Bourbon Reviews, Distillery News and Information
Casey Jones Distillery
2815 Witty Lane
Hopkinsville, KY 42240
Tour / Review
(updated October 2023)
Please enjoy our Casey Jones Distillery Tour Review!
A Craft Distillery In A Rustic Setting
A visit to the Casey Jones Distillery combines the best of two worlds, a unique craft distillery and a charming rustic setting. The distillery opened in late 2014 and is located just 5 1/2 miles northwest of Hopkinsville, Kentucky on the homestead of its proprietors Arlon “AJ” Jones and wife, Peg Hays. On our first visit back in 2019, moonshine was the main focus at Casey Jones. Time, however, has brought great change and we recently discovered this once tiny 1 room distillery has completely transformed into a state of the art facility.
The short drive down the packed rocky dirt road this visit brought noticeable changes from our visit 4 years ago. On the right we caught a view of the beautiful new barrel warehouse, while just down a bit on the left, the new still house and bottling area left us awestruck. At the end of the road lies the owners’ former garage that once housed the entire operation. The expansion here made its mark by doubling the footprint of the visitor center and gift shop which now includes an impressive 25 seat circular tasting bar.
Casey Jones Distillery Is Open Every Day For Tours & Tastings
Although the distillery has grown tremendously, its hours remain the same. Casey Jones Distillery welcomes visitors Monday-Saturday from 10-6 and Sunday, 1-6. Tours are available daily and reservations can be made online. The distillery’s standard offerings are the Distillery Tour & Tasting (21+) for $15, the Distillery Tour (18+) for $10 and the Spirits Tasting (21+) for $5. Various special tours/events are frequently offered as well. Sign up for email notifications to make sure you don’t miss out. While it’s best to book a visit online, walk-in reservations are accepted when space is available. (Hours may vary, so always double check before you visit)
Ring The Belles And Meet The Women Of Whiskey
Our return to the Casey Jones Distillery resulted from one of these special events. Ring the Belles was an event which highlighted women and their influence in the distilling industry. The event kicked off with a book signing by Karen E Locke, author of Bourbon Belles and Whiskey Women, along with a panel of industry women (including Casey Jones very own co-owner Peg Hayes) for some meet and greet time. Following the book signing was a blind tasting and blending seminar. And if that were not enough, to top it off, the evening concluded with a fantastic buffet style dinner.
A Casey Jones Distillery Tour? Yes, Please!
Since four years had passed since our last visit, we knew we had to make time for a tour. Timing was in our favor as the final tour of the day was about to begin. AJ himself kindly provided us with tickets and we were excited to see the incredible growth the Casey Jones Distillery had undergone. Our guide was the very energetic Clariza who began the tour with an engaging Jones family history.
Who Was Casey Jones?
The namesake of the distillery was none other than AJ’s grandfather and the story of the distillery begins with a still. To get to that still, some family history must first be covered. The family’s foray into distilling began at a time when it wasn’t legal to do so. During Prohibition and the Great Depression, jobs were scarce and folks had to eat. Although Casey had no formal education, he did however have some serious innate engineering skills. As his years in the “business” would attest to, Casey Jones became known as the “King of the Copper Still” in the Golden Pond area (now the Land Between the Lakes), having built some 300 stills in over 30 years.
The Square or “Coffin” Still
The unique square-shaped design of a Casey Jones still offered the owner the ability to quickly load it up in a wagon or truck bed for a quick get away. According to the Casey Jones story web page, the entire still consisted of 3 pieces, complete with well placed handles for easy assembly and disassembly. Casey also developed a cylindrical condenser that allowed for quicker distilling time and a higher quality hooch. Clariza disclosed that the Chicago gangster, Al Capone, had a strong preference for Casey Jones moonshine.
Eventually the law did catch up with Casey, not once, but twice. He spent a total of about 3 years at the Mill Point Federal Penitentiary, a minimum security prison in West Virginia, for bootlegging. With the threat by the Feds of a life sentence if there was a third conviction, along with strong encouragement from his wife, Casey finally left the still making and bootlegging life behind.
Casey Jones Builds His Final Still
Surprisingly however, Casey had a final opportunity to build his copper still and this time is was all legal. In 1967 he accepted a commission from the Federal government to build a still for the new visitor center in the new Land Between the Lakes recreation area. The still remained on display until 2007 after which it was put into storage. AJ wanted to bring his grandfather’s final work home to the family and after plenty of red tape wrangling, he managed to do so.
The Last Casey Jones Still Is Put To Work
This is the still that started it all. So what does one do with a family heirloom still? Test it out, of course. AJ put the still to use making shine for family and friends. When AJ’s wife Peg found out, she told AJ to get licensed or stop. Fittingly, the rest is history. In 2011, paperwork for the distillery began, and in 2014 with his grandfather’s still, AJ continued the family’s legacy with the opening of the Casey Jones Distillery. Not wanting to ruin the family’s heirloom however, AJ eventually designed his own still using his grandfather’s as a template. He then retired the still that started it all to a permanent and most suitable display area, over the distillery bar.
On With The Tour!
