The Jeptha Creed cocktail class culminates with drink making. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Like cocktails? (check)

Like distillery tours? (check)

Be smart and do both together at Jeptha Creed Distillery in Shelbyville. Last week, the state’s only grain to glass distillery launched a new cocktail making seminar and tour, dubbed Creed’s Class. Held on the third Thursday of each month, participants spend $30 to get a lot:

  • A palate-teasing, four-taste flight of Jeptha Creed spirits
  • An up-close look at the distillery with distiller Dave Carpenter
  • Barrel-thieved samples of their high rye Bloody Butcher Bourbon (at just a few months old, it’s really tasty)
  • A cocktail making class, where you and a friend learn to shake and stir all proper
  • And even a light dinner after the event

    Alicia White and Dave Carpenter thieve samples of Bloody Butcher Bourbon from different-size barrels to let guests compare. | Photo by Steve Coomes
    Alicia White and Dave Carpenter thieve samples of Bloody Butcher Bourbon from different-size barrels to let guests compare. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Thirty bucks, people! Can’t beat it. It’s a lot fun at a place you’ve likely never been—especially jaded whiskey wonks who need to check it out. Some really good spirits are being made here.

Owned by Bruce and Joyce Nethery, Jeptha Creed Distillery was built with liquor tourism in mind. Its 15,500 square-feet include a long cocktail bar and lounge, classroom areas, a huge outdoor patio fit for corporate gatherings and small weddings, a large gift shop with an abundance of branded, well, everything you can imagine, and the distillery, of course. Small as it is—barrel output capacity is seven per day—it’s a top-tech craft operation.

But back to the class: It begins with some product acquaintance-making, as in tasting Jeptha Creed’s vodkas, a growing line that includes apple, blueberry and honey vodkas. Notice, I didn’t write “flavored” vodkas because real fruit (some fresh, some concentrated) and real honey (from bee hives on the Nethery’s farm) are used to sweeten them. (And for those who like real vodka, theirs bears nice grain notes—known to some as actual flavor.)

The glass on the left came from the smaller barrel, and the depth of amber color is noticable. | Photo by Steve Coomes
The glass on the left came from the smaller barrel, and the depth of amber color is noticable. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Before he became a distiller five years ago, Dave Carpenter spent a decade in professional kitchens as a chef, so his culinary sensibilities come through in the spirits. In the distillery, he and general manager Alicia White thieved a pair of barrels holding Jeptha Creed’s Bloody Butcher Bourbon. To give guests a look and taste of how different-size barrels affect the liquid within, each was given a clear glass to examine the differences in color, body and taste. Though both had been aging for three-and-a-half months, whiskey from the 5-gallon barrel was noticeably darker than that from the 53-gallon industry standard barrel. The nose on both was butterscotch, grain and campfire, but the whiskey from the larger barrel was softer on the palate than the smaller due to less contact with the wood.

“Because it’s high rye, you’ll get quite a bit of spice from both,” Carpenter said.

For geeks who want to know, the mashbill is 75 percent corn, 20 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley. Made at Kelvin Cooperage, both barrels were toasted, then charred to No. 3.

The moonshine-laced riff on the mojito. | Photo by Steve Coomes
The moonshine-laced riff on the mojito. | Photo by Steve Coomes

“Ours comes off the still at 135 proof and then we proof it down with water from our own spring to 119.5,” Carpenter said. After just a few months’ aging in “barrel barns” behind the distillery, proof in the barrels had risen to 121. “Since alcohol is a solvent, we like to go into the barrel at a lower proof. You get fewer tannins.”

From there, the guests moved to the bar, where full cocktail kits, spirits and amendments sat ready for work. Walking guests through the basics of dilution through stirring some drinks and shaking others, pairs worked together to complete to tasty cocktails for sipping on the way to dinner.

“We wanted to make it really interactive and fun,” said Autumn Nethery, who handles marketing for Jeptha Creed, and who is working her way into distilling. “Watching somebody make cocktails isn’t as fun as making them yourself.”

PS: The ride to Jeptha Creed from most of Louisville is about 25 minutes, straight down I-64 to exit 32. No, you can’t visit the new Bulleit Distilling Co. nearby, so if you want to make a day of distillery tours, head to Lawrenceburg (Four Roses and Wild Turkey) or Frankfort (Buffalo Trace) or Versailles (Woodford Reserve) afterward.

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Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, WhiskeyWash.com and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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