The Gentleman Looks to Bring Whiskey Production Back to Bourbon County

Business Lexington - April 25th, 2014

By Susan Baniak 

Although Bourbon County served as an early wellspring for the production of Kentucky’s most famous beverage, no company has actually distilled bourbon there since before Prohibition.

That is about to change.

In April, local residents Andrew Buchanan and Curtis Mackley, along with their respective wives Larissa Wells and Holly Mackley, introduced downtown Paris to The Gentleman, their newly conceived small-batch distillery in the making. Although the state and federal application process for the company’s distilled spirits permits won’t be completed until next fall, the future distillers have begun buying equipment and assembling a Facebook following, and they plan to officially open the doors of their newly purchased location at 718 Main St. to the community for tours and greetings during the town’s Artwalk on April 25.

“The idea is really just to bring spirits back to Bourbon County,” Buchanan said.

For the owners of The Gentleman, returning spirit making to its Kentucky roots will mean more than simply locating their shop on Main Street. The company plans to source many of its ingredients, with the exception of its sugar and molasses, from local farmers, with the used grains being recycled back to local farms to amend the soil. Consumers will also eventually be able to see The Gentleman’s products being distilled and aged on site in downtown Paris.

“This is going to be an open-house distillery,” said Wells, who also owns the local advertising company Postscript Media Marketing with Buchanan. “People will be able to come behind the counter and get a really good, hands-on idea of what we are doing.”

In terms of its offerings, The Gentleman’s product base will start with white spirits, such as gin, vodka, moonshine, rum and un-aged whiskey. Bourbon, which requires a longer aging process, will come later, the owners said.

Mackley, whose family owns Paris-based Mingua Beef Jerky, added that there’s even been talk of eventually co-branding The Gentleman’s bourbon with Mingua in the production of a bourbon-flavored jerky.

The distillery will focus on regional distribution to start, Buchanan said. The intent is to keep it small and focus on the craft of distilling, he added, which will enable the distillery to maintain close connections to its local producers and give The Gentleman more control over its quality.

“It’s not about pushing it out,” Mackley said. “If you keep the quality there, the growth will come.”

But that hasn’t stopped them from building interest in their new company while they wait for their official paperwork. The owners have used Facebook and Instagram to share the milestones of their start-up journey. Opening their Main Street storefront to the community in advance has also allowed them to play a part in what they see as an exciting stage of growth for downtown Paris.

“That’s one of the reasons we really wanted to be downtown. We wanted to be part of the community down here — to be a whole lot more than a distillery,” Buchanan said.

“We have friends we graduated high school with who could not wait to get out of Bourbon County. Now they are looking back and wishing they had stuck around, or [are] even considering moving back,” he said.

But even with the enthusiasm of a downtown on the rise and the opening of the Main Street shop, Buchanan said the real excitement at The Gentleman will come when they can finally get their hands on the finished product.

“It’ll be pretty exciting to start to see something roll off the still,” Buchanan said.

Andrew Buchanan