Elijah Pepper settled in Kentucky around 1790. Elijah and his brother-in-law, John O’Bannon, built a small distillery in Versailles, just below the spring that is the primary source of Glenn’s Creek.
They produced whiskey in a limited way until 1812, when Elijah purchased a large tract of land several miles downstream and began growing his farm and distillery.
This farm would eventually become today’s Woodford Reserve Distillery.
Oscar Pepper & The Old Pepper Distillery
After Elijah’s death his wife, Nancy Ann, ran the farm and distillery and in 1838 their son Oscar Pepper purchased the distillery from his mother. Oscar then branded the distillery Old Pepper, and more significantly, hired James Crow to oversee whiskey production. Because Oscar did not prepare a will, his estate was in disarray at his death.
Oscar’s widow entrusted her oldest son, James, with the responsibility of running the distillery. James, however, was still a minor, so she had EH Taylor, Jr. appointed his legal guardian. Ironically, with the help of Taylor, James would later sue his mother for ownership of the distillery.
James Crow would then go on to perfect his sour mash method at Oscar Pepper's farm on Glenn's Creek, current day home of Woodford Reserve Distillery.
Want to learn more about the fascinating history of the bourbon industry and bourbon tourism in Kentucky? Stay tuned to the Bourbon History Blog by Neat Kentucky Tours!