About Old Pepper Single Barrel Rye Whiskey
Elijah Pepper began distilling whiskey at the dawn of the American Revolution and during the War of 1812, he built the first log cabin distillery in Versailles, Kentucky. Eventually, he passed the family business on to his son, Oscar, and then on to his grandson, James E. Pepper.
Colonel James E. Pepper was one of Kentucky's first Bourbon aristocrats — he raced thoroughbreds in the Kentucky Derby, traveled in a private rail car and made famous the Old Fashioned cocktail. "Pepper Whisky is an old fashioned whisky, made in the old time way from a formula used for more than 100 years by three generations of the Pepper family," wrote James, in an advertisement dated August 22, 1887. "We claim not only to make the oldest but absolutely the purest and best brand of whisky made in America, and we invite comparison with any whisky of any age."
In 1958, after the whiskey industry fell on hard times, the James E. Pepper Distillery was forced to close its doors. During its tenure, Pepper Whiskey, or "Old 1776 Whiskey" as it became known as, was a favorite of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant, and was preferred by Daniel Webster, a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts.
Today the re-launched brand is back in full force. "We did extensive research and spent years collecting and analyzing full, preserved bottles of original Pepper Whiskey," says Amir Peay. They even acquired a letter written by Pepper himself, detailing the exact mash bill and recipe used to create Old 1776. "We wanted to pay homage to Pepper's legacy and do our best to recreate the original Pepper Whiskey — something that was part of American history," he says.
The limited-quantity Single Barrel Rye Whiskey contains some of their best barrels. Crafted from a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, this straight rye is double oaked, meaning it goes for a second round of maturation in heavily toasted Kentucky oak barrels that have been air-dried for 2 years. It's a rich and complex 4-year-old rye that is bottled at 110 proof.
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As American as the bald eagle, rye whiskey was first brewed in the American Northeast in the 1600s. Even George Washington distilled it after leaving the Oval Office, so there’s no way of denying its origin.
It’s distinguished from bourbon for its original and unique spicy notes.
By law, rye whiskey must be made from at least 51% rye grain, aged in new and charred oak barrels for at least two years, and bottled at no more than 62,5% ABV.
Check out our impressive selection of rye whiskeys, find your new favorites in The best-reviewed rye whiskeys, and explore our treasury of Best rye bottles under $100.