Conservation Pot-Stills Rare Small Batch Bourbon In Kentucky

If you’re familiar with the bourbon world, you’ll probably know that Pappy Van Winkle is at his peak. Pappy’s bottles of whiskey often cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. What you probably don’t know (unless you’re a die-hard fan) is that a single exporter, Marcy Palatella, helped Pappy thrive overseas as bourbon’s popularity waned in the United States in the 1980s.

In the book, Papyland, Julian Van Winkle III recalls that in 1986 Palatella, representing his business International Beverage, approached the brand to inquire about exporting the American spirit to Japan. And now Palatella is back, making his mark with a bourbon pot still.

Preservation distillery.

“It was a very good deal. The export profit margin was slim compared to the US market, but I was starving and it gave me cash,” Van Winkle III recounts in the afterword to the book. “All along she was saying I should put Pappy’s picture on the label.”

Fostering this idea and cementing relationships with the makers of spirits that would become legends, Palatella ultimately helped usher in today’s thriving, largely bourbon-centric whiskey market in Kentucky. Centrally located in the spiritual home of bourbon is Palatella’s Preservation Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” Purchased by Palatella in 2015 (with doors opening in 2018), today, in addition to its several small-batch releases, Preservation is reviving the industry.

Barrel aging is currently the country’s first and only 100% pot distilled producer in Bardstown. The storage pot distills in batches of one to three barrels, then seals them to age in oak barrels. However, the resulting pot still bourbon will not be bottled until Palatella deems it ready, causing anticipation and consternation among Preservation distributors.

Pot stills at the Preservation Distillery.
Conservation Distillery

“Marcy won’t release anything that isn’t completely ready,” Preservation Distillery national sales manager Jacob Feldhues told The Manual. “It’s up to me to have the difficult conversations with the distributors. Although it is difficult to anticipate when the barrels will be ready, we hope this will lead to a much higher quality product on the market.

There are different types of versions of bourbon. Some distillers release younger bourbons in order to get them on the shelves faster.

“There’s a sea of ​​two- to four-year-old whiskey coming out now, but nothing between six and nine years old,” Feldhues said.

Once they arrive, Preservation Distillery’s bourbon stills will be a rare treasure. American whiskey typically uses column distillation – even Preservation uses a combination of pot stills to produce its sought-after Wattie Boone & Sons and Very Olde St. Nick whiskeys. Why trade automated distillation for the old-fashioned pot, then?

“Pot distillation is very convenient,” Feldhues said. “We wanted to do pot still distillation because it’s more of a job. There is no way to keep feeding (the still). You need to do one batch at a time.

Unlike huge 40-50 foot copper-lined stills that flow mash from top to bottom in nearly 24 hours, Preservation has only two 500-gallon pots to brew batches of whiskey.

Being a small discontinuous distillery, Preservation feeds itself and also contributes to its community. The liquor maker sources nearly all of its grain from a now ninth-generation Bardstown farm just down the street. Its barrels come from New Haven and Lebanon, Kentucky, about 45 minutes from Preservation.

Conservation Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Conservation Distillery

“We have little interest in getting out of our neighborhood,” Feldhues said. “The only thing we buy out of state is malted barley, which grows best in northern states.”

The distillery now has a large herd that feeds high-protein mashed corn, wheat, malted barley and rye to a very happy herd of Longhorn cows.

“Nothing we do will go to waste. Even the cows help fertilize the backyard to grow crops,” Feldhues said.

The idea is to develop a very small farm behind the preservation with possible vines for tiny special releases.

While bourbon fans can’t make plans for Preservation’s still whiskey just yet, in the fall, Preservation will be bottling a spicier-than-bourbon single malt American rye. The beautiful setting of the distillery is also open to the public.

“It really is an idyllic setting,” Feldhues said. “If we had racehorses there, that would be the picture perfect Kentucky.”

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