Kentucky Peerless — aka just “Peerless” — isn’t just any old craft whiskey startup in Louisville. While the operation makes bourbon, the bigger focus is on rye — not sourced from parts unknown, but made on site, reportedly in line with recipes that have been handed down for more than 100 years. Some details:
When Prohibition dawned, there was only one way to obtain alcohol: a prescription. Physicians were able to prescribe distilled spirits on government forms for certain ailments including but not limited to: pneumonia, influenza, and depression, among other disorders. But if no alcohol was being made, where did it come from?
Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company, originally founded by Henry Kraver in 1889, was one of the few spirits made available by prescription for medicinal use. At the time of Prohibition, Peerless had a significant amount of barrel aging product (63,000) and obtained a governmental license, which permitted them to distribute inventory for prescribed medicinal purposes.
It was not until 98-years later that Kraver’s great-grandson and fourth-generation entrepreneur Corky Taylor revived the family business. Taylor enlisted his son Carson to transform the 130-year-old brick industrial building in downtown Louisville into a state-of-the-art distillery. The family obtained Kraver’s original distilled spirits plant (DSP) number and re-opened the Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company in 2015 under DSP 50.
No longer needing a prescription to distribute today, Peerless Distilling Company can be found in over 27 states. Led by head distiller Caleb Kilburn and a small, dedicated team, the historic grain-to-bottle distillery produces craft ultra-luxury, small-batch rye whiskey and bourbon.
The Peerless Rye mash isn’t disclosed, but we do know that this release is two years old — 24 months old to be exact, per the label — and is bottled at cask strength, non-chillfiltered, with nothing added. Let’s taste it.
For such a young whiskey, this is a surprisingly well-rounded, fully-formed spirit. The nose is a little rough around the edges, but underneath some rustic granary notes you’ll find loads of spice, caramel, and vanilla, all classic American whiskey notes though not particularly evident as rye. The palate is a bit clearer, sweet and spicy notes hitting the tongue immediately, building to a cinnamon-dusted Mexican chocolate character that comes as a bit of a surprise. The finish falls back on clearer grain-heavy notes, inevitable in a spirit that’s just two years old, but they aren’t at all unpleasant, giving a biscuity chewiness to the conclusion. There’s a little heat here — also to be expected at nearly 54% abv — but considering all of the above, the entire package is both amazingly drinkable and enjoyable.
This is good stuff as it stands — though I’m baffled by the outsized price tag. When and if Peerless ventures into older spirits (and fixes its pricing), I’m all in.
107.8 proof. Reviewed: Bottle #R150829102.
B+ / $100 / kentuckypeerless.com