When three partners announced plans to rehab and reopen the legendary Old Taylor Distillery Co. in Millville, Kentucky, they believed they could do it by late 2015.

Well, not the whole thing—the multibuilding campus is massive—rather a boutique distillery on the property that once was the most lavishly appointed whiskey distillery America had ever seen.

Turns out that even those modest aims were ambitious. The distillery, some said, was in post-apocalyptic condition, a mere shadow of its original grandeur. Opened by Col. E.H. Taylor in 1887 and operated by National Distillers from 1935 to 1975, The Old Taylor Distillery Company lay idle for four decades, and nature was reclaiming the site with a vengeance. Water maples were growing inside office buildings and flower gardens were so densely covered by overgrowth that reclamation crews didn’t discover their concrete sidewalks and fountains until bulldozers cleared the mini-jungle. A four-story rickhouse the length of two football fields was so heavily cloaked in vines that some visitors weren’t aware it was there.

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Earlier this summer, Barton 1792 Distillery released a limited-edition bottle of its namesake 1792 bourbon to celebrate the 225th anniversary of Kentucky joining the United States. I had the rotten luck to be on vacation and miss the press event in Bardstown, but the good folks at Barton made sure a sample was delivered to my office after I returned.

And they are good folks, not just because they’re generous with their whiskeys. If you’ve not toured this this amazing and old distillery, you’re missing out on a glimpse of history that’s slowly being modernized to keep up with pressing demand for its products. For now, tours are free, fairly lengthy and among what I like to call “the dusty and gritty tours,” which give enthusiasts a firsthand impression of the non-glamorous side of whiskey making. Nothing at all against modern, streamlined facilities, I like them also. But tours like Barton’s, its big sister, Buffalo Trace and Four Roses hold special places in my heart.

But ‘nuff said on that. Let’s talk about this whiskey.

A quick glimpse at the bottle shows a blue neckband that mirrors the color of the Commonwealth’s flag, and a proof of 92.15 (46.075 ABV), which is a tad lower than the standard 93.7 proof (46.85 ABV) bottling. Other than that, the only difference you’ll find in stores—if you can find this Kentucky-only release—is the price: suggested is $35.99 (about $6 to $8 more than the standard pour), though secondary market sales have pushed it modestly north of that.

According to the distillery, a small batch of barrels aged 10 years at Barton were dumped for this release. It is the sixth limited-edition release of 1792 Bourbon expressions, joining the High Rye, Sweet Wheat, Port Finish, Single Barrel and Full Proof Bourbons. (For all you Port Finish fans, I saw loads of those barrels aging in a Barton warehouse earlier this winter. So expect that whiskey to be re-released in the future.)

I first tasted it in June, and for whatever reason—I’m sure it’s not the modest 1 proof difference—this whiskey, sipped neat, seemed softer than the standard 1792. Somehow its typically prominent rye character shifted into the background, which is neither good nor bad, just different. All by itself, it’s a delicious pour I think any bourbon fan would like.

But shortly after my first sips, I added a couple of cubes of ice and the flavor was notably subdued. The spicy, oaky roundness was all but gone, leaving a whiskey without its usual complexity. Same result starting with it neat and adding a few drops of water. Added to an Old Fashioned, it was just, well, there, not asserting itself as hoped.

To be fair, my mind is recently and deliciously imprinted by the significantly spicy 1792 Full Proof Single Barrel selection, a near-cask-strength barrel pick in which I took part last winter. That 125-proof liquid is the boss in a cocktail, stands up to rocks without dissipating and, before it got some good air in the bottle for a month or two, was almost too tough to tame sipped neat. It’s since calmed down nicely and now presents more caramel than rye sizzle; the beast has mellowed nicely.

The thought of beneficial air time then sent me back to the Barton 225th. Half consumed, it too had been exposed to some air, which made me curious to see whether that altered its flavor. Bottom line is it became a better neat sipper, somewhat fuller bodied and delivering more campfire and orange than I’d noted in the first several samples. In every respect, it was more of a good thing.

But I also got more of the same after adding rocks, making cocktails, adding water, the usual test drill, and it was again subdued in every application.

