Happy 200th, Woodford Reserve

The Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Ky., is celebrating 200 years of whiskey making this week. Of course, the distillery wasn’t always called Woodford Reserve; that brand, owned by Brown-Forman, began in the mid-1990s. But whiskey has been made on this site since 1812, when Elijah Pepper set up a distillery along Glenn’s Creek. His son, Oscar Pepper, built the current building in 1838, and his master distiller, James Crow, ”perfected the art and science of crafting bourbon,” current master distiller Chris Morris says.

Labrot and Graham bought the distiller in the late 1800s and ran it until 1941, when Brown-Forman bought it. It was sold and then repurchased by Brown-Forman in 1993 and underwent an extensive restoration before opening in 1996. Woodford Reserve still uses copper pot stills (above) and cypress fermenting vats to make its bourbon, and the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.    

To mark the anniversary, Woodford is serving an 1812-inspired dinner ($150 per person) on Aug. 25 and conducting daily “history hikes” to the 200-year-old Pepper House, a spring house, from Aug. 27-30. For more information, call 859-879-1934.

Woodford Reserve was a founding member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail adventure and is one of the most scenic stops on the tour. A visit here is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and to see firsthand how bourbon truly is inextricably linked to the history and heritage of Kentucky.

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