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01 Feb 2022 | Jeremy Dugan


Amir Peay was a bartender and a fan of history before he became owner of James E. Pepper Distillery. It was his profession and hobby that lead him to discovering the story of Colonel James E. Pepper, famed 3rd generation bourbon distiller, owner of racehorses and major promoter of his family’s brand known as the oldest brand of whiskey being founded in 1780. Colonel Pepper was famous for taking his private rail car to Manhattan where he would enjoy bourbon with friends with last names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Tiffany, Roosevelt, Pillsbury and Pabst. Colonel Pepper is also credited for creating the Old-Fashioned cocktail which is one of the most iconic whiskey drinks there is.

In Amir’s research, he found out that the distillery was continuously running up until 1967 when the company went under. The family had 2 distilleries, 1 became Woodford Reserves property while the second, located in Lexington, Kentucky went unattended to for over 50 years. Amir spent a decade researching all he could about the Pepper family distillery. Finding receipts for ingredients bought and notes from distillers trying as best he could to recreate the whiskey recipe Colonel Pepper would promote up and down the railway. With partnerships with Lawrenceburg Distillery in Indiana and Bardstown Bourbon Company in Kentucky Amir was able to start producing James E. Pepper bourbon and rye whiskies. He also spent this time rebuilding the old Pepper distillery located in Lexington, Kentucky. Which he was able to officially reopen in December of 2017, the distillery also started making their own whiskey so soon, all products bottled will have whiskey only made in Lexington. Including my favorite Pepper product; Old Pepper single barrel rye whiskey.

The expressiveness and depth of this rye is really pleasing. Bold rye spice up front greets the palate and wakens the senses. The spice becomes brown sugar and caramel which balances out the boldness of the rye. More richness in the form of toasted vanilla coats the palate before transitioning into a baking spice characteristic which allows the rye spice to come back and linger on the finish. And for only $43.99, really hard to pass up if you’re a fan of rye whiskey.

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