Historic Bourbon Brand William Tarr Seeing A Revival In Kentucky

| December 15, 2020

The William Tarr Distillery, located in Lexington, Kentucky, has been revived after nearly a century of dormancy as the new Wm. Tarr DistilleryA new group of investors took interest in it recently, and as they get it off the ground have released two new expressions to showcase it to a new world.

Jill Blakehorn, distillery CEO and also owner of an event venue and a catering company in Kentucky, is said to have discovered the history of William Tarr and wanted to bring the brand back to life with co-founder Barry Brinegar, a marketing executive. 

Wm. Tarr Distillery

Wm. Tarr Distillery’s new whiskeys (image via Wm. Tarr Distillery)

What’s known of it is that, in 1865, “a small group of Lexington merchants established the first nationally registered distillery in Lexington, the Ashland Distillery. After creating multiple iconic brands and surviving many ups and downs, the distillery, then known as William Tarr Distillery, shuttered its doors in 1920.”

In regards to the expressions initially coming from it, Blakehorn noted in a prepared statement that “our first release is an exceptional product, a 7-year Kentucky bourbon blended with an 8-year-old rye. I like drinking a dimensional bourbon. The rye comes in to elevate your tasting experience and the element of cherries adds a sweet finish.”

What’s known as the Manchester Reserve was developed, according to those behind it, “for the experienced palate and will be appreciated by any level consumer. It has a brilliant amber appearance with reddish hues and golden streaks with deep tones of smoky topaz. Grains of sweet corn, smoldering wood sugar, dark raisin and praline are predominant.

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“The carefully selected bottle is a nod to 19th Century Old Tarr packaging but with a sleeker appeal and cork stopper. The slate gray label boasts an illustration of Tarr as he is imagined to have looked in his prime. An oak tree on the neck band is a reminder of the white oak container in which it was aged. RD1 stamped into the cap top claims the position of Wm. Tarr as the first federally registered distillery in Kentucky.”

Joining it is the Old Wm. Tarr Inheritance, a 12-year limited release bourbon that is a “well-matured, ultra-premium bourbon with an additional label autographed by the University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops. Clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, light mint and toasted pecans are in this rare Kentucky bourbon.”

“The opportunity to develop bourbon products that will stand the test of time is a dream for someone like me,” Brinegar said. “Manchester Reserve and Inheritance are worthy of the brand. The quality of these products really is the essence of why Kentucky is a leader in teh global production of bourbon.”

Both bourbons are for sale in Kentucky, with Manchester Reserve at the distillery and across the state at retail. Inheritance, meanwhile, is available only through the brand. Pick ups of these can occur at Wm. Tarr Distillery in the historic Pepper Rickhouse located in Lexington’s Distillery District at 1170 Manchester Street, Suite 190.

The facility soon will be home to the Wm. Tarr tour experience, including a full bar, tasting area and gift shop with plans for a cigar patio. In the meantime, it will host private tastings and related events.

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Hannah Kanik

Hannah Kanik is a freelance writer from California. Two years ago, she found herself drinking Scottish whisky atop Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh and found her love for whisky and its storytelling side-effects.