LOUISVILLE — Saturday morning was not a time for staying outside waiting for a business to open.
However, that is what an estimated 1,000 people did in downtown Louisville. They braved monsoon-like rainfall that entered the city in the pre-dawn hours and continued through mid-morning. Most had nothing but an umbrella to provide protection.
However, every single of them was there for what they believed was a good reason, and in Kentucky, it makes perfect sense — bourbon.
In this case, it was the first bourbon to be sold in 102 years by the Kentucky Peerless Distillery, and it is a Murray State University alumnus at the center of it, Corky Taylor.
“This is a big day in my family. We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Taylor as he and Peerless chief distiller Caleb Kilburn signed their names to bottle after bottle of the bourbon that was unveiled to the public on the birthday of his father — Roy Taylor Jr. “We skipped that generation (his great grandfather, Henry Kraver, started Peerless in 1889 in Henderson and his grandfather, Roy Sr., also was involved with the business) so, with today his birthday, we decided to honor him.”
His father, nicknamed Ace by U.S. Army Gen. George Patton during World War II, died several years ago after running a car dealership in Henderson. He made the military his main career.
Saturday, it was Corky and son Carson carrying the family name forward. It was Carson who had the biggest hand in turning a 130-year-old building downtown into the new home of Peerless about four years ago.
Saturday, about a week-and-a-half after the first bourbon was dumped after four years of aging, there was Carson standing on the brick sidewalk, in the pouring rain, shaking the hand of every person that had gathered and was waiting patiently to enter the building at the corner of 10th and Main streets, just west of the Louisville skyline.
“It’s been a long time in the making to see this thing come to fruition and we’re very excited and very humbled, to say the least, to have this many people lined up like that,” Carson said, explaining that the euphoric feeling of accomplishment he had Saturday is not unusual. “Every single day, I get to see the excitement on everybody’s face, on the faces of our family who work here and our employees, who we consider part of our family. There’s just a lot to this that we really appreciate.”
The bourbon is being unveiled at what would seem to be an opportune time for Peerless. Its rye whiskey, unleashed shortly after the Louisville resurrection of the company four years ago, has earned major acclaim from the publication Whisky Advocate, based in London, that named Peerless as the No. 1 craft distillery in America earlier this year, then named it the top such distillery in the world shortly thereafter.
On top of that, the rye was named the tops in the world a few days ago, besting world-renowned names like Jack Daniel’s.
In other words, anticipation is high for the bourbon to be as good, which is why the line was so long Saturday.
“I’m hoping (at the end of the long line) is the bottle I get to buy, maybe two,” said Butch Medley of Louisville, who is a close friend of the Taylor family. “I have sampled (Peerless’ products) and it’s good stuff. In fact, we took to Utah and they enjoyed it out there.”
Teresa Varble is a native of Henderson now living in Lexington. She said she knows the family quite well too, having watched the Taylors’ children, including Carson, when they were in their very young years as they were being raised in Henderson.
She said seeing Carson and Corky succeeding makes her very happy.
“When their parents would go on snow skiing trips, I would always go and stay at their house with the kids (Carson, Kindy and Shane) and that’s when Carson was still just a baby,” Varble said. “This is a big accomplishment and I’m very proud of (Carson) and it’s good to see him succeeding like this.”