In the midst of Derby week madness, a friend and I took a short trip east to the Jeptha Creed Distillery for a little rest and relaxation. Pulling up to the beautiful distillery building, we were greeted by a gorgeous old Ford and other vintage vehicles. The gleaming presentation continued as we entered the gift shop and lobby. Turning to the right, a beautiful bar called to us and we sampled some drinks while we waited for the tour to begin, although we skipped the paninis and small bites for fear we wouldn’t have time to finish them. I had a strawberry melon slushie (strawberry puree, melon liquor, Jeptha’s Ne Oublie bitters, Jeptha’s honey vodka), and my friend had a bloody mary with bacon salt on the glass as bartender Mackenzi Kyeoehlein told us how everything is made mostly from Jeptha Creed farm produce, but the few things that are outsourced come from local farmers.
Everything on this farm and in this distillery flies under the “Ne Oublie” banner, which means “Do not forget [our heritage].” The distillery sits on the farm owned by the Nethery family, and the “ground to glass” distillery is co-owned and run by mother and daughter Joyce (Master Distiller) and Autumn Nethery (marketing).
While guests might start their experience in the bar, the tour really begins in the breathtaking outside space, where we got a breathtaking eye full of the beautiful Kentucky farm and hills with the distillery’s outdoor stage that reminds me of the beautiful outdoor barn stage now set up on Johnny Cash’s farm down in Tennessee. With the encouragement of family, Bruce Nethery became a fifth generation farmer and bought the Shelby county farm — which houses the distillery and grows the bloody butcher corn — at the age of 18, making him the youngest farm owner in the state. Since then, the farm has expanded to produce apples, pears, pecans, apricots, and cherries; budding raspberries, figs, kiwi, blackberries, blueberries, chocolate mint, peppermint, spearmint, strawberries, and basil—even beehives for honey.
Then, the tour led us back through an event space and into the work space, where we were given a show by one of the distillery cats who awakened and pranced back and forth in the cat house, stretching and showing off. Like many breweries and distilleries, they employ cats to control mice. Although this feline star did her best to upstage our guide, Melissa Brown gave a fantastic and entertaining tour that was informative and fun. She explained the family heritage of the Nethery’s, the distilling process, and the difference between whiskey and bourbon. Bourbon can not reuse barrels, while whiskey can. Jeptha Creed’s Bloody Butcher whiskey is made in barrels handed down from Four Roses. Speaking of Bloody Butcher, — myself being just over 5′ — I was floored when she explained the bloody butcher corn stalks reach up to 15 feet. That’s like 3 of me! The distillery has bourbon in the works, though and should begin selling it in about a year’s time.
As we neared the first tasting area of the tour, where guests are encouraged to taste some of the recipes they are currently working on, my friend and I had to giggle. Since he’s from the west coast, I had just explained on the way there that “Bless your heart” is southern speak for, “I’m biting my tongue on what I really think.” So, it was hilarious to us, that a little sign with “bless your heart” donned a shelf full of jars that looked like failed science experiments. That’s exactly what they were. The shelves are the Jeptha Creed wall of shame where failed recipes are put on display for all to see.
If the rest of the tour and stories hadn’t yet impressed that this is a family run small operation despite the large amount of land and impressive building, the bottling and labeling line certainly did. I say line, but it was really more of a desk with rolls of labels where an employee stands to label the bottles.
The fun and fact filled tour ended with a tasting. Guests were handed eight small tasting cups to sample the vodkas, moonshines and whiskey. I have to say, I’m a sucker for apple pie.
This is definitely a day trip I’d do again.
Photography courtesy of Mike Glazer.