The verdict? It’s a great neat sipper, and one that, ironically, befits its connection to Kentucky’s heritage. When the Bluegrass State joined the union 225 years ago, no one here was sipping whiskey on the rocks or making Old Fashioneds, they were drinking their bourbon neat. So let’s call this one “bourbon sipped as it should be.”

As I said, if you can find it, get it and drink it. You’ll not be sorry.

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Millionaire moments at Churchill Downs now available for regular folk

July 3, 2017
Millionaire moments at Churchill Downs now available for regular folk

Every Louisvillian knows what and where Millionaires’ Row is: the upper-upper deck at Churchill Downs where, as the name implies, where the wealthy gather to eat, drink and wager stacks of cash on unpredictable and pampered steeds. But while locals know of this lofty perch, few have ever been there, including me, until last Friday […]

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Growing Market for ‘Store Picks’ Adds Interest to Whiskey Hunting Market

July 1, 2017
Growing Market for ‘Store Picks’ Adds Interest to Whiskey Hunting Market

Written originally for WhiskeyWash.com. With the American whiskey boom stronger than ever, it’s unlikely people’s lust for anything branded “Pappy,” “Elmer,” “Stagg,” or “Sazerac” will wane soon. Even here in Kentucky, where 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is produced and practically spilling off the shelves, the desire for “a 23” or “this year’s Birthday” […]

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Jefferson’s Zoeller To Repeat History On Riverboat Ride

July 1, 2017
Jefferson’s Zoeller To Repeat History On Riverboat Ride

Written originally for The Bourbon Review. There are those who read about history, those who go see it, and those who set out to reenact it. Count Trey Zoeller among the latter group. On June 6, the owner of Jefferson’s Bourbon and his captain, Ted Gray, pushed away from an Ohio River dock at Louisville, […]

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Chilly Rain Couldn’t Dampen Derby Eve Stitzel-Weller Affair

July 1, 2017
Chilly Rain Couldn't Dampen Derby Eve Stitzel-Weller Affair

Written for The  Bourbon Review. Louisvillians are generally an easy-going lot—until you mess with Kentucky Derby week. In the run-up to the first Saturday in May, we place unrealistically high expectations on truly unpredictable things like fickle and pampered steeds and on-time restaurant reservations. We’re even worse about Derby Week weather, claiming entitlement to a […]

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Nethery plants, harvests and distills her own corn at Jeptha Creed

July 1, 2017
Nethery plants, harvests and distills her own corn at Jeptha Creed

Written for The Bourbon Review magazine Joyce Nethery’s role as a woman master whiskey distiller is unusual enough. But she further breaks the mold since she is often spotted behind the wheel of a large farm tractor pulling a planter. On the farmland behind Jeptha Creed Distillery in Shelbyville, Ky., she’s the person depositing Bloody […]

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Bottoms up! Whisky Live tasting returns to Louisville Saturday

June 7, 2017
Bottoms up! Whisky Live tasting returns to Louisville Saturday

Whisky Live returns to Louisville for its second year, bringing the broadest sampling of international whiskeys to a single tasting ever seen in the Bluegrass. Serving as the closing event for Kentucky Bourbon Affair on Saturday, June 10, this premier tasting event will allow guests to sample world-class Scotches, bourbons and other whiskies from around the […]

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Whiskey Review: Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition ‘Al Young’ 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon

June 7, 2017
Whiskey Review: Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition ‘Al Young’ 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon

Few people from any generation spend 50 years working for a single employer. These days, five months seems a long stretch for some; clearly not for Al Young. When a newlywed in 1967, he was a bottom-rung clock puncher at Four Roses Bourbon Distillery who would go on to become its Lawrenceburg, Ky., distillery manager, […]

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Lucie Slone Meyers is cooking with a purpose

March 24, 2017
Lucie Slone Meyers is cooking with a purpose

Four days before Valentine’s Day, Lucie Slone Meyers held court at a table in her nearly opened restaurant, The Red Light Kitchen & Lounge (780 N. Limestone). Between directing staffers on where to place tables, décor and bottles behind the bar, the grande dame of the Lexington restaurant scene talked shop with some of her […]

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