Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Limestone Branch Distillery, Lebanon, Kentucky.
This past Friday I visited Limestone Branch, a new micro-distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky. Its proprietors are brothers Steve and Paul Beam, who are descended from both the Beams (Minor Case Beam via Guy Beam) and the Dants (Joseph Washington Dant via William Washington Dant).
I had a very pleasant time visiting with Steve Beam, seeing the place, and tasting the products.
Limestone Branch is in a handsome, purpose-built structure on about 25 acres just outside of Lebanon. They have two lakes on the property, which has a lot of potential for walking paths and other uses. Conveniently, Steve is a landscape architect by training.
The brothers Beam make everything themselves with help from their father, who worked at Cummins-Collins in Athertonville, among other distilleries. They grew some of their own corn on the distillery grounds. They make a very clean spirit, with good flavor, and little harshness or burn. They're double-distilling. Their doubler is a 150-gallon handmade copper Hoga.
Everything they are selling now is unaged but they do have some product, including a bourbon, in barrels.
In addition to the distillery itself there is a comfortable tasting room (including some seating outside), a gift shop, and a small museum. Lebanon has only recently shown up on my radar. It's a lovely little town with a nice historic core. The big attraction for bourbon fans is Kentucky Cooperage, the Kentucky branch of Independent Stave, which makes most of the barrels for the bourbon industry. Lebanon is the seat of Marion County, which as the name suggests was founded by and still has a large Catholic population.
I also recommend the Cedarwood Restaurant, which is just west of the cooperage, for authentic country cooking and ambiance.
Limestone Branch's brand is T. J. Pottinger, which was one of the brands, along with Old Trump, made by Minor Case Beam at his distillery in Nelson County, which merged with Dant's Yellowstone and operated there until Prohibition. Pottinger was a prominent distiller, miller, and landowner. He founded the town of New Haven, which is still home to many members of the Beam and related families.
Limestone Branch is one of the micro-distillery members of the Kentucky Distillers Association. Kentucky was somewhat late to the micro-distillery game, but it's a natural place for them and guys like Steve Beam are making up for lost time.
In light of yesterday's post, it may seem hypocritical of me to write positively about a distillery that is selling a corn whiskey labeled as moonshine and a half-corn, half-sugar spirit called sugar shine. It may be a fine distinction, but they aren't romanticizing crime or criminality, it's about the products themselves. T. J. Pottinger was not a moonshiner. Sugar shine is an authentic recipe and representative of what at least some moonshine used to be. Most of it today is 100 percent sugar. I would be happier if they dropped the 'moonshine' name from the corn whiskey and just called it what it is.