One trip to the Jeptha Creed Craft Distillery in Shelbyville, KY, and it’s clear this was not a concept built overnight. A family-owned distillery run by mother-daughter duo Joyce and Autumn Nethery, it’s clear that every ounce of passion and commitment the Netherys have to offer is present in the distillery itself. Everything is hand-picked, from the use of all copper-style fixtures and wood countertops made from trees that fell on the farm, to the placement of antique vehicles around the property. The distillery is bursting with the Netherys’ personality and family history.
Bruce Nethery, Joyce’s husband who grew up on a dairy farm, purchased their home farm property when he was 18, first using it as a tobacco and beef cattle farm. Bruce works alongside Joyce and Autumn, producing ingredients for spirit development and helping to run the distillery. Joyce, who also came from a farming family, is Jeptha Creed’s Master Distiller. In this role, she is putting to good use her Master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville Speed School and 15 years experience as a process engineer in industrial-scale distillation. Autumn serves as the co-owner and marketing manager of the distillery. She studied distilling at the prestigious Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and obtained a marketing degree from the University of Kentucky. She is the youngest distillery owner in Kentucky and one of the youngest in the country. Joyce and Bruce’s 18-year-old son, Hunter, serves as the distillery’s beekeeper, producing honey used in a number of Jeptha Creed spirits and cocktails.
The name Jeptha Creed is derived from both Kentucky and Scottish heritage, two ideals to which the Netherys hold true. Jacobite and Scottish soldier James Nethery came to the American colonies from Scotland as an indentured servant after being captured in the Battle of Preston in 1715. He and his family settled in what is now Shelbyville, KY, home of the Jeptha Knob, the highest point in the state. It was discovered by American frontiersmen and brothers Squire Boone, founder of the first settlement in Shelby County, KY, and the one-and-only Daniel Boone, who named the knob after a biblical warrior in Judges 11.
After learning about the Jeptha Knob’s rich Kentucky history, the Netherys decided to make Jeptha part of their name. In addition to this piece of hometown history, the Netherys wanted to honor an important creed passed down through their family for generations. Derived from the Scottish motto, Ne Oublie, meaning “never forget,” they promise to always remember where they came from. This combination of both their Kentucky and Scottish roots resulted in the creation of the “Jeptha Creed” brand and promise, their commitment to offer a unique and unforgettable experience, rooted in tradition and heritage, to everyone who walks through the distillery doors.
The Nethery family’s farming background, experience in and passion for distilling and Southern hospitality made opening the distillery a no-brainer. Despite this, when Bruce originally presented the idea, Joyce was not so sure.
“I said, ‘No! That’s crazy!’ But he kept on with it, and I knew at a certain point, he was going to do it,” Joyce says. “I thought, ‘Well, if he’s going to do this, he needs some training.’ So I found the Distilled Center Epicenter in Louisville and Moonshine University and got him signed up for the five-day distillers class, the first one offered. Ultimately, his other business obligations pulled him away [from the class] so I went instead — because we had already paid for it. It was then I fell back in love with engineering, with copper, with the process.”
On November 11, 2016, Jeptha Creed officially opened its doors, offering a unique experience through a concept they call “ground-to-glass” distilling, making them a standout in Kentucky’s robust distillery industry. Ground-to-glass means they have a hand in every aspect of spirit production. They are the only distillery in Kentucky that grows ingredients on their own farm or sources ingredients from other local farms to use in all of their spirits.
Among their unique, natural ingredients is the non-GMO heirloom varietal Bloody Butcher corn. It’s a favorite of the local wildlife who, according to Joyce, quite literally passed through a field of yellow corn to eat the Bloody Butcher corn.
“After we sold the cows, the land became food plots for deer and turkey,” Joyce says. “We would watch the wildlife walk through the yellow to get to the Bloody Butcher field to eat. They would eat it and eat it and eat it! They had hundreds of acres to choose from, and they walked through it all to get to the Bloody Butcher. That’s how we knew we had something really special on our hands.” This variety of corn offers a unique, earthy flavor that regular corn does not have. It is open-pollinated, and each kernel is a seed that is replanted to produce the same high-quality corn year after year.
One of Joyce’s favorite parts of the distilling process is recipe development. If you take a tour of the distillery, you will have the chance to see the “Bless Your Heart Shelf,” where they keep recipe experiments that are still in the works or did not quite hit the mark.
“The process of deciding which ingredients marry well together to make a crisp, refreshing and delicious spirit that can be adapted into various recipes is a challenge I happily take on,” Joyce says. “The process may involve a bit of trial and error, but it’s a proud moment when we’re able to create yet another delicious, natural, Kentucky-made spirit.”
Another unique ingredient Jeptha Creed is working with in its brandy recipe is the pawpaw, a mango-like fruit that isn’t a grocery store staple because of its extremely short shelf life. Unless you’re in the right place at the right time, the opportunity to taste one is rare. Jeptha has been able to partner with nearby farms in Paris and Versailles, KY, to source and freeze enough pawpaws to make use of them in their new brandy recipe — something no other distillery has been able to do.
Their focus on naturally sourced and non-GMO ingredients makes Jeptha Creed spirits true to flavor and healthier to consume than typical spirits full of artificial flavors and fillers. It’s a local brand — truly possessing local flavor.
Jeptha Creed is not only known for its delicious spirits. There is always a fun event happening on the property whether it be inside the distillery, on the beautiful patio overlooking the farm or in one of the three barrel barns where a much-anticipated batch of bourbon is currently aging. Every Friday, they host a concert series called Jammin’ at Jeptha, featuring a different local or regional artist. Recently, the distillery also hosted an event called the Jeptha Games in conjunction with the Kentucky Bourbon Affair, where patrons had the chance to participate in traditional Highland-style Scottish games such as axe-throwing, footgolf and archery.
Jeptha Creed has a strong passion for family heritage. Their creed is simple – to create a unique experience for their customers by honoring decades of local history and family tradition. As the distillery grows, the Netherys remain devoted to their rich Kentucky and Scotland heritage, creating spirits that allow customers to actually savor the rich results of living that family creed on that centuries-old family farm near Jeptha Knob. It just makes you want to raise a glass to “never forgetting where you came from.”
Jeptha Creed Craft Distillery is located at 500 Gordon Ln, Shelbyville, KY 40065. From January to March, the distillery hours are Monday through Wednesday, closed; Thursday, noon to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. From March to December, the distillery hours are Tuesday though Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; closed on Mondays. To check their events or schedule a tour or a tasting, call (502) 487-5007 or visit jepthacreed.com.
For more of the best local food and drink in Louisville, click HERE.