Peerless Small Batch
With new distilleries popping up sporting a DSP (Distilled Spirits Producer) number in the 20,000s, it’s incredible to still have ties back to the low number brandished by Peerless. While the Peerless Bourbon on store shelves today may be new to the scene, this historic family has a great story behind the Peerless brand revival.
The Story of DSP-50
In 1881 in Henderson, Kentucky, Elijah Worsham and J.B. Johnston built the E.W. Worsham Distillery, and along with it, began distilling the first Peerless bourbon. In 1889, Elijah passed away and the distillery changes hands to young shopkeeper Henry Kraver. Less than 20 years later, with operations booming, Kraver incorporates the operations as The Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company and issues $100,000 of common stock.
At its peek production, Peerless was making 200 barrels per week (that’s 23,000 barrels per year) and had another 63,000 barrels in storage. Prohibition struck hard in 1920, and like many distilleries, Peerless shuttered its doors. By 1925, the shuttered distillery was dismantled and re-erected in Vancouver, British Columbia. For a brief period, the aging stocks of Peerless bourbon were available via prescription as medicinal bourbon.
Kraver invested the proceeds from the distillery sale in a movie theater and the First National Bank of Henderson. Henry’s wife, Ida, passed away in 1936 and Henry followed soon after in 1938.
Fast forward to 2014 when construction begins in downtown Louisville by 4th and 5th generation family members, Corky and Carson Taylor. By 2015, spirits were once again being aged in barrels stamped with Kentucky DSP-50 from the original Peerless Distillery. Rye whiskeys bearing the Peerless name began to be released in 2017 and by 2019, bourbon barrels were dumped and bottled, as well.
The squat heavy glass bottle resembles a bourbon barrel, complete with the nailed bands holding the staves together. Both the label and the polished brass top proudly carry the DSP-50 mark. There is no age statement present on the bottle and the distiller is mum on the mash bill. It is bottled at a barrel-proof 107.1, made with a sweet mash, and is non-chill filtered.
From the website, we’re expecting fruits, florals and oaks. The nose features citrus, cedar and honeysuckle, as well as a nice balance of spicy oak. The first sip is that of caramel and toasted oak before a multitude of notes from around the flavor wheel show up on the palate. The finish showcases an enduring duel between sweet and spicy notes as citrus, florals, and sweet oak tussle with dry cocoa, cinnamon, and spicy oak. Let’s see how it tastes…
Eye: Deep copper. Medium, thin legs are on the side of my Kentucky Bourbon Trail tasting glass when swirled.
Nose: Sweet caramel and toasted oak are at the forefront. I’m surprised that there is no alcohol heat present to remind me of the higher proof. A very nice nose.
Palate: Front and center with caramel and gentle butterscotch. Rye and oak step up the longer it’s on my tongue. There is a smoothness to the mouthfeel. A drop or two of water opens up some of the lighter butterscotch notes. For the proof, its surprisingly gentle.
Finish: A burst of caramel followed by a long finish with oak and rye spice.
Overall: Peerless has made a favorable impression with its first introductions. Its rye whiskeys earned high awards in 2018 and 2019. In 2019, Whisky magazine awarded Peerless the Global Craft Producer of the Year distinction.
Peerless has put together a solid small batch craft bourbon. At nearly $70, it’s in a price range with longer-aged high quality premium products, such as Henry McKenna Bottled-in-Bond or other barrel-proof products such as Wild Turkey’s Rare Breed. The bottle is definitely impressive – award winning and one of the heaviest on the market.
It would be a great addition to your bourbon cabinet. I’ll be cheering on the work of Master Distiller Caleb Kilburn and founders Corky and Carson Taylor as they continue to expand the Peerless footprint.