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New downtown distillery making strides in year one

By JOSHUA ROBERTS jroberts@paducahsun.com

T

he front doors at 426 Broadway in downtown Paducah are a gateway of sorts, bridging past and present.

Outside, it's modern -- digital, busy, constantly changing. Inside, things are a bit more throwback.

Whiskey, it turns out, isn't all that complicated, the formula and process well-tested over time, Silent Brigade Distillery owners Keith Bundy and John Brown said.

"It's been the same way since day one: you take grain, you ferment it, you put it in a still, you heat it, get the vapors, condense them back into alcohol," Bundy said.

Silent Brigade opened in mid-April in 10,900 square feet that includes a banquet room, becoming one of downtown's must-visit destinations. Its opening comes on the heels of two additions last year to Paducah's craft brewing scene -- Paducah Beer Werks, 301 N. Fourth St., and Dry Ground, 3121 Broadway, inside the historic Coke Plant.

The distillery produces and sells white, charred and flavored whiskey, vodka, rum, brandy and bourbon. Silent Brigade has made a name for itself in its short tenure.

In June, the distillery hosted a ceremony signaling production of what it billed as "Paducah's first-ever bourbon."

Later in the summer, it reached a deal with Golden Eagle Distributing for distribution of its "Paducah Made" products.

Brown said Silent Brigade is also set to become part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail next year. The trail, launched by the Kentucky Distillers' Association in 1999, is a popular attraction featuring distilleries around the commonwealth, including stops in Louisville, Lexington, Versailles and Lawrenceburg.

The new local business also benefited from fortunate timing: the state legislature earlier this year passed Senate Bill 11, which "modernizes the state's 1930s-era alcohol regulations to aid new interest in bourbon, craft beer and small-farm wine products." The legislation allows distilleries like Silent Brigade to sell by the drink.

The Senate Bill signing ceremony included a distinctly local flavor -- joining Gov. Matt Bevin was Todd Blume, of Paducah Beer Werks, and Steven Dossey and Allen Dossey, of Purple Toad Winery, 4275 Old U.S. Highway 45 S., in Paducah. The bill not only aids Silent Brigade, but also helps breweries and wineries by expanding on the number of gallons and barrels they can produce.

All in all, year one hasn't been a bad start for Silent Brigade, the first business venture for Bundy, a boilermaker, and Brown, who was a heavy-equipment operator before taking over the day-to-day at the distillery.

"We're wanting this thing to grow as big as it can," Brown said. "Hopefully when we start getting some more capital and building our equipment more, we can start looking at becoming more of a national brand."

The two friends started tinkering with making stills about eight years ago in Bundy's barn. Eventually they tried their hand with recipes and it grew from there.

"Johnny did most of the work there â ¦ and everybody was like, 'Y'all need to quit making stills and start making whiskey," Bundy said.

The co-owners said they originally planned for their distillery to be located out in the county, but they decided on downtown to take advantage of foot traffic and in anticipation of Senate Bill 11's passage. Bundy and Brown bought the Silent Brigade building, and have resisted taking on partners, preferring the independence inherit in the business' name.

Silent Brigade references western Kentucky tobacco wars, when small farmers fought the industry's monopolization by big money interests.

"The rebellious, independent attitude," Bundy said of what the business name means to the owners. "We're not against the government under any stretch of the imagination â ¦ but we want control, we want to do it our way."

"We're kind of like the Silent Brigade against big whiskey," Brown said.

However, the distillery's adherence to independence doesn't preclude it from helping another business.

In August, Silent Brigade began letting Silver Trail Distillery, recovering from an April 2015 explosion in Hardin, operate under its permit and insurance in Paducah.

Bundy said the cooperation between businesses helps Silver Trail recover while diversifying products at Silent Brigade.

"We offer something, they offer something and we just came together and said, 'We can make this work. We can help each other,'" Bundy said. "It's one more way to have our product out there and their product in here. It helps them make money and us make money."

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