The Farm Distillery Project

The Farm Distillery project represents the small farm-scale distilling activities of early Kentucky, before mass production. Making whiskey from excess corn and other grains was one of the best ways to preserve the crop, and was almost universally done on Kentucky estates like Locust Grove. Kentucky’s whiskey had not yet developed into the now distinct Bourbon. While some of the elements were there, Locust Grove’s whiskey was likely white and unaged, never having touched the inside of a barrel.

Locust Grove’s farm distillery uses a period-style log building to demonstrate the role of distilling in early Kentucky through exhibits, first-person interpreter programs, and demonstrations. Distilling was often the work of enslaved workers, especially women, and this part of the story will be explored as well. The exhibit is educational in nature, and will not produce spirits for consumption.

The still at the Locust Grove Farm Distillery.

Early financial support for this project has come from Kentucky’s old bourbon distilling families, who have been wonderfully responsive to the plan to tell the story of the farm origins of the industry.  Vendome Copper & Brass Company, skilled artisans of still-making, fabricated the equipment based on early models, including a 66-gallon copper still.  The distillery opened in May 2017.

Distilling went beyond whiskey, because apples, peaches, and other fruits could be turned into brandy and stored for future use. William Croghan operated a grain mill on land that was once part of Locust Grove on the Muddy Fork of Beargrass Creek. Distilling operations adjoined mills, as at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Research in the records of Louisville’s Fitzhugh & Rose store show Croghan’s involvement in the purchase of a 64 gallon still in September 1808. Did Croghan operate a whiskey distillery on Muddy Fork in what is now the Riverwood subdivision? We hope that some archaeological traces can be further explored and will give answers.

Today’s Locust Grove does not include that site, so we have re-created our farm-scale distillery in a reconstructed log building at the edge of the garden quads.

Planning Committee: Sally Van Winkle Campbell, Susan Reigler, Chris Morris, Cynthia Torp, Melissa Alexander; Locust Grove staff

Lead Donors to the Project:

Ina B.Bond
Brooke and Matthew Barzun
Owsley Brown II
Victoire and Owsley Brown III
Gill and Augusta Brown Holland
Martin S. Brown
Martin Brown, Jr.
Chenault M. Conway
Cary Brown Epstein
Ben J. Talbott, Jr.
Stuart and Joanna Brown
The McClure Family Fund in memory of “Pappy” Van Winkle
Mr. & Mrs. Robinson S. Brown III
N. Allen and Barbara B. Kannapell Family
Mr. and Mrs. Richard L. Stottman
Jean W. Frazier
Sarah Van Winkle Campbell
Keith L. Williams
Mr. and Mrs. J. McCauley Brown
Julian Van Winkle
Dace and King Stubbs
Heather and Marshall Farrer
Dace Maki

In-Kind Donations from:

The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
Wally’s Auctions of New York
Solid Light, Inc., exhibit designers
Vendome Copper & Brass