Rotarians Meet the Boone County Distilling Company

by Pat Moynahan on March 13, 2017

Boone-County-DistilleryFlorence, Ky. – The inclination for the Boone County Distilling Company came from a casual conversation between friends over adult beverages.

The inspiration came from a bit of “forgotten history.”

After Josh Quinn and Jack Wells sipped on the idea of making their own brand of bourbon, they googled “Boone County bourbon,” as Quinn tells it. He found a research paper that put the largest distillery in Kentucky in the 1880s in Petersburg.

“That was inspirational,” Quinn told members of the Florence Rotary Club.  “Jack said, “Let’s build a distillery … how hard could it be?”

Quinn discussed just how hard it turned out to be at a Florence Rotary meeting on Monday, March 6. He is a Boone County deputy sheriff. Co-founder Wells is a coal export executive, restauranteur and entrepreneur. They quickly discovered that turning their entrepreneurial spirit into distilled spirits required more than a good idea and part-time work by two guys on weekends.

One of the first things they learned was “it’s impossible to make aBoone-County-Distilling profit in the first five years,” Quinn said. Good bourbon takes a bit of aging, at least five years in charred American oak barrels. Something about aging in oak barrels enhances the flavor. And, about half the barrel will evaporate or seep out before the bourbon is ready for market.

So the Boone County bourbon making partners bought a starter set of sorts – 100 barrels of a 7-year-old bourbon from MPG Ingredients (formerly Seagram’s) in Lawrenceburg, Ind. They also enlisted a master distiller from Lawrenceburg, Larry Ebersole, as a consultant.

They purchased warehouse space in an industrial park on Toebben Drive, just off Mt. Zion Road in Boone County, and set up a 500-gallon copper pot still. A wine tasting room open to the public for tours and samples soon followed, and the Boone County Distilling Company opened its first barrel of 10-year-old straight bourbon whiskey in October 2015.

The distillery currently offers three products: Eighteen 33, a 90 proof straight bourbon whiskey; White Hall Bourbon Crème, a 32 proof liqueur; and Tanner’s Curse, a 120 proof white whiskey similar to moonshine (not aged).

The décor of the distillery and the names of the products reflect the origins of the distilling industry and Peterburg’s past “out of reverence to our history,” Quinn said. The tag line for their spirits is “made by ghosts.

The base brand, Eighteen 33, takes its name from the year William Snyder bought a four mill there. He found out whiskey was more profitable than corn meal and started the Petersburg Distillery, the inspiration for creation of the Boone County Distilling Company.

“Like any great entrepreneurial idea, our distillery started in the basement with two good friends over a couple of cocktails,” Quinn said.  “The more we talked about it, the better it sounded.

The idea just needed a little aging, like a good Kentucky straight bourbon.