We all know the big beverage names making the majority of the most recognizable brands on the bourbon market. Brown-Forman, Diageo, Beam Suntory, Sazerac & Heaven Hill are turning out thousands of barrels of high quality spirits every year. And we are happy they do. But, sometimes those big brand narratives mostly birthed & raised by marketers, even those that tie in morsels of real history resurrected from prohibition, tend to lack luster for someone in search of a quality product with a truly genuine story.
If you are one of the many in search of something more from your bourbon brand, you can find it in the dozens of craft distilleries nestled into the nooks & crannies of Kentucky, who may or may not have made it onto the pages of the tourism guides.
Steve Ackley, Bo Cumberland, & Susie Youngson of The ABV Network knew this & set out to capture as much as they could about a select group of craft operations in the new documentary Kindred Spirits: The Story of Kentucky Craft Bourbon. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a screening of the film, produced by the network’s video division, Bourbon Sasquatch Productions, at the New Orleans Bourbon Festival, along with many of the distillers appearing in the film who were also viewing for the first time. It more than did them justice.
Each featured distillery was captured not only in film but in song. Susie, the composer of the production trio, spent quality time reading deep into the histories of each brand, their location, & the things that make them stand out. She took this insight & without even seeing the spaces or meeting the people in person, flushed out their personalities in song. This unique feature of the film added a truly top shelf flair.
After considering several other narrator possibilities, Steve himself was encouraged to step into the role. He was, after all, the person with the passion to pursue the film & the one experiencing each craft spot up close & personal. His voice was soothing & gentle, but animated & authoritative, the perfect documentary blend.
The editing & graphic design by Bo, used to educate the audience on concepts such as Jeptha Creed’s Ground to Glass production concept, was clear & blended seamlessly with the live action scenes. Sometimes literally.
Beyond the quality of the production, the intriguing tales of each distillery made me want to plan several trips as soon as possible. From the resurrection of pre-prohibition brands like Kentucky Owl, to exciting entrepreneurial experiments like New Riff, the identities of each distillery were as diverse as the taste profile of their products.
I particularly loved the generational evolutions of brands. There was the Neely Family Distillery, seeking to shift from old school “shiners” to a legal legacy of fine craft bourbon & quality moonshine. Their story had a hard past including feuds where not everyone made it out alive, but the commitment to family & excellence always survived & is a huge piece of why they thrive.
I wont give away anymore of the stories, but I will say a huge congratulations to Ken Lewis (New Riff Distilling), Carson & Corky Taylor (Kentucky Peerless) & their Master Distiller Caleb Kilburn, Dixon Dedman (Kentucky Owl), Josh Quinn (Boone County Distilling Co.), Royce Neeley (Neeley Family Distillery), Joyce Nethery & family (Jeptha Creed), & Stephen Beam of Limestone Branch Distillery for all they have & will continue to accomplish in the realm of Kentucky Craft Bourbon.
If you love bourbon, a good story, or both, take the time to attend a viewing, or purchase the film to show your support for the storytellers! As far as I’m concerned it should be mandatory viewing for all Kentuckians & is also a great travel planner for your summer spirits road trip. Enjoy seeing & tasting all the things that make them special!