As Insider revealed this morning, there’s a new bourbon and spirits distillery being built in Shelbyville that’ll feature grain recipes made from rare heirloom Bloody Butcher corn. Jeptha Creed is the brainchild of the Nethery family of Shelby County, who is building the distillery from the ground up and will own and operate each aspect of its production.
We met up with mother Joyce, a former chemical engineer, and daughter Autumn on Friday to check out the progress of the distillery and find out what inspired them to enter the highly competitive and costly spirits industry.
Jeptha Creed sits on 64 acres of land that faces I-64 off Exit 32 in Shelbyville. The 15,500-square-foot distillery and visitors’ center will actually face the major interstate, and large floor-to-ceiling windows have been constructed that will show off the bright copper Vendome stills, pots and holding tanks to all passerby heading east toward Lexington and beyond. It’s about 10 miles away from the new Bulleit Distillery and a few exits from the likes of Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Wild Turkey and more.
Joyce and Autumn greeted us at the construction site and were thrilled to show off their vision. But first, a little background on the Netherys. They own and operate a dairy and grain farm on the edge of the Jeptha Knob in Shelby County, about 6 miles from the site of the distillery. That’s where the first part of the company’s name comes from — and it turns out the knob were named by Squire and Daniel Boone in the late 1700s after the biblical warrior “Jephthah.”
Joyce is a chemical engineer who once worked for the manufacturer company Rohm and Haas in Louisville. As fate had it, she actually spent lots of time in the industrial distillation unit and got bit by the distilling bug early on in her career. Her husband Bruce is a farmer and entrepreneur who has always wanted to get into the spirits business. So about three yeas ago, they decided to merge their passions and make the leap. Autumn, who recently turned 22, will also be part owner, and son Hunter, a sophomore at Trinity, tinkers with blacksmithing and will help raise bees for fresh honey.
After Joyce took a five-day refresher class on distillation at the Distilled Spirits Epicenter‘s Moonshine University, she knew the family had made the right decision.
“I fell back in love with it all,” she says. “In addition to that, I saw where we could pull it all together — with the distillation and the farming. My children were interested in it, too. So I said, ‘We’ve got to do this. Let’s go for it.’”
The family is fully funding the project, and they plan on growing as many of the ingredients needed for their bourbon, vodka and moonshine as they can. And that’s where the second part of the brand’s name comes into play: creed.
“Creed is more of a value statement,” explains Joyce. “We’re going to stand by the heritage statement and authenticity in our product. Our creed is we use old-fashioned methods to meet modern tastes, and we are honest and authentic about everything that’ll go into our spirits.”
Perhaps what most sets Jeptha Creed apart from the others will be their use of open-pollinated, non-GMO heirloom Bloody Butcher corn the family has been growing since 1845. When dry, the corn has a deep red color and is often used as decorations in the fall. Joyce did a trial run with the grain at a distillery in Wisconsin, and she says it’ll add sweet and nutty undertones to a standard bourbon. The smell and taste coming off the still was impeccable, she says. “The chemicals in the corn that make it red will give it a different flavor profile than regular corn.”
The Netherys have differing tastes and preferences when it comes to bourbon, so they’ve decided to make three different recipes to satisfy everyone: high wheat, high rye and four grain. It’ll also be straight Kentucky bourbon, so it’ll have to age at least two years in a barrel. Joyce hopes to get the lab and distillery up and running this summer so she can get that bourbon into barrels as soon as possible. And she’s eyeing a fall opening to the public if all goes well.
While construction is underway, the Netherys have been busy getting the labels ready and approved. Along with bourbon, they’ll release vodka and moonshine infused with real fruit, which they’ve also planted on the property. The vodka will come in blueberry, apple cider and honey flavors, while the moonshine will be blackberry, apple pie and lemonade (which they’ll call “Louisville Lemonade”).
Joyce gave us a tour of the space, and you can tell the family has thought through every last detail. The land is bordered by Dry Run Creek and Clear Creek, where their limestone spring water will come from. They’re working with Louisville’s Vendome for all their major equipment, including cookers, fermenters and three types of stills (a 12-inch continuous column beer still, a 250-gallon vodka column, and a 500-gallon pot still). The visitors’ center will include a retail shop; a residential kitchen for cooking and drink-making events; a tasting bar fashioned out of an old oak tree that fell on the property; a large clubhouse room for special events; and a 5,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor patio that’ll overlook the corn fields and barrel-aging barns.
Joyce says they’ve had to jump through a few hoops to get things up and running, including having to construct a small bridge over Dry Run Creek and getting the distillery annexed into Shelbyville because Shelby County is still moist. She’s thrilled Senate Bill 11 might be passing, as that would allow the distillery to not only produce more, but also sell drinks by the glass.
Joyce and Autumn say they want Jeptha Creek to be a destination distillery — a place where both tourists and locals stop in to spend some time.
“We want this to be a place where people feel comfortable and come hang out like it’s home,” says Autumn.