Taking a page from the history books, local entrepreneurs are putting Boone County back on the bourbon map. Learn more about this booming distillery in Northern Kentucky.
Cincy Chic: What is Boone County Distilling?
Sara Barnes, Marketing Coordinator at Boone County Distilling: Boone County Distilling Company is reviving a historical distillery region in Northern Kentucky with deep roots and characters that were instrumental in producing quality spirits in the 1800s. Boone County Distilling Company pays homage in resurrecting the culture, pride, and determination of these pioneers and honors their spirit in making our fine products.
Cincy Chic: What inspired the distillery?
Barnes: The brand harkens back to the year 1833 in the Northern Hills of Kentucky where the original Boone County Distillery (aka The Petersburg Distillery) operated on the banks of the mighty Ohio River, where brothers William and John Snyder acquired a flour and grist mill. By 1836, they figured out that it was much more profitable to convert the starches in the grain to alcohol. The distillery changed ownership several times and was eventually sold in 1874 to two Jewish men from Cincinnati: Julius Frieburg and Levi J. Workum (brothers-in-law). In 1880, Frieburg and Workum were making more whiskey than anyone in Kentucky, making almost 4 million gallons per year. The distillery would grow to become the third largest in the United States, a major production site bustling with river trade just downriver from Cincinnati.
Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati’s Whiskey industry of the late 19th Century was marked by expansion and agglomeration, and Frieburg and Workum were said to be the biggest fish in a very large pond.
These pioneers serve as the inspiration for our brand and facility, the ‘ghosts’ watching over our quality and craftsmanship. The facility was eventually purchased and shut down in the early 1900s before Prohibition. Boone County bourbon production remained dormant for over a century!
Reminiscent of the days when bourbon was celebrated as the life-blood of the region, our new distillery is 5000 square feet set on 2.5 acres. It includes a 500-gallon copper pot still, four fermenters and a small batch bottling line with a capacity of hundreds of barrels of small batch bourbon a year. Barrels are stored on site, in a 3000 square foot rick house behind the distillery. In every detail of our operation we’ve respected our history while investing in our future. Our tag line, ‘Made by Ghosts (registered trademark)’, harkens to the early pioneers who crafted spirits in Boone County more than 100 years ago.
Cincy Chic: When did the new owners officially take over Boone County Distilling?
Barnes: After meeting each other in 1997 the two stayed friends as their careers progressed. The idea of a brewery came up over the course of about a year before Jack Wells and Josh Quinn got serious about the idea of opening an distillery in 2011. They explored labels, stories, tried to identify flavors, solve world programs, and enjoy the company of one another. It was in the winter of 2012 that the two began a deep dive into bourbon history. While exploring a number of stories they discovered the history of the original distillery in Boone County. The distillery officially began operations on October 3, 2015, the first time in 116 years that there was bourbon being distilled in Boone County.
Larry Ebersold, the consultant, once said “Making whiskey and letting the barrel work its magic is the easy part…it’s getting here that’s the hard part.” He’s spot on.
We’ve invested millions of dollars into a wonderful facility, it hasn’t been easy, but we’ve hired the right consultants, been blessed with solid employees, some luck, a lot of hard work, and just some good things falling into place.
Cincy Chic: Where is Boone County Distilling located?
Barnes: We are located at 10601 Toebben Drive Boone County, Kentucky, 41051. We are conveniently located off of Interstate 75 in Northern Kentucky just 15 miles south of Cincinnati and just a few miles from the Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Cincy Chic: What types of bourbon and other distilled products can readers find at Boone County Distillery?
Barnes: We sell Eighteen 33 (which is our 10-year aged Bourbon), White Hall Bourbon Cream (32-proof alabaster cream blended with our 10-year aged Bourbon), Tanners Curse (120-proof new make/white whiskey), logoed merchandise, glassware, novelty, bourbon foods, and some handmade bourbon barrel/stave furniture. We also have a lot of Bourbon themed plaques and gifts.
Cincy Chic: Tell us more about distillery tours!
Barnes: We are open on Wednesday through Saturday from 12 pm-5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm until 4 pm. Our tours run daily at 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm, and 3:30 pm. Our tour is about an hour long and guests will discover our rich history, Boone County roots, have a behind the scenes look at our spirits production and 800 barrel rick house. We will conclude the tour in our tasting room with a complimentary tasting of all of our available products. Tours cost $5/per person.
Cincy Chic: What makes Boone County Distilling unique?
Barnes: Each story on our labels is true and accurate as history recorded it. It’s a public library search away. We have Keith Neltner of Neltner Small Batch to thank for our gorgeous bottle and label designs. We’re really just average people in pursuit of the American Dream. It’s about making great whiskey and retelling a long-lost story, placing Boone County back in historical conversations about Kentucky Bourbon history.
Cincy Chic: Is there anything new on the horizon for Boone County Distilling?
Barnes: We recently released our first 12 year single barrel cask strength distillery pick. It was an overwhelming success so more of those to come in the near future. We have experimented with Gin and also did a run of 100% Rye Whiskey last year so that is resting in the rick house.
Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more about the distillery and follow along?
Barnes: Readers can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Our website is www.madebyghosts.com and there is a link on the website to sign up for our distillery email list – our followers on the email list will be the first to know about limited/special releases and any other news at the distillery before the general public.