The other day, on our way home from the Bourbon Cruise on the American Duchess, Rosemary and I stopped at the Dueling Grounds Distillery in Franklin, Kentucky. I had contacted the distillery and they knew we were coming, so the founder, Marc Dottore and Master Distiller Steve Whitledge, met us there. Marc and his wife Anne founded the distillery six years ago. At first, Marc was doing the distilling and most other chores at the distillery. A few years ago, he hired Steve from Corsair Distillery to be his Master Distiller. Steve brought with him the knowledge of making gin and they added that to their brands. Every small distillery needs an unaged spirit to help pay the bills as their barrels of whiskey are aging.
Small is an apt description of Dueling Grounds Distillery. The distillery is named for the fact that in the late 18th and early 19th century, nearby Linkumpinch Farm became a place to fight duels in southern Kentucky. The nearby Dueling Grounds Race Track shares this name with the distillery. Marc and Anne recently opened a small tasting room in a building at Linkumpinch Farm that dates back to this time. They named their Bourbon Linkumpinch and a pair of dueling pistols is featured on the label.
My tour started in the gift shop. The gift shop has a tasting bar and several tables and comfortable chairs. They sell cocktails and pizza as well as bottles and other brand-related goods. The distillery is small. They are making about five barrels a week on a good week. We entered the distillery from the back of the gift shop and the first thing you see is their cooker. It is a big black, covered pot and one of the employees has placed a pair of big, green, cat eyes on the top.
The grain is delivered in bags. The fermenters are small but they have recently added some more to increase their production. They started with a small pot still but have recently purchased a larger still and the smaller still now serves as a doubler. The whiskey is distilled, and the 53-gallon barrels are filled in the same room. The barrels are then shipped to Danville, Kentucky where they rent warehouse space from Wilderness Trail Distillery.
After aging, the barrels are returned to the distillery. They are dumped and the bottles are filled at their bottling station. I say station because they fill the bottles six at a time. There was a worker filling bottles when I was there and it looked to be a slow process, but when your production is as small as it is at Dueling Grounds Distillery, you don’t need a big, fancy bottling line.
The tour ended and we returned to the gift shop and rejoined Rosemary, who sat out the tour. We tasted their products which included Linkumpinch Bottled-in-Bond, Single Barrel, new make and gin. They use wheat in their mash bill and their barrel entry proof is 120. We enjoyed all of their products and purchased a bottle of each.
Dueling Grounds Distillery is well worth a visit. It is a short trip off Interstate 65. The tour is interesting and their products are good. The next time you are traveling south to Nashville or north to Louisville, the Franklin exit is close to the state line on the Kentucky side of the line. Take an hour or so of your time and stop in for a visit. They allow walk-in tours. Get your Craft Distillery Trail Passport stamped. They are on the Bourbon Trail. You won’t regret it.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach