Straight Bourbon: Distilling the Industry’s Heritage

“Bourbon is a legacy of blue grass, water and Kentucky limestone,” Carol Peachee tells me when I ask what makes Kentucky bourbon so prized.

Limestone? Water? Bluegrass? What’s that have to do with fine bourbon?

Turns out it’s quite simple. According to Peachee, the limestone filters the iron out of the water as it flows through the rock, producing a sweet-tasting mineral water perfect for making the greatest tasting liquor. Limestone, with its heavy calcium deposits, also is credited with the lush blue grass the state’s prize-winning horses gaze upon — making their bones strong.

It’s been a long time since I took geology in college, but I do like the taste of good bourbon and the sight of stately horses grazing in beautiful pastures and the more I can learn about it all, the better. Which is why I love Peachee’s entrancing photographs.

Carol Peachee

I first met Peachee, an award-winning professional photographer, when she was autographing copies of her latest book, Straight Bourbon: Distilling the Industry’s Heritage (Indiana University Press 2017; $28). Creating beauty as well as a sense of yearning, her books, including The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries, take us on a wanderlust journey of lost distilleries and those now re-emerging from the wreckage of Prohibition. At one time, Kentucky had over two hundred commercial distilleries, but only sixty-one reopened after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Now, as Kentucky bourbon becomes a driving force throughout the world, once barely remembered and long closed distilleries are being restored and revamped and are opening again for business.

Using a photographic technique known as high-dynamic-range imaging ― a process that produces rich saturation, intensely clarified details, and a full spectrum of light ― Peachee hauntingly showcases the vibrancy still lingering in artifacts such as antique tools, worn cypress fermenting tubs, ornate copper stills some turning slightly green with oxidation and age, gears and levers —things we would never typically think of as lovely and compelling.

Traveling with the Book

Keeping copies of her books in my car when I travel to Kentucky, I love visiting some of the places and sites she’s photographed.

Her passion for bourbon may also have come about, in part, because she lives in Lexington, Kentucky which is rich in the history of bourbon making (and, we should say, sipping).

To get a taste of how bourbon connects to the land, when in Lexington, Peachee suggests a stop at the Barrel House Distilling Co. including the Elkhorn Tavern located in the old James B. Pepper barrel plant. It’s part of Lexington’s happening Distillery District. But fine bourbon doesn’t just stop in Lexington.

“There are so many bourbon distilleries now,” she says, noting that the heritage of good bourbon making is more than the equipment and the water.

“The cultural heritage of distilling also lays in the human culture,” she writes in the Acknowledgements section of her latest book, “the people who learned the crafts of milling, copper welding and design, barrel making and warehouse construction and then passed them on through the generations down to today’s workers and owners.”

And now Peachee has passed them down to us so we can fully appreciate the art of distilling

Town Branch Bourbon Bramble

  • 2oz Bourbon
  • 3/4oz Fresh squeeze lemons
  • 3/4oz Simple syrup
  • 5 Fresh blackberries muddled

Shake with ice, strain and pour over fresh ice in rock glass with blackberry garnish.

Town Branch Bourbon Mint Julep

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 8 mint leaves
  • 1/4oz simple syrup
  • Dash of bitters

Muddle ingredients.

Add crushed ice with mint garnish and straw.

The above recipes are courtesy of the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company.

14th Annual TASTE AWARDS: Call for Submissions

With the tagline “Honoring the Best There Is,” The TASTE AWARDS are the premier awards celebrating the year’s best in Food, Fashion, Health, Travel, and Lifestyle programs in Film, Television, Online & Streaming Video, Podcasts, Radio and Photography.

New Award Added for Tik Tok Videos

14th Annual TASTE AWARDS Committee adds Special Awards Category for TikTok Videos

In recognition of the growing influence and reach of TikTok content and creators, the Awards Committee has announced a new special awards category this year specifically for videos that are on TikTok.

The category for Best TikTok Video is for content that specifically appears on TikTok, for topics including food, drink, fashion, travel, health or lifestyle.

More at www.TheTasteAwards.com

Submission Deadline

Regular Submissions for the 14th Annual Awards are open through September 6th for content first released between October 2021 and October 2022.

Annual Awards

The Annual Awards have included appearances by stars, celebrities, producers and executives from networks and platforms such as the Food Network, the Style Network, Bravo, the Cooking Channel, Sony Pictures, DreamWorks, TLC, Discovery, Lifetime, E! Entertainment Television, PBS, APT, Create TV, NBC, ABC, the CW, HGTV, the Travel Channel, HD Net, Hulu, YouTube, Vimeo, Vice, LiveWell Network, Esquire Network, Bio/FYI Channel, iHeart Radio, HBO, MyxTV, Small Screen Network, StyleHaul, PTA, Zagat, Mode Media, WatchMojo, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Lifetime Network, Vox Media, Buzzfeed, Tastemade, and more.

SUBMIT ENTRIES AT www.TheTasteAwards.com  or at FilmFreeway.com/TasteAwards

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