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Winchester distillery and restaurant ties farm to table

BY RYAN C. HERMENS NOVEMBER 19, 2020, 12:26 PM

Wildcat Willy’s Distillery at 31 E. Broadway St. in Winchester, Ky., offers moonshine, bourbon and food made with local ingredients, many from Laura Freeman’s Mt. Folly Farm.

Kentuckians are no stranger to spirits. But when Laura Freeman, owner of Mt. Folly Farm, wanted to open a distillery, she had two things in mind: Do something that was NOT bourbon and so something that was a boon to Winchester, Kentucky.

This led to the purchase of a more than 100-year-old property on 31 East Broadway (it has been both a factory and a church since being built in 1833) and the creation of Wildcat Willy’s Distillery.

“She wanted to improve downtown Winchester. She wants to bring traffic down and pretty much revitalize downtown. That was her goal,” said Zach Pasley, the establishment’s president and head distiller.

Wildcat Willy’s Distillery was initially supposed to be just that when Freeman and husband Bill “Wildcat Willy” Kingsbury purchased the property in 2016, utilizing the abundance of sweet potatoes and various types of corn from their Mt. Folly Farm to make craft varieties of moonshine.

Pasley said for people who only know moonshine as coming from people “back in the ’30s and ’40s that were running it out of car radiators” or who have only tasted major brands prominently displayed at the local Liquor Barn, this is something different.

“We’re right in the middle,” Pasley said of the two extremes. “I think once I explain the process and how many times my hands have touched certain products, a lot of people are more amazed.”

As the distillery got up and running, they realized it could utilize the Mt. Folly Farm for a lot more than moonshine ingredients, eventually building on a full kitchen and becoming Wildcat Willy’s Distillery and Restaurant when it officially opened in Dec. 2019.

The establishment’s corn and sweet potato moonshines end up in the restaurant’s signature cocktails, like Liquid Apple Pie that comes in a caramel drizzled cup mixed with apple cider and a splash of Fireball with a cinnamon stick, or its Brambleberry Blast with blackberry brandy, triple sec and house sour mix. During the summer time, moonshines also gave a kick up to what was deemed “adult Capri Suns” and popsicles.

Once the mash is drained of alcohol, the leftovers are taken back to the farm to be fed to its cows and chickens, which may end up back at the restaurant in best-selling dishes. These include its popular bacon jam burger with house garli aioli or its hand-breaded chicken tenders.

“I’d say the biggest niche we would have is most of our ingredients come from the farm, which is seven miles away,” Pasley said. “There will definitely be a distinct difference.”

In addition to having a station to sell CBD products, Wildcat Willy’s has stepped out of its usual moonshine production to take a crack at crafting its first Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.

A collaboration with Kentucky Artisan Distillery outside of Louisville, the four-year-old, four-grain bourbon is something Pasley said has a complex taste bourbon fans will appreciate. You can come in and try it straight or in the restaurant’s Brown Derby with grapefruit juice, honey syrup and Laura’s Homestead Alternatives CBD Honey.

Whether it is what is on customers plates or in their glasses, the citizens of Winchester seem to appreciate what Wildcat Willy’s is doing as it does its part to contribute to what Pasley calls the “circular economy.”

“The small community that we live in, they definitely care about the future of downtown,” he said. “That is the biggest thing we took back (from people) is, thank you for investing in downtown.”

WILDCAT WILLY’S DISTILLERY AND RESTAURANT

Where: 31 E. Broadway, Winchester

Open: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday – Saturday

Call: 859-355-5000

Online: wildcatwillydistillery.com

To listen to the article: https://www.kentucky.com/lexgoeat/bourbon/article247290099.html