May 28, 2024


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Historic distillery anchors Lexington, Kentucky’s newest destination


The James E. Pepper Distillery  in Lexington, Kentucky, can trace its family roots all the way back to 1780.

The James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington, Kentucky, can trace its loved ones roots all the way back to 1780.

LEXINGTON, KY —  Whilst regarded a lot more, potentially, for basketball and horses, Kentucky’s next-largest city also has a rich history of bourbon. And 1 of Lexington’s most recent enjoyment places was when one particular of the most popular and effective distilleries in the complete Bluegrass Condition.

The 25-acre Distillery District, as it is called nowadays, is positioned a little more than a mile exterior downtown Lexington at the once and existing web-site of the James E. Pepper Distillery about a three-hour generate from Columbus. The distillery had been deserted for 50 years before the brand was resurrected, albeit in a a lot more modest form.

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The existing iteration of James E. Pepper normally takes up just element of the footprint of the previous distillery, the major in the place soon after its development in 1879. Occupying the stability of the aged distillery and its auxiliary properties are a amount of other businesses that make the Distillery District a location wherever a visitor can very easily pack an entire working day full of foods, libations, entertainment and much more. Renovation of the district started in 2008, but the new Pepper distillery only started creation in late 2017.

More than 50 years after shutting down, the James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington's Distillery District is open to visitors.

Far more than 50 yrs immediately after shutting down, the James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington’s Distillery District is open to site visitors.

A lesson in bourbon, much more

Visitors who just take the distillery tour will listen to the fascinating tale of James E. Pepper, who went bust in the bourbon business enterprise twice, once before setting up his grand Lexington distillery and once after. The second time, he was bailed out by his equally intriguing spouse, Ella, who made a fortune breeding and racing thoroughbred horses.

A promoter and flamboyant showman, James Pepper was also liable for pushing reforms that aided improve and assure the good quality of retail whiskey all through the field. He’s also credited with introducing the Aged Fashioned cocktail to the entire world — not a lousy way to be remembered.

Pepper died in an incident in 1906, and the primary distillery burned in 1933. The distillery was rebuilt the pursuing yr, but ceased output in 1967.

The internet site and brand ended up abandoned for fifty percent a century, only to be reclaimed by entrepreneur Amir Peay, a previous bartender who acquired hooked on the background of Pepper whiskey and then obtained initial the manufacturer, and later on the aged distillery alone.

Tours also consist of a tasting of the distillery’s merchandise, including Outdated Pepper Rye and Bourbon.

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Ice-cream fans should be sure to stop at the Distillery District's Crank & Boom, a craft ice-cream lounge.

Ice-cream supporters need to be sure to cease at the Distillery District’s Crank & Growth, a craft ice-cream lounge.

Distillery District also features dining

Town Branch Creek, which, soon after a long time of neglect, has also been cleaned up, operates specifically behind the Distillery District and provides a delightful backdrop for al fresco dining or consuming at various district places, which includes Goodfellas Pizzeria, which also occupies element of the previous distillery.

If your taste operates additional towards ice cream than bourbon — or if, like me, you are deeply invested in both — you completely cannot overlook Crank & Growth Ice Cream Lounge, which grew from the seriously fantastic ice product developed at a Lexington Thai restaurant.

Craft beer and cider admirers will also locate lots to have interaction their palates. Ethereal Brewing, which is also positioned in part of the aged distillery making, options common craft beers this sort of as IPAs and witbiers and some fascinating experimental suds as very well, and has a very patio alongside the creek.

Fusion Brewing and Wise Chook Cider Co. are every located in a previous rickhouse the place bourbon was once stored for growing old. Also in the previous rickhouse is the Rickhouse Pub, gourmand coffee store Brevede Coffee Co. and Relic, a funky retailer showcasing classic, rustic and reclaimed googaws.

Entertainment venue The Burl is next door to the old Pepper distillery.

Enjoyment venue The Burl is next door to the old Pepper distillery.

One more tavern, The Crack Space, is positioned, of study course, in a making once utilized as the distillery’s crack place, also now with creek-aspect seating.

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Amusement venue nearby

Throughout Previous Frankfort Pike from the distillery proper is The Burl, an indoor/out of doors leisure location in and close to a former coach depot developed in 1926. The Burl textbooks a wide wide variety of functions — on my most latest check out I noticed a functionality by legendary East LA rock and roots band Los Lobos.

Up coming doorway is the Burl Arcade, with pinball and throwback 1980s arcade game titles and a full-provider bar of its very own.

Visitors to the Distillery District can also tour craft distiller Barrel House Distilling, located in the Pepper distillery's old barrel house.

Guests to the Distillery District can also tour craft distiller Barrel Household Distilling, located in the Pepper distillery’s aged barrel home.

But wait — The Distillery District has even far more bourbon! (In Kentucky, there is usually additional bourbon.)

Barrel Residence Distilling is located, as you may guess, in the Pepper distillery’s previous barrel property. The craft distiller shares the barrel home with Elkhorn Tavern, which features craft cocktails featuring Barrel Dwelling spirits as very well as fantastic community tavern fare this kind of as burgoo, a vintage Kentucky-fashion stew designed with beef, rabbit and elk.

What, you did not think a great Kentucky burgoo would depart out the elk, did you?

Steve Stephens is a freelance vacation writer and photographer. Email him at [email protected].

This short article initially appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Kentucky’s James E. Pepper Distillery now an entertainment hub


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