Resurrecting history, Lexington’s first registered distillery returning to Manchester Street

Resurrecting history, Lexington’s first registered distillery returning to Manchester Street


What is left of Tarr’s Distillery can be found on Manchester Street in Lexington’s Distillery District. Manchester Music Hall, which was once known as Bonded Warehouse #1, is the only surviving building. 

Coming soon, Wm. Tarr Distillery will be resurrected in the form of a still room, gift shop and bar in Pepper Rickhouse of Lexington’s Distillery District by co-founders Jill Bakehorn and Barry Brinegar.

Back in the 1800’s, the original Tarr facility was located along Manchester Street between Cox and Perry Streets. Having a location within the Distillery District was imperative for Bakehorn and Brinegar’s revived concept. Once they recognized zoning issues with the original facility, they decided to take their concept down the street.

Bakehorn is no stranger to Manchester Street as the owner and operator of 903 Venues which includes The Grand Reserve, The Speakeasy, and Bluegrass Catering Company. With her love for history and familiarity with Manchester Street, she has always wanted to recognize the historical significance of Manchester Music Hall as home to the first bonded warehouse along the street.

Bakehorn teamed up with Brinegar, who refers to himself as a self-proclaimed bourbon expert, and has experience with local bourbon groups including his time on the board of directors for the Lexington Bourbon Society.

The team also consists of Rick Baker, CTO; Jim Green, CFO, who is also CFO of Wrigley Media; Morgan Middleton, Director of Operations; Don Rodgers and Don Hartwick who are the two bourbon consultants, and Dominick Starosky, Director of Spirits. Coach Mark Stoops and Key Investments are the primary investors.

There is historical significance behind the company’s trademark names of Wm. Tarr Distillery and RD1 Ashland.

In the late 1800’s, when the federal government started to tax distilleries, a law was made that required distilleries to be registered in each state. The state of Kentucky was divided into five regions and within Lexington’s region, Ashland Distillery was the first to obtain a federally registered distillery license in 1865. The distillery became known as RD #1.

A few years later, William Tarr acquired Ashland Distillery and introduced a new whiskey brand, initially called “Wm. Tarr Whiskey” and later known as “Old Tarr Whiskey.” 

“We felt strongly that we needed to tell that story of Lexington’s first registered distillery, and telling the story of Old William Tarr is also important to us,” says Brinegar.

Two releases will come back-to-back in Fall of 2020. The first label to release is a one-of-a-kind whiskey blend known as Old Wm. Tarr Whiskey: Manchester Reserve. Following that release will be an exquisite 12-year bourbon known as Old Wm. Tarr Bourbon: Inheritance.

The bourbon will be sourced throughout Kentucky while their still room will be used to make and bottle their own vodka and other clear spirits.

What might be most unique to the distillery is a small batch social club for top-shelf bourbon enthusiasts known temporarily as Tarr Underground. Members who join have special access to new product releases as well as the opportunity to mingle with owners and investors at events.

Other membership perks include complimentary tastings, early pre-order opportunities, honey barrel picks at the distillery, and exclusive appearances with Coach Mark Stoops.

“Tarr Underground represents the people who want to be the movers and shakers. People who want the opportunity to do something before anyone else in town,” says Middleton.

Next Wednesday, July 1, Tarr Underground will host its first event, a VIP Sneak Peek. Exclusive Old Wm. Tarr cocktails will be showcased along with locally-sourced, small-plate appetizers while guests have the opportunity to meet owners, investors, and other bourbon enthusiasts. 

Along with her excitement for the exclusive bourbon social club, Middleton is most excited for the accessibility standpoint.  

“When Town Branch Trail is completed, and when that is a beautiful, walkable, easy transition from downtown, I think that’s going to change the face of this whole district. And we are at the opening of it.”

Brinegar is most excited to be resurrecting something vintage, adding, “While it is new, we’re resurrecting the old and bringing it into current times. I’m excited to reimagine history and see this brand live on.”

Wm Tarr Distillery will be in Suite 190 of Pepper Rickhouse in Lexington’s Distillery District.

Tarr Underground: VIP Sneak Peek is at 903 Venues on Wednesday, July 1 from 7 pm to 10 pm. RSVP & purchase tickets online.


Subscribe to the Ace e-dition for Lexington news, arts, culture, food, and entertainment news delivered to your inbox.

Call today to advertise in Ace, 859.225.4889