In 1879 Robert F. Johnson built a distillery on his farm on Russell Cave Pike, three miles from Lexington.  In 1882, H. D. Owings leased the plant and began producing the H. D. Owings brand of “Old Fashioned Hand-Made Sour Mash Fire Copper Whiskey.”

He produced roughly eight hundred barrels annually, valued at $20,000.  He employed five workers, at an average weekly salary of $5.  The distillery was supplied water from a two and one-half acre lake on the farm.  The plant was powered by an eighteen horsepower engine.  The distillery was of brick and stone construction, with floor space of five thousand four hundred square feet.  The company had a total of one hundred seventy mash tubs of seventy-two gallons each.  The mash bill included one hundred twenty bushels of corn and forty bushels of rye and barley.  The plant had four fermentation tanks of eight thousand gallons each and four of three thousand gallons each.  The whiskey was fermented for ninety-six hours.  The beer still had the capacity of three thousand six hundred gallons and the doubler had the capacity of four hundred gallons.

The two warehouses had floor space of six thousand eight hundred square feet, with storage capacity of twenty-six hundred barrels.  In 1882, the company had twelve hundred twenty-eight barrels in storage.  The distillery closed in 1883.[i]


[i] Perrin, page 209 and Cecil, page 71.


William M. Ambrose, Bottled In Bond under U. S. Government Supervision, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2008.