Spirit Cartel is launching two rye whiskies from one of the most historic Kentucky Distilleries: James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey 92 Proof and Barrel Proof.
When the "Spirit of '76" set the American nation free, men returned to work with a new heart. In Kentucky, in that same generation, the grandfather of James E Pepper was making whiskey! Established in 1780, the Pepper family brand of whiskey is the oldest brand of whiskey made in Kentucky.
The 1776 Rye is also a key ingredient in a classic Old Fashioned cocktail. While many brands lay claim to the creation of the Old Fashioned, it is widely believed that this classic cocktail was concocted to honour Col. James E. Pepper at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY. It was also later featured in the famous Waldorf-Astoria’s The Old Bar Book A Post-Prohibition Collection of Pre-Prohibition Drink Recipes noting the connection to Col. Pepper
The Pepper family distilled fine whiskey for more than three generations. The family built and operated two distilleries, one of which was the James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington, Kentucky. Originally built in 1879, the Pepper Distillery in Lexington was in operation until 1958, and then was abandoned for over 50 years.
The story of James E. Pepper was then re-discovered by Amir Peay, the founder, and owner of the Georgetown Trading Co. who has relaunched the brand and initiated the revitalization of the old James E. Pepper distillery. The company managed to revive its federal distillery permit for the historic distillery: DSP-KY-5, the 5th license ever issued in the state of Kentucky. Newly assigned DSP numbers are in the 20,000s.
Peay has undergone an extensive research campaign that has lasted more than a decade. His passion has resulted in the unearthing of many Pepper artifacts and history as well as reviving the distillery to once again produce the whiskey that made it famous. Throughout this process Peay’s attention to detail has been unmatched, right down to restoring the original water source that was once used to make some of finest Kentucky whiskey available. The distillery features a unique copper still system from Vendome Copper in Louisville, and its design was inspired by the archive of historic mechanical drawings from the old distillery. Vendome also made the still for the same distillery in 1934—the year Prohibition was repealed in Kentucky. Aaron Schorsch was appointed as the Master Distiller for the James E. Pepper distillery. He comes to Pepper with an extensive background in distilling as well as brewing.
“We are excited for this new partnership with Spirit Cartel,” said Peay. “We are extremely proud of our 1776 Rye whiskies and to be able to bring these award-winning spirits to new consumers is truly gratifying. We are very much looking forward to expanding our fan base in the UK with the help of Spirit Cartel.”
David Hood, General Manager at Spirit Cartel, said: “We see enormous potential in rye whiskeys in the UK and, as always, want to bring the absolute best to our customers. We were instantly fascinated by the story and the product of James E. Pepper, - it will no doubt become a big hit in the UK on-trade."
Since the product launch, James E. Pepper Rye whiskies have garnered numerous awards. Most recently the 1776 Rye whiskies have taken home gold in both the San Francisco and New York World Spirits Competition for the 92 proof rye and well as the barrel proof rye. The Old Pepper Straight Rye “Finest Kentucky Oak” was also named World’s Best Rye at the 2018 New York World Spirits Competition making the entire Pepper Rye line-up top of its category.
James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey 92 Proof, ABV 46%, 70cl, RRP a bottle £45
James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey Barrel Proof, ABV 57.3%, 70cl, RRP a bottle £55
Spirit Cartel is the official distributor of James E. Pepper whiskies and other premium spirits in the UK. They are a tight-knit bunch of hoods hell-bent on importing, flogging and drinking the best spirits from around the world. Their methods may be unconventional (and, at times, questionable), but nothing stops them on their mission. The success from their spirits racket might be down to their charm and convincing offers, but then again, it may just be the criminally good spirits they offer.
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