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Baker Bird Winery and Distillery is the oldest commercial estate winery in the United States that has its original vineyard land. Along with that, it boasts the largest and oldest wine cellar in the US, is on the National Register of Historic Places twice, and it’s the only winery that survived a Civil War battle. Today it is owned by Dinah Bird, who expanded it to include a distillery.
BW: At what point did you realize you wanted to transition from only producing wine to also producing spirits?
DB: I am a certified Women Own Business. I am the sole owner of Baker-Bird Winery(R), which is the oldest winery in America that still has its original vineyard land and the only winery to have survived a Civil War battle. The Baker-Bird Winery is on the National Registry of Historic Places and the vineyard land around the Winery is on a separate National Registry of Historic Places. I am an investment banker, historic preservationist and a winemaker. My specialty is bourbon-aged wines and was the first to ever submit a bourbon barrel-aged wine to the Federal government for labeling.
Abraham Baker built the Winery in the 1850s. Once I opened the Winery, The Baker Family started to visit and bring documents to me about the Baker Family. It turns out that Abraham Baker’s Grandfather, John Baker, was born in Brandenburg, Germany in 1748 and came to America on a ship called “The Chance” in 1761. He was an indentured servant and his master taught him to distill. John fought in the American Revolution, and set up distilling in Washington County (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania and was a prosperous distiller. He distilled through the Whiskey Rebellion and then moved to Augusta, Kentucky. He bought the property at the location of the Winey and Distillery in 1798 and set to distilling. Documents over 200 years old about his distillery was found in the Bracken County courthouse just eight miles away, I thought as a historic preservationist, John Baker, an immigrant that fought in the American Revolution and help build this country, should be honored by producing bourbons based his documents from 1805 and 1808. Keep in mind the first time the word “bourbon” was used to describe brown spirits made in Kentucky was 1820 in a Maysville, Kentucky newspaper.
I read the Baker Family documents over and thought about the practicality and cost of producing bourbon in mid- 2017. So, in the early spring of 2018, I started building the distillery, locating a local distiller, ordering a still, etc. On December 30, 2018 I was granted a distillery license.
BW: What is your favorite distilled spirit that you have ever produced?
DB: “Kentucky Statehood,” which is or flagship bourbon. I kiss every barrel as it is closed and sent to the warehouse for aging. Being a winemaker, I have enjoyed distilling brandy, “Give me Liberty.”
BW: When visitors come to visit your distillery, what can they expect to see?
DB: The Baker-Bird Winery® & Distillery is very quaint. The winery is very old charming building. The Distillery is small milking shed barn with only a 50 gallon still, which was actually about the size of Mr. Baker’s still. The Distillery is surrounded by 70 acres of forest and creek bottom.
Baker-Bird Distillery is an enormous contrast to the big beautiful distilleries like Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, etc. Even compared to many craft distilleries, the Baker-Bird Distillery is modest and not impressive. However, just like John Baker, I started small with one other person to help with distilling. The Baker-Bird Distillery encourages your imagination to think about the colonial bourbon of the United States and the early beginnings of bourbon. Since the Distillery is in the countryside, the Bourbon Tour at the Distillery focuses on the agricultural side of bourbon making with hands-on information about corn and oak trees. The tour discusses the UK project of mapping the white oak genome.
The Baker-Bird Winery® and Distillery has a nice bourbon that has done as well as in international competitions as the prestigious name brand bourbons of big distilleries. So, the product profile of Baker-Bird bourbon is comparable to a good sipping bourbon. However, Baker-Bird Distillery offers a historic perspective of bourbons that were the early ancestors of the large, beautiful modern distilleries of today.
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to pursue a career in distilled spirits?
DB: “Go for it!” If you are interested in distilled spirits there is absolutely every reason that you should pursue your dream. There will be challenges but that is a given in any career.
BW: What does your perfect bourbon weekend in Kentucky look like?
DB: The B-Line Bourbon Trail is a great start:
- Sleep in and meet my friends for a scenic drive to Maysville along the River
- Visit the Old Pogue Distillery and Old Pogue Experience
- Lunch at Chandlers in Maysville and window shop Market St.
- Take the scenic drive along the Ohio River to August
- Visit Baker-Bird Winery® for bourbon barrel-aged wine tasting and the Guided Visit
- Baker-Bird Distillery for a Bourbon Tour with bourbon and brandy tasting
- Window shop and visit with Nina Clooney (George Clooney’s Mother) in her shop
- Walk along the River in Historic Augusta, the most picturesque city in Kentucky
- Dine at the Beehive Tavern
- Stay at Hotel Covington
- Drink a nightcap at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar
- Sleep in
- Newport Gangster Tour—The best about bootlegging bourbon and prohibition history
- Lunch at Bouquet Restaurant
- Visit New Riff Distillery for a tour & tasting
- Tasting at the Second Sight Spirits
- Drive to Midway and dine at the Goose & Gander
- Stay at the Kentucky Castle
- Sleep in
- Visit Liberty Hall Historic House
- Brunch at Serafini
- Drive to Castle & Key for a tasting
- End the Day at Woodford Reserve with tour and relax with a cocktail on the patio
- Kiss all my Friends goodbye and drive home
Photos Courtesy of Dinah Bird