Why it took six years to make a two-year-old bourbon: Jeptha Creed launches first flagship bourbon on Friday
When the Jeptha Creed Straight Four Grain Bourbon is released Friday, May 10, it will have been six years in the making — even though it’s only two years old.
It marks the first flagship bourbon product to come out of the Shelbyville distillery, and everyone on staff — especially the mother-daughter duo Joyce and Autumn Nethery — will be celebrating the mighty achievement.
In fact, Jeptha Creed Distillery is inviting everyone to the free launch party Friday evening, from 5 to 11 p.m., where attendees 21 and over can sample the bourbon and also purchase a bottle.
But first, a little background …
The Nethery family — husband Bruce, wife, Joyce, daughter, Autumn and son, Hunter — first made a successful living farming in Shelby County. Joyce also worked as a chemical engineer and was intrigued both by distilling and growing heirloom crops.
One summer she got ahold of some old family heirloom seeds to a type of corn called Bloody Butcher, and she decided to see what it was all about.
As the corn grew, she began to notice something peculiar was happening with their resident wildlife.
Most of the white-tailed deer that roamed their farmland would walk through acres of yellow corn to get to the Bloody Butcher to feed.
“That told us something, because the deer had a choice, and they chose to eat the Bloody Butcher corn every time,” Joyce recalls.
Joyce and Bruce were ready for a new adventure, and six years ago, they proposed the idea of building their own bourbon distillery to their then-teenage children. And now, 1,264 acres, millions of dollars and about 1,300 barrels of resting whiskey later, Jeptha Creed is one of the emerging new distilleries to come onto the Kentucky bourbon landscape in the last five years.
Insider first met Master Distiller Joyce Nethery and Co-Owner and Marketing Manager Autumn Nethery in the spring of 2016, as construction on the 15,500-square-foot distillery and visitors’ center was underway.
We then showed up for the very first filling of a bourbon barrel that August, which marked the first bourbon that had been produced (legally) in Shelby County since before Prohibition.
And finally, we returned in November of 2016 as the distillery opened its doors to the public for the very first time.
As Insider obviously is no stranger at Jeptha, we sat down with Joyce and Autumn this week to talk about what this flagship bourbon means to them.
Four Grain forward
While Jeptha has released small batches of its experimental bourbon here and there, known as Bloody Butcher’s Creed, that bourbon was distilled in Wisconsin while the distillery was still being built. The new Four Grain Bourbon will be one of four bourbons to ultimately be released by Jeptha and was one of the first whiskeys they distilled at the new distillery.
According to Joyce, those other styles include a high rye bourbon, a high wheat bourbon and a bourbon that honors veterans made with red, white and blue corn. Yes, that’s possible. But all of those barrels are still aging, as Joyce tells us they’re not quite ready for the bottle.
But the Four Grain, now that’s a different story.
“It’s always been our plan to have a two-year, straight release,” she explains. “It also just so happened to turn out beautiful at two. Bourbon tends to age not quite linearly, so it has ‘eh’ periods. I think right here at two, it’s gorgeous.”
She says some of those soft notes could be credited to the malted grains in the recipe (most distilleries don’t malt their rye or wheat). The bourbon is made of 70 percent Bloody Butcher corn, 15 percent malted rye, 10 percent malted wheat and 5 percent malted barley.
“What I think the malted grains do is kind of take the flavor of the rye or wheat and smooths them out, mellows them a bit,” says Joyce. “It makes for a smoother bourbon, especially with the Bloody Butcher corn, too.”
All of the Bloody Butcher corn used in Jeptha Creed’s bourbons, vodkas and moonshines are grown on the family’s 1,200-acre land, and you can even purchase a bag of Bloody Butcher cornmeal in the gift shop to experiment with at home and make anything from cornbread and cookies to fried chicken breading.
The custom-made bottle design for the new bourbon also will be the one used for all four products, with the color changing on the label and strip stamp for each type.
The bottle features the tree of life embossed onto the glass, and Joyce explains that the roots at the bottom tie Jeptha to the past, the branches near the top represent the future, and the trunk with the label is the present.
And on the bottom of the bottle is the family and distillery’s motto, Ne oublie, which translates to Don’t forget where you come from.
“Also, don’t forget to go get your next bottle,” Joyce jokes.
The Netherys had a five-year plan that would include the addition of a rick house each year, but those warehouses already have all been built and are filling up fast, so they’re exploring more land options in the area.
They’ve also increased daily output from filling two barrels a day to now nine.
And while it may have taken the family six years to produce a two-year bourbon, they’re on track to roll out new products through the next several years — of course, only when the bourbon and whiskey are ready for their spotlight.
“Going forward, it will always take us three years to make two-year-old bourbon, because it takes a year to grow the corn,” Joyce points out.
Sitting with Joyce and Autumn on a warm spring afternoon at their distillery, it was evident they’re ready and eager to get their flagship bourbon on the same shelf as their inspirations — Turkey, Beam, Forester, Maker’s, etc.
“It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time,” says Autumn.
“It is, to me, kind of like a child going out into the world,” adds Joyce. “It’s like exactly what she said — very exciting but very terrifying. Did they learn everything they needed? Is everything ready? It’s just such a proud, exciting moment.”
The fact that Mother’s Day is the same weekend as their bourbon launch was merely a coincidence, they say, but you can bet this year’s will be extra special for the two of them.
Grab it while you can
The Four Grain, which retails for around $50 and is 98 proof, will be rolled out in limited quantities starting Friday in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. And if you want one of those first bottles, it’s best to get to the distillery’s launch party Friday night. Joyce says they’ll have a little less than 100 cases for the event, and it’s one per person with a valid ID.
The tastings will run from 5 to 7 p.m., and Joyce will be available at 6 for signings. Afterward, at 7 p.m., there will be live music by Josh Bogard & The Dirty South, pizza and food truck fare. As with most of the distillery’s music events, it’s all-ages, but anyone under 21 must be accompanied by an adult.
Jeptha Creed is located at 500 Gordon Lane in Shelbyville, just 30 minutes east of downtown Louisville. Except for Louisville’s urban distilleries, it’s one of the easiest to get to in the state, as it sits right off I-64 at exit 32.
Joyce also will be stopping by two Louisville Liquor Barns for bottle signings in the coming weeks. On Friday, May 17, she’ll be at Liquor Barn Springhurst, and on Friday, May 25, she’ll be at Liquor Barn Hurstbourne — both from 4 to 7 p.m.