How the historic Owensboro distillery was once lost but now has been restored to its original glory
By Sarah Levitch
Photos provided by Green River Distilling Co.
After decades of being under different ownership and name, the property originally home to the Green River Distilling Co. has come full circle. The recent revival of Green River Distillery celebrates and honors the vision of founder J.W. McCulloch. Originally established in 1885, Green River Whiskey gained national and international acclaim and was promoted as “the whiskey without a headache.” However, at the height of its popularity in 1918, Green River Distillery caught on fire, burning all the whiskey and almost all the buildings. Though rebuilt, prohibition followed from 1920-1933 and halted Green River Distillery from returning to its original glory.
From 1939-2007, the property became Medley Distilling Company, with ownership being passed along throughout the years. It wasn’t until 2014 that another group purchased the property and began restoration, beginning production in 2016 under the name O.Z. Tyler. In 2020, Green River Distillery came full circle, returning to its original name at the original location in Owensboro, KY, welcoming a new era for the company.
As an eighth-generation distiller and Kentuckian, Master Distiller Jacob Call leads Green River into this new era with great pride and expertise. Call stated, “I’ve been around bourbon my whole life. Some of my earliest memories are me running around rickhouses with my dad. What I have learned over time is that great bourbon comes from both the head and the heart. My experience is equal parts know-how and a love for the art handed down from my family.”
Creative Director Aaron Kizer, who is also a world-renowned artist and Owensboro native, has his works showcased throughout the campus, most notably the “Whiskey Without Regrets” mural at the entrance. Inspired by the distillery’s archives, Kizer found a balance of making the distillery look original while adding new, modern touches for visitors.
Committed to bringing back only the finest ingredients, craftsmanship and tradition, Green River sources their corn from Kentucky, having built relationships with farmers and families, as well as the Kentucky Corn Growers Association. For Green River, quality also means sustainability. The distillery will plant oak trees to one day use as bourbon barrels and give spent grain to local farmers to feed their cows.
As heritage members on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Green River invites visitors to not only tour the distillery, but also the city of Owensboro. Filled with rich whiskey history, Green River is a proud supporter of the Owensboro community, working with them to bring business and tourism.
Green River’s four-year Bottled In Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a high rye mash bill, delivering pepper and warm spice notes, as well as cinnamon, cardamom, cherry and a bit of leather. A limited release of the bourbon will be available in early 2022, and the distillery is currently open for tours and tastings.
Green River Distilling Co.
10 Distillery Road
Owensboro, KY 42301