Historic Structures

Distillery Building Description Labrot and Grahams Oscar Pepper - Old Crow - Distillery, Versailles Kentucky

This building currently houses the production area of the distilling processes from start to finish. Grain is delivered by truck and is sorted and stored. It is ground to a pulp for deposit in the fermenting tanks where it is mixed with water and yeast. Fermented mash, "beer," is separated and pumped to the still room. Three copper pot stills are heated to allow distillation to take place (these replace a previous column still). The resulting alcohol is collected and stored in the cisterns for warehousing in barrels. Filled barrels are rolled to the warehouses on the barrel run for storage. The use of masonry and metal for fire safety and the irregular heights and shapes of the architecture are related to the historic functions performed in each section of the structure.

The general overall appearance of the distillery when viewed from the north is a low, two-story, rectangular-shaped, fenestrated, masonry mass with a standing-seam metal roof. The roof increases in height at the north end as it extends over the earliest distillery section which terminates with a square upward extension to the south. Toward the rear of the building and the creek, four other separate rectangular and vertical superstructures ranging from two to four stories above the roof are clad in corrugated gray metal. Each structure exhibits different roof lines and varying fenestration patterns. These are all overshadowed in height by three black 100- foot smoke stacks that project from the boiler house at the north end of the structure.

The prominent building facade is a two-section, two-story limestone wall made up of a five and three-bay unit. Each has six-over-six, double-hung, segmental-arched windows set in segmentally arched openings accented by a limestone soldier course. In the middle of the threebay section to the south, over the entrance door and directly under the second floor window, has been placed a mill stone incised with the inscription "Old Oscar Pepper Distillery Est. 1838 Labrot & Graham Est. 1878." The gable roof of standing-seam metal is punctuated by eleven small gable-roofed metal sky lights for the fermenting room. The coursed and mortared limestone varies slightly in dimension and color in the different building sections, but an overall homogeneity prevails. These building sections were built around the early 1838 distillery structure. The five bay section was added to the west in 1940 under Brown-Forman's new ownership. In the 1890s a porch had stood in the same location. The three-bay fermenting room expanded the structure to the south and was completed by 1942. At that time the mill stone was moved from the truck entrance of the boiler house where it had been installed in 1934 to this more prominent location.

The upper level extensions are repaired balloon framing, resheathed in 1996 with gray corrugated siding to replicate the building after Repeal. Windows are wooden double-hung sash with light patterns ranging from two over two to six over six and some casements. The three 100-foot-tall smoke stacks erected in 1934 have been replaced, but the replicas sit in their original location aligned north-south over the boiler room. All roof surfaces have been re-covered with gray standing-seam metal over solid sheathing. The roof over the distillery room is pierced for ventilation with single pitch metal framed skylights.

The reconstruction of the Distillery Building in 1934 following Repeal of Prohibition changed its 19th-century appearance. Above the original 1838 masonry building two or three stories of frame construction clad in corrugated metal were added. The new space was used for grain storage, milling operations, and to accommodate an elevator tower and a penthouse for a new column still. These uses remained until production ceased in 1957. After years of no use, the rehabilitation of the distillery between 1994 and 1996 for a specialty bourbon meant an opportunity to rework the interior for contemporary needs that included slower production but a chance to bring visitors into the area and demonstrate the process. The outside of the distillery has been restored to its 1934-42 appearance, but the interior has certain modifications. The added fermenting room of 1942 that formerly held six large tanks now has two levels, each with a cooker and four tanks for mashing and fermenting. Office space and a laboratory are incorporated in these areas. The still area, housed within the walls of the 1838 distillery, has a platformed area for three or more copper pot stills and gauging equipment. On the first floor barrels are stored under the platform and exhibit and demonstration space for barrel construction is retained. The new production equipment includes four 7,500 gallon fermenting vats made out of the traditional material, cypress wood; one 7,500 gallon steel mash cooker; one yeast cooker; one 2,500 gallon copper beer pot still; one 1,650 gallon copper spirits pot still; one 1,650 gallon copper high wines pot still; and one 1,400 gallon steel barrel gauge tank.