Nashville company ages whiskey on barges

Nashville-based Brown Water Spirits’ O.H. Ingram River Aged Whiskey is pictured.

Nashville-based Brown Water Spirits’ O.H. Ingram River Aged Whiskey is now available in stores across Kentucky.

And there’s an interesting story behind it.

First, it’s distilled in Owensboro at Green River Spirits.

And second, it’s aged on barges in the Mississippi River, anchored at Wickliffe on the northwest tip of Kentucky.

“We just have one barge now,” Hank Ingram, the company’s founder, said recently. “But we have plans for another.”

The current barge holds 2,000 barrels of whiskey.

The next will hold 3,000 barrels, he said.

The storage area in the barges is 22 feet deep.

“It smells great in there,” Ingram said.

His whiskey is 3 years old now, “but we’re working on older whiskeys,” he said.

If Brown Water Spirits is based in Nashville, why are its barges in southwestern Kentucky?

“I like our slogan — Mellowed on the Mississippi,” Ingram said. “And bourbon is associated with Kentucky.”

And then, he said, “Some of the strongest currents on the river are down there (where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers come together) away from the dams.”

That motion helps the flavor of his whiskey, Ingram said.

“In rick houses, the barrels just sit in racks,” he said. “On the river, the barges are in constant motion. The whiskey washes over the surface of the barrels and absorbs the flavor of the wood. Humidity from the river imparts more flavor.”

And, Ingram said, “Temperature fluctuations are good for whiskey. Summer days are hot, but the nights are cooler. You can have a 30 to 40 degree temperature swing on the river.”

He said, “We’ve been working with Green River Spirits for two years — going on three — now. We’re continuing to buy more and more whiskey from them and looking ahead to the next 10 years. They’re great to work with. Both of our whiskeys are distilled there.”

‘We focus on the art’

Ingram said, “We worked on the rye, but they had a mash bill for bourbon that we liked, so we went with that. They do the science and we focus on the art. They make great juice there.”

Plus, he said, “I like that they now have River in their name.”

“Hank is a great guy,” Jacob Call, master distiller and Kentucky general manager of Green River Spirits, said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with him. He’s very creative with using the floating rick houses. I do believe it helps in the aging process.”

He said, “I have considered floating rick houses, but with Hank’s family involvement in the barge industry, he is definitely the pioneer in that regard.”

Brown Water’s website says, “Orrin Henry ‘O.H.’ Ingram was the great-great-great-grandfather of Hank Ingram, founder of O.H. Ingram River Aged Whiskey. Hank Ingram comes from a long line of entrepreneurs who for more than five generations have built businesses with the river at their core.”

It says, “Beginning in the mid-1800s, his great-great-great-grandfather Orrin Henry Ingram founded the Empire Lumber Company. Hank’s great-grandfather brought the family to Nashville, where he founded the Ingram Barge Company in 1946.”

And Hank Ingram has expanded the business using wood, barges and whiskey.

The site says, “Ingram River Aged is the only whiskey in the world aged entirely in a patent-pending, first-of-its-kind floating rick house directly on the Mississippi River.”

But in 2016, Kentucky Artisan Distillery, located in Crestwood, sent two barrels of its Jefferson’s Bourbon down the Ohio River to the Tennessee River and on down to New Orleans, where it was put on a 100-year-old rum-runner bound for Key West and then onto a sailboat for delivery in New York City.

It aged along the way.

The company continues to make Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon Whiskey.

Brown Water’s Ingram River Aged Straight Whiskey was launched in October of 2020 and its Ingram River Aged Straight Rye hit the market in December.

Its Ingram River Aged Wheated Bourbon is scheduled for release later this year.

“We aren’t speeding up the aging process,” Ingram said. “Our whiskey just works harder.”

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