Steve Nally’s first job in the whiskey industry was as a janitor for Maker’s Mark. He’s gone on to have a career that’s spanned close to 50 years. That legacy has earned him a place in the Bourbon Hall of Fame along with his wife.
“I would estimate over a 100 million people have tried products I’ve made,” Steve casually told us.
Steve makes world class bourbon. He’s taking the lessons learned as Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark over a decades-long stint and applying them to his newest project, Bardstown Bourbon Company in Kentucky — a relatively new state-of-the-art bourbon distillery pushing the boundaries through innovation.
“I grew up right outside the Maker’s Mark property,” Steve recounted. “I was born and raised there and started in 1972. Between then and 1988, I worked every job at the distillery. I was anything from the night watchman, to the warehouse supervisor, to bottling maintenance. All of the above. In 1988, I became Master Distiller.”
It’s that experience that has molded Bardstown’s approach.
“You have the process — you cooked it, cooled it down, distilled it. All of this was done in a very particular manner,” Steve told us over a glass from Bardstown’s Fusion Series. “It taught me the preciseness of doing everything just right.”
“The history of the bourbon industry is that there’s always been a lot of secrets about it. Everybody knew about the families that grew it and promoted bourbon but you didn’t know a lot about the process itself,” Steve explained. “One thing that Bardstown Bourbon is all about is being transparent to the consumer. No hidden stories and no hidden production practices.”
During Steve’s tenure, Maker’s Mark went from producing 32 barrels a week to being a global powerhouse pumping out millions of bottles. After flirting with retirement, Steve had a stint cooking for Wyoming’s first legal distillery, Wyoming Whiskey, before getting involved with Bardstown when it began production in 2013.
Set on 100 acres of farmland in the heart of the Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown is cultivating a Napa Valley style experience on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. They’re a new blend of bourbon makers housed at its state-of-the-art $40 million distillery. Along with producing their own bourbon, they offer custom whiskey production on behalf of 24 different customers including the likes of Jefferson’s, High West, Belle Meade, Hirsch, Calumet, James E. Pepper, Cyrus Noble, and many others.
In 2019, Bardstown is set to produce 6.8 million proof gallons, which equates to 18-20 million bottles. They reserve about 10 percent of its production for its own juice.
As we finished up for the day, we asked Steve if we were talking to a living bourbon legend. His response says you all need to know about him: “I don’t feel like I’m a legend. I think the legends are the ones that started before me.”
And for the record, yes we were speaking with a living legend.
Join RackHouse Whiskey Club to receive a signed bottle of Bardstown Bourbon Company's Fusion Series #1 and a bottle of their yet-to-be-released The Prisoner.
Fusion Series #1
“We’re really excited by our Fusion Bourbon as it really shows the art of blending but also shows what our products are coming to be that’s good a very, very good finish to it. I like to call this finish as the Kentucky hug.” – Steve Nally
Fusion Series #1 is a blend of 60% of Bardstown Bourbon Company’s two-year-old wheated and high-rye Kentucky bourbons along with 40% of 11 year 7 month bourbon from Kentucky to create a smooth, complex pour.
Leather, roasted nuts, and rich caramel of old Kentucky Bourbon is countered with lively fruit and spice of the young Kentucky Bourbon. The result is a unique nose, rich palate, and a balanced, lasting finish.
“The Prisoner is a collaboration we’re doing. The Prisoner Wine Company selects several different vintages of their wine, they blend them together percentage-wise to create the Prisoner wine finish. We’ve got barrels from Prisoner and we’re going to age product in those barrels for about 19 months. That product is going to be blended together in the same ratio that Prisoner develops the wines out of. We’re excited by that. It won’t be on the market until 2020.” — Steve Nally
This starts with exceptional 9-year-old Tennessee bourbon that is then finished in The Prisoner Wine Company’s French oak barrels for 18 months. The result? A complex, welcoming bouquet of blackberry and black cherry blended with aromas of rich honey, vanilla, and baking spices. Hints of the original premium grape blend take the lead on the palate with a touch of sweetness, turning to a ringing, balanced finish.