Bourbon Country Crafters: Kentucky Knows' Tony Davis - The Whiskey Wash

Bourbon Country Crafters: Kentucky Knows’ Tony Davis

By Maggie Kimberl / December 30, 2015

Kentucky Knows was started by Lexington, Kentucky. native and former Marine Tony Davis in his barn. Davis began crafting cutting boards from bourbon barrel heads as a hobby, and as a way to highlight Kentucky history through bourbon. “I wanted to be able to tell the story of our people through word of eye,” Davis told The Whiskey Wash on a recent visit to his shop in the former James Pepper Distillery.

Davis originally got the idea for crafting bourbon barrel art during a visit to California when he was in the Marines, where he saw spent wine barrels being put to all sorts of different uses. Shortly after that, he returned home to Kentucky for a visit, and toured a few bourbon distilleries including Buffalo Trace while he was there. Now he gets all of his barrels exclusively from Buffalo Trace, and many of his wooden pieces bear the names of Buffalo Trace brands.

Kentucky Knows

Kentucky Knows’ founder Tony Davis (image courtesy of Maggie Kimberl/copyright The Whiskey Wash)

One of his most popular new items is bourbon barrel aged coffee. Davis roasts his arabica coffee beans on a 74-year-old gas-fired Probat roaster. Much like many of the famous bourbon distillers, Davis’ process doesn’t rely on fancy technology – instead, he roasts the beans by sound. He then puts them through a barrel-aging process that involves 13 steps a day before they are finally ready for sale. His slogan: “Put the Knows in your cup!”

Other Kentucky Knows products include Grillin Char, barrel-aged cocoa, and bourbon barrel-inspired wooden sunglasses. Davis’ creativity is driven by his desire to showcase the best that Kentucky has to offer, pointing out that “bourbon is a tool that brings people together with the history of Kentucky from what’s in the barrel.”

Perhaps what’s most notable about Davis is his devotion to serving underprivileged kids in his community. He employs and mentors at-risk kids in his shop on the weekends in addition to donating barrel-aged cocoa for school fundraising efforts. This is a very important part of his work because he himself struggled in school, failing out of 7th grade.

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