Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. began as a family-owned bourbon distillery back in the 1880s. Today, it’s one of the most automated distilleries in the state, tapping an in-house designed computer system that ensures the most consistent, tasty product.

“When it comes to making bourbon, technology doesn’t just influence the controls, but the whole process design in general,” said Peerless head distiller Caleb Kilburn. “It’s how you’re able to convert grains into sugar, how the yeast are able to convert that sugar into alcohol, and really how you’re able to pull good flavors from that mash to create a whisky.”

In the past 150 years, the process of making bourbon has been moved forward exponentially by the use of technology, Kilburn said.

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“The controls on the process have moved light years ahead of where they used to be, even from the 50s and 60s,” Kilburn said. “We now have a sophisticated computer system that is able to make a thousand modifications a minute, rather than an operator, who, if he’s good, can adjust something like six times a minute.”

The computer works essentially as a guided cookbook, guiding the operators through the steps of adding grain and yeast, as well as heating and cooling the mash. This reduces human error, Kilburn said.

“We’re able to have much finer process control, which means we’re able to push the limits and get a more consistent product, and push the envelope in terms of how much flavor we can pull out of that product,” Kilburn said.