With the family history covered, Clariza continued on with the tour. The tour had started in the orginal still area which was just the next room over from the gift shop section of the guest house. On display since its last use in March 2023 and perhaps to be used for special occasions in the future, Clariza made note of the still AJ built for the distillery. She then led us to the 2 other areas in the guest house building, the bar and event space. The bar area is surprisingly spacious with ample seating including plenty of rocking chairs on the front porch weather permitting. The event space is also quite large and has a beautiful view of the back of the distillery property including the distillery’s very own man-made lake. All year round the distillery hosts special events. Casey Jones Distillery makes great use of its space welcoming music lovers and whiskey lovers alike, as concerts and barrel releases are a few of the most popular events.
Expansion At Casey Jones Distillery
While the bar and the event space had not changed drastically since our last visit, the next area did not even exist in 2019. The next stop on the tour was the new stillhouse and bottling area. On the way, Clariza pointed out the old shipping containers across the driveway which were the previous home to the distillery’s aging barrels. She explained that these continue to age the barrels that are already housed, but all new barrels are stored in the newly built 3200 barrel rickhouse.
The New Stillhouse & Bottling Line
Along with the barrel house, the stillhouse is also an entirely new building on the 73 acre property of the Casey Jones Distillery. From the Sasquatch roller mill which prepares the grains for the 1000 gallon mash cooker to the six 1000 gallon fermenters which readies the distillers’ beer for the 1000 gallon hybrid pot still, this space is incredible. Since the distillery originally started with just moonshine made the old fashioned way, a mash cooker (heat source) wasn’t needed. The sugar and corn mashbill of the moonshine fermented in plastic type drums for 6-7 days. Afterwards it was run through the still and then sent directly to bottling. However in order to produce whiskeys, all of the aforementioned items are necessary, particularly the mash cooker, as the grains must be cooked in order for fermentation to take place.
And while Casey Jones Distillery has been reliant on sourcing bourbons for their releases, they now have the capability to produce 3 barrels a day. As Clariza discussed each new and still shiny piece of equipment, she allowed us to get up close and personal with each. Unfortunately for us, distilling currently only takes place on weekdays so we did not get to see the stills in action.
Yes I said stills. Casey Jones Distillery has not 1, but 2 new stills. Each of which were fired up for the first time in March of this year (2023). The workhorse of the distillery is of course the 1000 gallon hybrid potstill produced by Specific Mechanical, but AJ also had a new “grandfather” still built by Specific Mechanical as well. This 200 gallon square potstill is one-of-a-kind. According to AJ, the moonshine produced off the hybrid still just didn’t quite taste right. So armed with plenty of photographs of AJ’s own hand made still, the company carefully crafted this exquisitely unique square pot still. It is a well deserved nod to the man whose inspiration started it all.
Bottling & Barreling – Casey Jones Distillery Tour
After soaking in the beauty of the stills, Clariza finished up with bottling and barreling. Located in its own room just off the distillery main floor, the bottling line at the Casey Jones Distillery has a fill capacity of approximately 200 bottles an hour. This rate helps the distillery keep pace with its new distribution to Canada along with 41 states. As for barreling, where the crucial and very important long game is at work, Casey Jones uses Kelvin Cooperage barrels with a #4 char. The process was reinforced by a 1 minute video presentation from the cooperage. This wrapped up the walking portion of the tour and we headed back to the gift shop for a seat and some sampling at the tasting bar.
Time For The Tasting!
The tasting options available on our original visit (a total of six) were seriously dwarfed by those offered on this visit. The number was somewhere around 15, amongst the various categories. To give an idea, the categories were broken down into three. The bourbons were offered according to mashbill. For example, mashbill #1 was corn forward with 96% corn, 3% rye and 1% malted barley, whereas mashbill #4 was a 4 grain with 80% corn, 10% wheat, 10% rye and 5% malted barley. In the exclusive Barrel Cuts (barrel proof) category were Casey Jones aged moonshine along with a double barrel moonshine version. Finally, the largest category consisted of straight shines and flavored shines. A few favorites here included the original Casey’s Cut Moonshine at 92 proof and the Peach Cut which takes the original shine and blends in 100% peach juice.
As we tasted through the selections, Clariza shared that a number of the Casey Jones Distillery products are award winning. Just this year the Four Grain Wheated Bourbon won Best in Show at the American Craft Spirits Awards for the Best Single Barrel, while in 2022 the Fred Minnick Ascot Awards honored Casey’s Double Barrel Moonshine with a Platinum. Award winning or not, Casey Jones most certainly has a spirit to tempt even the shiest of palates.
Conclusion – Casey Jones Distillery Is Worth The Trip!
In short when in the western Kentucky area, make time for a visit to the Casey Jones Distillery. Learn how their intriguing family history, years later, would influence their future generations. While once a tiny mom and pop moonshine maker, the Jones’ are all grown up. Come see for yourself. It’s definitely work the trip.
We hope you have enjoyed our Casey Jones Distillery Tour Review! Would you like to read a review of Casey Jones’ first 2 year old bourbon? They’ve come a ways since then, but it’s interesting to see where they started. Read our Casey Jones Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review!
Date of First Visit: May 2019. Date of Visit and Update: October 2023
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