Meeting up with Joyce Nethery at Jeptha Creed Distillery there’s one word that comes to mind and that is warmth. We walked around the facility here and there is a real sense of what they, as a family, are trying to build, with a field to bottle ethos running through what they do. Joyce exudes a pride in what they are looking to achieve here and a real sense of drive and purpose from this chemical engineer turned distiller.
The impressive Jeptha Creed site from Gordon Lane off the 64 East of Louisville
The family tie is very strong here. The whole idea of this site started from a desire to have a business that both married Joyce’s strengths as a chemical engineer with her husbands Bruce’s roots in agriculture and farming. Allied to that they wanted to create a business that the children could get involved in. This has included her daughter, Autumn, taking time out to study at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland to learn more about brewing and distilling there. With the family crest being translated as “Don’t forget” Joyce and the team here strive to make sure that what they are doing is honouring their forefathers and heritage while creating something fantastic and sustainable for the future generations.
The disitillery site has some beautiful spaces in it with wedding receptions and major meetings all capable of being staged on site. Friday nights there’s music, food and of course a bar running. One of the bars is actually crafted from a 100yr old plus tree that fell- which just shows how the guys like to rework and recycle where they can.
Talking to Joyce about the ground to glass philosophy you can see the excitement in her. On site they produce pears, apples , paw-paw as well as blackberries, blueberries and strawberries all of which can be used as flavourings in some of the vodkas and moonshines that they make.
However in my eyes the star of the show is the corn varieties that get used. There is some fantastic heirloom varieties that Jeptha Creed employ- possibly most notable of these is the Bloody Butcher variety which is dark red in colour. It’s an open pollinated non-GMO variety and has been in use since 1845.
The deep red Bloody Butchers heirloom corn
Talking to Joyce she reckons that it gives a slightly different flavour- a fruit sweetness as well as a cookie note off the still. This is backed up by giving slightly higher levels of Iso-amyl alcohol which in turn can lead to banana and pear notes. The variety tends to gives a slightly lower yield through the mashing process but Joyce helps to balance that out a little with the use of malted rye as well as malted barley. It’s not the only heirloom variety being used with blue corns also appearing on occasion. The anniversary of Jeptha Creed falls on Veterans day and you can’t get much more patriotic than a red, white and blue mash bill.
The Jeptha Creed Corn Sustainability message and some of the blue heirloom corn
Around the plant she has a 1000 gallon cooker ( approx 3700l) feeding the original four 1000 gallon fermentation vessels as well as her two newer 2000 gallon FVs. Mash bills tends to have a high wheat and rye content for the whisky side of things and as previously mentioned malted rye is also a common addition here. After that there is quite a few toys to play with. There is a larger continuous still with standard sieve plates as well as a smaller 250 gallon batch column still and a small pot still with a hybrid column and bubble cap trays. The is also a small experimental still where first trials were run.
The Still arrangements that Joyce is using including the “mini” still for experimentation
Post distillation wheat and rye barrels are blended at around 6 months of age and there is some use of toasted oak staves to enhance the characteristics of the spirit.
The range of production here is also impressive with moonshines and vodkas of various types, as well a a young whisky and bourbon getting ready for release sometime in 2019. Throw into the mix that the vodka was the official Vodka of the Kentucky Derby Festival this year and you have a lot going on for such a young organisation.
It’s going to be a busy times for the Netherys over the next few years and I’ll be looking forward to the results with interest.
A real slice of Americana- on the left 102 yrs old and only 3 careful owners and a car from 1949 on the right – go see these at Jammin at Jeptha on Friday nights at the distillery
Huge thanks to Joyce @JepthaCreed for her time at the distillery