Kentucky bourbon debuts

O.Z. Tyler Distillery will join state’s bourbon trail June 1

Earl Hewlette, CEO of Terressentia Corp., had waited a decade for Thursday — the day he was able to sell a bottle of Kentucky bourbon for the first time.

Terressentia’s O.Z. Tyler Distillery, which is producing 70,000 barrels of bourbon a year in Owensboro, finally had bourbon aged enough to sell.

Jacob Call, master distiller and operations manager, said 850 bottles were available at the distillery during Thursday’s celebration, and several hundred six-bottle cases had been shipped by distributors to stores around Kentucky.

He said he’s not sure how soon the bourbon will be available nationally.

Terressentia has been selling its O.Z. Tyler bourbon for a couple of years now.

But it was made in South Carolina and can’t be called “Kentucky bourbon.”

That word is important, Hewlette said.

“The word ‘Kentucky’ means great bourbon to a lot of people around the world,” he said. “That’s why we have this distillery.”

On June 1, the distillery will become the western gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which attracts more than 1.2 million visitors a year.

Hewlette said the O.Z. Tyler is continuing to expand.

This year, he said, Rickhouse B, which will eventually hold 20,000 barrels of aging bourbon, will be restored.

High winds a couple of years ago knocked down one wall.

And next year, another 20,000-barrel rickhouse will be added.

At some point in the future, Hewlette said, plans call for expanding production to 100,000 barrels a year — up 30,000 barrels from the current level.

Each barrel is enough to fill 325 bottles.

“That will probably be the last expansion we’ll be able to do here,” Hewlette said.

Last year, he said, the distillery saw more than 7,000 visitors — “more than we expected.”

It’s already on track to see more this year.

And the company expects large numbers of visitors once it’s officially on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

O.Z. Tyler bourbon is aged in charred white oak barrels for one year and a day.

Most bourbons spend at least two years aging.

But Hewlette said the TerrePURE process can remove as many impurities from the bourbon in eight hours as two years in a barrel would.

The company’s website says, “TerrePURE is an all-natural process that utilizes ultrasonic energy, heat and oxygen to dramatically improve the quality and taste of distilled spirits. It works by removing harsh-tasting impurities present in all spirits, revealing the pleasant taste and aroma of the underlying distillate without the need for extensive barrel aging.”

Hewlette said the company can make 20 different tastes in its bourbon with slight alterations of the TerrePURE process.

The bourbon is a blend of 70 percent corn, 21 percent rye and 9 percent barley.

Four trucks each bring 1,000 bushels of grain to the distillery every day.

“Kentucky corn,” Call said.

Fifty country hams are soaking up the bourbon aroma in Rickhouse A, and beehives out back are producing honey for the honey-flavored bourbon.

At a celebration Thursday afternoon, Hewlette told the crowd, “Owensboro has been a three-year honeymoon I never want to see end.”

Mayor Tom Watson praised the company’s progress and said, “That’s what we need in our community.”

Judge-Executive Al Mattingly called O.Z. Tyler “a great corporate citizen.”

Colleen Thomas, director of member and public affairs for the Kentucky Distillers Association, said the $8.5 billion bourbon industry is “revolutionizing tourism” in Kentucky, bringing in large numbers of out-of-state bourbon fans.

Terressentia bought the former Charles Medley Distillers Kentucky facility in 2014 and began production in 2016.

Messenger Inquirer article written by Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, [email protected]