A Clark County man has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $45,000 to establish a craft distillery in downtown Winchester.
Named for one of the first Kentucky spots visited by Daniel Boone, Lulbegrud Creek Distillery could begin making "white whiskey" perhaps as early as next year.
Founder Brian Endicott hopes the online campaign will draw enough interest to bring his bourbon dream to fruition. So far, he's raised more than $6,500.
"Bourbon is a product I enjoy greatly," Endicott said. "I wanted to do something hands on, but also wanted to give back to the community, at some juncture. And wanted to create a product that used grains responsibly."
Endicott wants to make whiskey from organic, non-genetically modified corn and other grains.
He comes by this bent naturally: his day job is marketing for Laura's Lean Beef, supplier of hormone-free, antibiotic-free beef.
Endicott said he plans to keep his "day job" while he gets the distillery started.
Although he wants to start on a small scale, the learning curve will be steep. Endicott has no distilling background but he took a day-long course at Limestone Branch, a craft micro-distillery in Lebanon last year during the American Distilling Institute Conference in Louisville.
That helped him research what kind of equipment he wants to buy: a Hoga, from Spain, like Limestone uses to make its flavored sugar shine.
He hopes to attend the Distilled Spirits Epicenter's five-day Moonshine University course in Louisville this fall, then travel to Spokane, Wash., for Dry Fly Distilling's hands-on workshop.
But he already has a game plan for what to make and how to sell it.
"Mine will be a straight corn whiskey, flavored with native Appalachian flavors such as honeysuckle," Endicott said. "My personal preference would be that it have a kick and bit of a spicy flavor. I'm not a sweet bourbon person."
Craft distillers of all stripes are finding a receptive audience and Endicott hopes to capitalize on that.
"Innovation tends to come from those who jump into the market. For a long time, Kentucky's bourbon industry wasn't doing anything new," he said "It wasn't until the crafts came along that they started trying stuff, like white whiskey."
He plans to sell some white whiskey immediately, and barrel some for bourbon later.
Some Kentucky craft distillers sell whiskey made for them by someone else to get started, but Endicott said he doesn't want to go that route.
"I want it to be my product, not something made to my specs by someone else," he said. "We're going to do whiskey the way whiskey was done, not the way it is done now."
Which ties back into Endicott's passion for Kentucky history. He is a descendant of McCoys of the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud and he chose the distillery name based on a nearby creek that Kentucky pioneer Boone camped beside (Boone named it for Lorbrulgrud, capital of Brobdingnag in Boone's favorite book, Gulliver's Travels.
Endicott is working with the city of Winchester to secure a historic property, which he will rehab for a distillery and a shop to sell his wares.
Todd Denham, executive director of the Winchester-Clark County Industrial Development Authority, said his group is enthusiastic about the idea of making whiskey in Winchester.
"Having the craft industry tie to Kentucky Bourbon Trail, having that in Winchester, in Clark County, will bring a new business to our community. And drive a lot tourism. For us, it's not so much about making booze, it's the concept of the project, the unique factor you see in some communities, being unique to Kentucky, having a piece of that," Denham said. "The whole craft bourbon distillery scene is exploding just like craft beer breweries — I see this as the next big thing in the bourbon industry."
Actually, this wouldn't be bringing a new business to Clark County — it would be bringing an old one back, said Nancy Turner, executive director of Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission.
Turner contends that Clark County has a strong claim on being home to the state's first distillery.
Kentucky's first industrial settlement, along Lower Howard's Creek, had grist mills and a distillery there in the 1780s, Turner said.
"I've been trying for years to find our little niche on how we could get involved in bourbon tourism," Turner said.
Denham said that although Lulbegrud won't create many jobs in the beginning, it could do a lot for the town down the road.
"Hopefully, that will be a catalyst for other businesses that want to locate nearby," Denham said. "A restaurant perhaps. This has the opportunity to be another anchor in our downtown, to be a catalyst for future developments down the road."