The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries


  • 210 Page Hardback
  • Photography Book
  • University Press of Kentucky
Categories: , SKU: 12040


The Birth of Bourbon Book takes you through a photographic tour of early distilleries. In Kentucky, early settlers brought stills to preserve grain, and they soon found that the limestone-filtered water and the unique climate of the scenic Bluegrass region made it an ideal place for the production of barrel-aged liquor. And so, bourbon whiskey was born.

More than two hundred commercial distilleries were operating in Kentucky before Prohibition, but only sixty-one reopened after its repeal in 1933. As the popularity of America’s native spirit increases worldwide, many historic distilleries are being renovated, refurbished, and brought back into operation. Unfortunately, these spaces, with their antique tools and aging architecture, are being dismantled to make way for modern structures and machinery. In The Birth of Bourbon, award-winning photographer Carol Peachee takes readers on an unforgettable tour of lost distilleries as well as facilities undergoing renewal, such as the famous Old Taylor and James E. Pepper distilleries in Lexington, Kentucky. This beautiful book also includes spaces that well-known brands, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace, have preserved as a homage to their rich histories.

Using a technique known as high-dynamic-range imaging—a process that produces rich saturation, intensely clarified details, and a full spectrum of light—Peachee reveals the vibrant life lingering in artifacts from worn cypress fermenting tubs to extravagant copper stills. This lavish celebration of bourbon’s heritage will delight whiskey aficionados, history buffs, and art lovers alike.


Praise for The Birth of Bourbon

Carol Peachee has done an excellent job of preserving glimpses of America’s distilling heritage. Many of the old distilleries depicted in these images are long gone, while others are being repurposed, but changed. These images preserve the past as the future changes the distilling industry.

~Michael Veach, author of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage

The story of distilling, like the story of America, starts with the human need to secure a place that can produce enough to feed and shelter a family, the willingness to do hard work, the cleverness to do it efficiently, and the desire to do it well. It is America’s story from its beginning to this moment.

~Sarah Tate, founding partner of Tate Hill Jacobs Architects, Lexington, Kentucky

Bourbon is a worldwide phenomenon, with drinkers as far away as Japan and Australia. But there’s also a homegrown market for people interested in bourbon, and The Birth of Bourbon taps into that. Peachee’s obvious talent and eye for lighting, contrast, detail, and framing make each picture captivating.

~Andrew McMichael, professor of history at Western Kentucky University


About the Photographer

Carol Peachee is a fine art photographer and cofounder of the Kentucky Women’s Photography Network. She is the winner of the 2010 Elizabeth Fort Duncan Award in photography from the Pennyroyal Art Guild.