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Pepper receives license to distill again; production to begin by October

Bourbon and whiskey has been made under the Pepper name since the late 1800s. Now that the revived distillery has received a federal license, it can be made in Lexington again. Bourbon and rye sold under the Pepper name now is purchased from other distilleries.
Bourbon and whiskey has been made under the Pepper name since the late 1800s. Now that the revived distillery has received a federal license, it can be made in Lexington again. Bourbon and rye sold under the Pepper name now is purchased from other distilleries. Archive photo

The historic James Pepper distillery has received a federal permit to begin making booze again.

The Lexington distillery, which is being rebuilt inside buildings on the Pepper campus on Manchester Street, is scheduled to begin production of spirits by October, according to a news release.

The new distillery will use the historical limestone well, 200 feet below ground, and corn, rye and barley from local farmers to be harvested this fall.

Vendome Copper in Louisville is making a 12-inch copper column still, inspired by mechanical drawings from the old distillery of the old still, which was made by Vendome in 1934.

The James Pepper Distillery Co. expects to produce more than 42,000 proof gallons the first year, and as much as 260,000 proof gallons in the future.

Once it’s completed, owner Amir Peay plans to install a museum showcasing the original founder, Col. James E. Pepper. Peay owns the James E. Pepper label and sells sourced bourbon and rye under the name James E. Pepper 1776.

In March, Peay announced that Aaron Schorsch was hired to oversee making the new Pepper spirits. Schorsch spent 10 years at the Seagram’s Lawrenceburg whiskey distillery in Indiana, two years at Samuel Adams brewery, and four years as a distillery production supervisor for Jim Beam.

The original distillery was built in 1869 but stopped making spirits in 1958 and was abandoned for more than 50 years.

Now the 25-acre property has become a thriving restaurant and bar site, with a brewery, gourmet eateries and another distillery already on site. The redevelopers of the site recently were honored by the Blue Grass Trust for their preservation efforts.

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