The Woodford Reserve Distillery has been distilling on the same site for more than 235 years, making it the oldest Bourbon distillery in Kentucky. Now owned by Brown-Forman—one of America’s largest wine and spirits companies—it has been refitted and set to expand.
Since their founding in 1780, the folks at Woodford have been influential in the development and codifying of Bourbon production. In short, they helped invent the spirit as we know and love it today!
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Woodford is the “Official Bourbon” and its sister brand Old Forrester, is the part of the “Official Mint Julip Cocktail,” during the famous Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs racetrack.
The Woodford Distillery is the oldest distillery in Kentucky still operating today, but not necessarily continuously. It closed during prohibition while a few other managed to get permission to remain open for “medicinal production."
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Originally called the “Old Oscar Pepper Distillery,” its first iteration was open air. The first building was constructed around that operation in 1838, which is the date listed on its registration as a historic landmark. The founder was Elijah Pepper, who handed it off to his son.
In 1878, the Pepper family sold the property and the name was changed to the Labrot & Graham Distillery. Brown-Forman bought and sold and then re-purchased the operation again in 1993, and gave the entire shop a re-vamp.
They are the only major Bourbon distiller to use traditional copper pot stills (most use column stills). Annual production is up to nearly 2.5 million bottles per year, and a recent expansion of rick-houses allows them to age up to 165,000 barrels at a time on site.
Most of this production goes into their famous signature Bourbon, with the balance flowing into various other Brown-Forman brands and product lines.
The facility is a beautiful, restored stone building surrounded by rolling hills about 20 mile west of Lexington, Kentucky. It has become one of the most popular stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.