Episode 264. Caleb Kilburn – Master Distiller, Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.
Born to Ira & Ambie Kilburn in 1991, Caleb Kilburn was raised in Salt Lick, a rural eastern Kentucky town, on his family’s dairy farm. These years taught him the meaning of hard work and endowed him with an impressive array of mechanical skills which would prove invaluable later in life when he was called on to help build Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. After graduating Valedictorian of his high school class in Bath Co., he attended Morehead State University where he pursued his love for the sciences. It was during this time that Caleb became fascinated with the art of distillation. He claimed it to be the perfect balance of chemistry, biology, & physics. His fascination led him to obsessively research the process & science of distillation. His research went beyond traditional means, as he attended many of the distillery tours in the area, requesting opportunities to shadow at several of them. In 2013, between his college sophomore & junior years, Caleb paid his way through a Distiller’s course offered by the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, in Louisville, KY. It was during this course that Caleb befriended 2 of the instructors who would later become his mentors. Rob Sherman, President of Vendome Copper & Brass Work in Louisville, KY, & Pete Kamer, the retired Head Engineer of Barton Brands in Bardstown, KY. Each provided Caleb with educational opportunities and advice over the course of the next year. In the summer of 2014, each mentor recommended Caleb work with the startup Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. Originally assigned to general construction tasks, Caleb quickly proved his valor by persistently taking on more and more responsibilities. Thanks to his upbringing and research, he was more than capable of managing the installation of the mechanical systems & distilling equipment. By the end of summer, Carson & Corky Taylor, the family ownership of Kentucky Peerless, formally offered Caleb the position of Head Distiller. Caleb balanced the latter portions of the construction with his last semester of college, during which he developed the computer control system that was integral to Peerless’ creation of an exceptional whiskey. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BS in Chemistry, & then started full-time at Kentucky Peerless the following week. After several months of preparation, on March 4th, 2015, Caleb distilled Peerless’ 1st barrel of whiskey in 98 years. In the Fall of 2017, his dream continued as Peerless’ Kentucky Straight Rye earned industry-wide respect when it was named the #15 whiskey in the world by the Whiskey Advocate. Despite his uncanny intellect & meteoric rise in the craft spirits’ world, Caleb remains modest regarding his accomplishments. He doesn’t consider himself a Master Distiller and is quick to correct anyone who mistakenly calls him one. He states he holds that revered title for his idols and heroes. Humility aside, as one of the youngest distillers in the history of the industry, Caleb has produced some handcrafted whiskey that rivals the finest in the world.