After Almost a Century, William Tarr Returns to Kentucky

Old Wm. Tarr Manchester Reserve and Inheritance. Photo Courtesy Justins' House of Boubon.

Almost a century after Lexington’s first registered distillery closed its doors, the historic Wm. Tarr brand is returning to shelves in Kentucky.

In 1865, a group of businessmen built Ashland Distillery, the first registered distillery in Lexington, at the entrance to Manchester Street. By 1871, William Tarr was at the helm, bottling Old Tarr and Ashland bourbon and whiskey. But as Prohibition hit across the U.S. in 1920, the distillery went out of business.

Now, a group of local bourbon lovers and businessmen are bringing the Tarr name back to his hometown with the release of Old Wm. Tarr Manchester Reserve and Old Wm. Tarr Inheritance.

Old Wm. Tarr Manchester Reserve is a blend of 10% 7-year-old Kentucky bourbon with a mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley, and 90% 8-year-old Kentucky rye whiskey with a mash bill of 51% rye, 37% corn, and 12% malted barley, bottled at a bold 114 proof. The distillery tells us to look for notes of “sweet corn, smoldering wood sugar, dark raisin and praline.” It’s available now for $80.

“Our first release is an exceptional product, a 7-year Kentucky bourbon blended with an 8-year rye,” said Jill Bakehorn, Wm. Tarr Distillery CEO. “I like drinking a dimensional bourbon. The rye comes in to elevate your tasting experience and the element of cherries adds a sweet finish. It’s perfect neat or straight, and I especially enjoy it over ice with a twist of orange as a simple cocktail.”

Old Wm. Tarr Inheritance is a 12-year-old Kentucky bourbon bottled at 120 proof with notes of “clove, nutmeg, subtle hints of cinnamon, light mint and toasted pecans.” It comes packaged in a custom box autographed by Kentucky Football Head Coach Mark Stoops, a minority investor in the company, for $300.

“The opportunity to develop bourbon products that will stand the test of time is a dream for someone like me,” said Barry Brinegar, local businessman and bourbon lover who serves as Wm. Tarr president. “Manchester Reserve and Inheritance are worthy of the brand. The quality of these products really is the essence of why Kentucky is a leader in the global production of bourbon.”

Both bottles are available to order here for curbside pickup at Wm. Tarr Distillery in the historic Pepper Rickhouse located in Lexington’s Distillery District at 1170 Manchester Street, Suite 190. The facility soon will be home to the Wm. Tarr tour experience. In the meantime, it will host private tastings and related events. 

Caroline Paulus
Caroline Paulus is the Senior Editor for The Bourbon Review. She lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky. Follow her on Instagram @misswhiskeyhistorian to keep up with her latest in bourbon news - and a few old finds, too.