This Friday the 13th marks the end of an era for Master Distiller Ken Pierce as he makes his exit from Sazerac’s Barton 1792 Distillery, a recent release announced. Pierce’s retirement closes the chapter on a 30 year career in the beverage industry that started with Pierce as Plant Chemist and later Quality Control Manager for the now defunct Barton Brands of Georgia.
Six years after starting with Barton Brands Pierce was transferred to Bardstown, Ky., taking on the role of Senior Chemist in the facility that would later become known as Barton 1792 Distillery. From there he didn’t waste much time climbing up the chemistry ladder as he was soon named Chief Chemist, then Director of Distillation, and finally named Master Distiller of Barton 1792. Pierce’s quick rise through the ranks was partially due to his opportunity to train under three Master Distillers.
Pierce held the highest rank in bourbon production at the oldest fully operating distillery in Kentucky, as Barton 1792 was established in 1879 and named for the year that Kentucky became a state. As Master Distiller, Pierce was involved in every aspect of bourbon production from evaluating incoming grain for quality to selecting mature whiskey.
Under his tutelage, Barton 1792 Distillery’s bourbon recently won the gold medal at the 2015 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition. Pierce’s successor has yet to be named.