Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review

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Kentucky Artisan Distillery, known as "The Home of Jefferson’s Bourbon", offers tours that showcase their distilling process and history. Visitors can learn about malting, fermentation, distillation, and bottling. The tour concludes with a tasting of Jefferson’s bourbons and other brands distilled on-site. Learn all about Kentucky Artisan Distillery in our full review!
Kentucky Artisan Distillery
“The Home of Jefferson’s Bourbon”
6230 Old LaGrange Road
Crestwood, KY 40014
Phone:(502) 822-3042
kentuckyartisandistillery.com
Tour Review

Please enjoy our Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review!

Check out the short video of our visit!

A Little Off The Beaten Path

The Kentucky Artisan Distillery is located a little off the beaten path, in Crestwood, Kentucky. Best known as the “Home of Jefferson’s Bourbon”, Kentucky Artisan Distillery is a contract distiller. While they distill for a number of brands, the majority of what they make is for Jefferson’s. We visited back in July 2019.

"The Home of Jefferson's Bourbon" - Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
“The Home of Jefferson’s Bourbon” – Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour

The distillery is set in rural surroundings, about 20 miles northeast of Louisville, Kentucky, and it resides in a building which originally was home to an ice cream distributer. On site is the distillery, a gift shop/visitor center, a small laboratory for research and development, a small tasting bar and an event space. The aging warehouse is a short distance down the road, and corn and rye come from a farm about a mile away.

Our Visit Began In The Gift Shop
Visitor center and gift shop - Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
Visitor center and gift shop – Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review

Our visit to Kentucky Artisan Distillery, like most distillery visits, began in the gift shop. We were greeted by Liz, the visitor center manager. The next tour was set to begin just a few minutes after our arrival, but that still gave us a little time to look around. The gift shop sells Jefferson’s paraphernalia, and an interesting selection of whiskeys, including Jefferson’s and others that are distilled there such as Whiskey Row Bourbon and Billy Goat Strut Whiskey. There are also displays illustrating the history of Jefferson’s Bourbon, so our education began while we passed the time waiting for our tour to commence.

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The Tasting Room
Early Times Still
Early Times Still

Our first stop was the tasting room, which doubles as an event space and small barrel room. Here we learned a little background information about the distillery and Jefferson’s. On display in this area is Kentucky Artisan’s now retired original still, which originally began its life at the Early Times Distillery. On the wall adjacent to the tasting bar, there is a large collection of old spirit bottles, small stills and old tools, and opposite the tasting bar is a rack with barrels (at the time of our visit in 2019) of Jefferson’s Chef’s Collaboration and Jefferson’s Experimental Whiskey. There is large rectangular table with 10 chairs as well as a couple of smaller tables, perfect for an event. The small tasting bar is where we would ultimately finish our tour.

Event Space - Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
Event Space – Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
Frootbat - Making hard to find liquor easy to buy

The Lab And Barrel Aging Exhibit
Barrel Aging Exhibit
Barrel Aging Exhibit

On our way to the main production area, we passed a small lab where research and development are done; it’s all hush-hush and photos are off-limits in this area. From there, we passed a small exhibit about barrels and aging. Kentucky Artisan Distillery gets their barrels from Kelvin Cooperage, or at least they did in 2019. Kelvin Cooperage produces barrels for the wine and craft distilling industry and was founded in 1963 in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1991 Kelvin relocated to Louisville, KY, and set up shop. The exhibit features barrel staves demonstrating char levels 1-4. Also showcased are bottles filled with spirits ranging from fresh distillate (aka “new make”) to whiskey up to 4 years old. This nicely illustrates the color changes that occur during the aging process.

Frootbat - Making hard to find liquor easy to buy

Malting
Malting Box - Kentucky Artisan Distilling Tour Review
Malting Box

Interestingly, Kentucky Artisan Distillery has a small malting room. Malting is done in a large rectangular metal box, however the capacity is very limited and not enough to supply all their needs. Milling of the grain is done on-site, and this takes place out of doors, next to the main production area, keeping the dust away from the mash and distillate.

Milling Area - Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
Milling Area – Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
The Production Area
Cookers - Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
Cookers

In the main production area there are two large stainless steel cookers. Fermentation takes place in two large cypress fermenters and five stainless steel fermenters. At the time of our visit, four stills were used for various tasks. There is the copper hybrid finishing still, which was originally at Old Forester, and two Vendome hybrid stripping stills, as well as a small experimental still. Since our visit, an 18 inch diameter Vendome continuous column still has been added, and the old gin still was converted into a thumper.


Cypress Fermenters - Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
Cypress Fermenters – Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review

After distillation, the new make is barreled on site and aged in a warehouse just a short drive down the road. Then it is back to the distillery for dumping and bottling, and from there, on to us to enjoy.

Finishing Still
Finishing Still
Distillery - A column still has since been added
Distillery – A column still has since been added
Bottling Line

Kentucky Artisan Distilery’s bottling room has a full mechanical bottling line, which at this point exceeds the capacity of the distillery. The extra bottling capacity is used for contract bottling. Also in this area are exhibits depicting the ports of call of the ship that carries Jefferson’s Ocean around the globe. For those not familiar with Ocean, it is a bourbon that is aged at sea. Recent versions have stopped at 30 ports of call around the globe!

Bottling Line - Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
Bottling Line – Kentucky Artisan Distillery Tour Review
Back To The Tasting Room

Our Kentucky Artisan Distillery tour finished back in the tasting room. The small tasting bar has space for around 4 stools, which was more than sufficient for our group of two. On our 2019 sampling menu were: Jefferson’s The Manhattan, a bottled, barrel finished cocktail; Jefferson’s Ocean Voyage 17; Billy Goat Strut, a “North American Whiskey” produced under the Kentucky Artisan Label (not Jefferson’s) and sold only at the gift shop; and Jefferson’s Reserve, the flagship Jefferson’s bourbon.

Tasting Bar - Kentucky Artisan Distillery
Tasting Bar – Kentucky Artisan Distillery
Conclusion
Barrel Warehouse
Barrel Warehouse

Our visit to Kentucky Artisan Distillery taught us much about the Jefferson brand, it’s history and future. Jefferson’s Bourbons have traditionally been a blend of bourbons from different distilleries, although some of the bourbon is distilled at Kentucky Artisan, as well. While Kentucky Artisan Distillery contract distills for other labels, and produces products other than Jeffersons, such as Whiskey Row, it is clear that the two are tightly intertwined. Although, with Pernod Ricard, the owner of Jefferson’s, building a new large distillery near Loretto, KY, it is unclear what future role Kentucky Artisan will play. Time will tell.

Check out the short video of our visit!

Original Visit Date: July 2019; Updated April 2024

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