Bourbon Country Is Getting Bigger, Thanks To Alltech

Alltech, a large conglomerate headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, is quite a unique company. As the only combination brewery/distillery in the state, Alltech produces a popular line of beers (particularly its barrel-aged products, naturally) under the company's Kentucky Ale brand as well as spirits, including a single malt, bourbon, rye whiskey and a bourbon-infused coffee liqueur. Founded in 1980 by Irish biochemist and entrepreneur Dr. Pearse Lyons, Alltech makes most of its multibillion-dollar annual revenue from animal nutrition and crop science products. With so much scientific knowledge of crops and grains, it was natural for the company to expand into brewing and distilling. After all, corn, rye and barley are the major components of what ends up in your snifter or pint glass.

Recently, Alltech announced an initiative that will make the company unique in Kentucky in yet another way: geographically. With its Lexington Town Branch Distillery already recognized as the easternmost stop on the popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail  most of which is concentrated around the area between Louisville, Frankfort and Bardstown  Alltech is pushing the boundaries of Bourbon Country even farther to the east with the company's plans to open the new Dueling Barrels Brewing & Distilling Co. in Pikeville, near the West Virginia border.

Double Barrels is a double entendre, referring to the oak barrels that the company will use to age its spirits and beers at the new facility and also the double barrels of a shotgun. You see, Pikeville is also known as the site of the famous late 19th-century feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Like Alltech's founder, Lyons, William McCoy was born in Ireland, and the company continues to pay homage to that lineage.

Both the original Town Branch facility and the new distillery, slated to open in 2017, employ Irish-style pot stills to make spirits. Lyons comes from five generations of coopers on his mother's side of the family and a history of distillers on his father's side, and he worked as an intern at Harp and Guinness as a young man. He has closed the geographic circle recently by shipping Kentucky whiskey stills made by Vendome in Louisville to an Irish distillery and purchasing two distilleries, one in Ireland and the other in Great Britain.

But it's the announcement of Double Barrels that is making the biggest splash as the first (legal) distillery in that far corner of the Bluegrass State. In a nod to the hillbilly traditions of the area, Double Barrels will produce a moonshine along with beer and bourbon. An Irish-style brewpub/restaurant is also planned to open next door to the distillery and brewery to encourage even more tourism.

Traveling the entire Kentucky Bourbon Trail has always been an ambitious task, requiring careful route planning and hopefully a friend who doesn't mind staying sober to haul your tipsy butt from site to site. Now that Alltech is expanding the footprint almost 150 miles to the east, you might think about investing in a tour bus.