Head to Boone County Distilling Company, and you may experience a paranormal encounter, at least metaphorically. The company’s tagline “made by ghosts” speaks to the brand’s emphasis on learning from the bourbon makers that came before.
Boone County Distilling Company opened its doors in October 2015, becoming the first legal distillery in over a century to operate in Boone County. That same year, the business joined the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. But Boone County Distilling Co.’s history stretches far beyond 2015.
A timeline on the distillery’s website goes back to 1789 when Boone County’s first Euro-American settlement, a stockade called Tanner’s Station, was built. By 1833, William Snyder and his brother, John, bought a flour mill and transformed it into the Petersburg Distillery. (Fun fact: Snyder had a pet bear!) The distillery ran for decades; by 1880, it had become the largest distillery in Kentucky. Other forebears of Boone County Distilling Company include Snyder’s son-in-law, Colonel William Appleton, J.C. Jenkins, James Gaff, Freiberg and Workum––all of whom are recognized at the company as pioneers whose influence has been unmistakable in crafting their products.
In 1910, the Petersburg Distillery shuttered, only to be reborn nearly a century later in 2015 as Boone County Distilling Company. Today, the distillery serves up several small-batch bourbons infused with history that are sure to please. The reborn distillery even uses an old-school method via a pot still, which was the most popular style of whiskey in the l9th century.
“Back in 1833, when the distillery was founded, pot stills were common, giving the whiskey a full-bodied palate and complex aromatic profile,” says Wells. “We thought it would be a good idea to replicate their methods, so we make our whiskey using a 500-gallon Pot Still rather than a column still. In the 1880s, the distillery switched to column stills, which gave them the ability to become the largest whiskey distillery in Kentucky. We currently have the ability to switch to a column still but haven’t as of yet.”
Made completely out of copper, the pot still even has a pet name: The Bear, an affectionate nod to Snyder’s unconventional pet. After transferring the fermented mash product into the still, it goes through four wash runs before doing a spirit run, or the final distillation. After, the distilled product heads to the barrel rickhouse, where it ages alongside Kentucky’s warm summers and cool winters, gathering complex flavors from the charred wood barrels all the while.
Interested in stopping by Boone County Distilling Company while trekking The B-Line®? Located minutes off of I-75 at 10601 Toebben Drive in Florence, Kentucky, Wells says they offer daily tours of their fully-functional bourbon and rye distillery. The guided grain-to-glass experience lasts around 40-45 minutes and ends with a sampling of products. Take the tour and see first-hand where the grains are ground, cooked, mashed and double distilled in The Bear, their Vendome 500-gallon copper pot still.
“In every detail of our operation, we’ve respected our history while investing in our future,” explains Wells of the tour.
Offerings include Kentucky Pot Still Bourbon, a handcrafted sour mash described as having a “full body and complex flavor not found in other bourbons.” The product was a 2021 gold winner at the 2021 John Barleycorn Awards, alongside Boone County Distilling Company’s Small Batch Rye. Other products include Small Batch Bourbon, Single Barrel, Single Barrel Rye, Bourbon Cream, Duppy Rum, Tanner’s Curse and Tanner’s Curse Rye.
Walk-ins are welcome but reservations are recommended. You can book a tour for $14 (per individual) at www.boonedistilling.com. Take the whole crew; you can book up to 16 people! Short on time? For $9, book a 15-minute guided tasting instead, where you’ll hear a short history of the distillery and get to try some of their products.
Also on site is The Event Center, a space to host special occasions like weddings, receptions, social events and more. For casual hangs, check out the F&W Bourbon Bar. Open May to October, it’s an ideal spot to kick back with friends and family. The public bar features handmade cocktails using Boone County Distilling’s spirits.
Steeped in history, Boone County Distilling Company pays homage to Northern Kentucky’s bourbon-making past while looking to the region’s future. No matter how you experience Boone County Distilling Company, this stop on The B-Line® promises bold, pioneering spirits of the drinking variety and of centuries past.