Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, Woodford Reserve

What you should know about the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery

Reading What you should know about the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery 3 minutes Next Why aren't your virtual events getting the audiences you want?

The current home of Woodford Reserve Distillery, owned and operated by Brown-Forman, was built alongside Glenn’s Creek in Woodford County, KY in 1812 on a 350 acre lot by Elijah Pepper, a farmer-distiller. The distillery is one of the oldest standing distilleries in Kentucky, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Dr. James Crow perfected the sour mash technique while working here and insisted on aging bourbon in charred oak barrels (unaged “Crow” vs. aged “Old Crow”). In 1995, the site became home to Woodford Reserve Distillery. Woodford Reserve Distillery was conceived and developed by then General Manager Dave Scheurich and Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson.

Distillers & Operators

  • Elijah Pepper 1812 - 1831
  • Oscar N. Pepper 1831
  • James Crow 1833 - 1855
    • Credited with perfecting the sour mash fermentation technique, now common in modern day production
    • Used his scientific and medical training to perfect distillation
  • W. F. Mitchell 1855 - unclear
  • James E Pepper - 1870 - 1877
  • Lincoln Henderson 1996 - 2003
  • Chris Morris 2003 - current
    • Began his career in 1976 at Brown-Forman
    • Understudy to Lincoln Henderson
    • Created the first bourbon finished in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir barrels.
    • Developed the world’s first maple barrel
    • Developed Double Oaked, Rye, and Master’s Collection
  • Elizabeth McCall 2018 - current
    • Began her career in R&D as a sensory expert at Brown-Forman in 2009


  • Oscar Pepper died in 1865, the estate was transferred to his youngest son, a minor, which meant Oscar’s wife controlled the distillery. Oscar’s oldest son James E. Pepper managed the distillery, produced “Old Crow Whiskey” and called the distillery “Old Crow Distillery”.
  • James E Pepper sued his mother for sole ownership and partnered with Col. Taylor to make improvements in 1872.
  • In 1877 Col. Taylor took sole ownership when James Pepper declared bankruptcy. Col. Taylor experienced his own financial ruin not long after and ownership was transferred to  George T. Stagg.
  • Labrott & Graham acquired the distillery in 1878
  • In 1880, James E Pepper built a new distillery and sued Labrott & Graham for the right’s to the “Pepper” name. L&G won the case  and continued to call the distillery “Old Oscar Pepper Distillery”
  • In 1941, the Brown-Forman Corporation acquired the distillery to produce Early Times
  • Abandoned in 1959 and sold to a farmer in 1973. It was re-purchased by Brown-Forman and refurbished in 1993.


At the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Woodford Reserve's best performances have been in 2005 and 2013, winning a double gold medal each time. It has also won gold (2006–2007, 2011–2012) and silver (2008, 2010) medals at this annual event.

Current Production & Aging (Woodford Reserve)

  • Triple pot distilled, blending with column distilled from Brown-Forman in Shively, KY
  • 72% Corn, 18% Rye and 10% Malted Barley, the same mash bill as Old Forrester
  • Low barrel entry proof
  • Stone barrel houses
  • Use heat cycling to control maturation
  • Woodford Reserve is aged 7 years on average

Products Currently Produced

  • Woodford Reserve Master’s collection
    • Entirely copper pot distilled
  • Woodford Reserve introduced in 1996
  • Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
  • Woodford Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey
    • Thought to replace Rittenhouse Rye production after Heaven Hill resumed production
  • Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey
  • Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.