromas of spice, orange rind and a subtle floral note are evident. First initial sips show off the youthfulness with bright zesty spice notes with a bitter chocolate finish. The finish is long and smooth, especially given the proof. The addition of a little time and air brings out the savory notes of this whiskey while just a few drops of water will really bring out a rich buttery vanilla flavor that would make a great structure for an old fashioned cocktail. What is really remarkable to me is that while this is a youthful whiskey it much more mature for its age. If it tastes this good at two years old, imagine what it will taste like in six or ten!