For many parents, offering their children tokens of advice or family heirlooms might be standard parting gifts when they leave home—but not for Joyce and Bruce Nethery. Instead, the husband-wife duo opened a distillery—Jeptha Creed—for their children, Autumn and Hunter.
“We wanted to build something for our children that they could use for their careers and incomes,” Joyce says. “My background is in chemical engineering; my husband grew up on a dairy farm. We wanted to combine both sets of skills so a distillery is what we came up with.”
Today, the Kentucky-based distillery is owned by Joyce, Autumn, and Hunter. Joyce serves as master distiller, while Autumn serves as co-owner and marketing manager. At 21 years old, Hunter helps where needed. Many of the grains used to make their spirits are locally grown, straight from Bruce’s farm.
“Everyone has a job to do in it,” Joyce says.
Owning a business with Mom
When Autumn was younger, the thought of going into business with her mom never crossed her mind. It wasn’t until her parents mentioned opening a distillery that she really gave it some thought.
“When my parents first brought up the idea for the distillery, I was intrigued,” Autumn says. “I didn’t know much about the distilling process, but the more I learned about it the more I fell in love with the art and science of distillation.”
Joyce holds chemical engineering degrees from the University of Louisville and started her career as a process engineer in a distillation chemical plant, then taught high school chemistry and physics for several years before landing as the CFO for her husband’s company. Autumn has a marketing degree from the University of Kentucky and a brewing and distillation certificate from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
Just like any new adventure, there was a learning curve and a number of certificates and trainings they had to go through before launching Jeptha Creed.
“I found that I don’t like construction,” Joyce says. “We built the distillery from a cornfield, literally. And had to design and construct the entire building, install all the equipment—everything.”
The duo’s business journey began in 2013 when they started growing the grains needed to distill their own spirits. In August 2016, the distillery barreled the first legal barrel of bourbon in Shelby County, Kentucky, since before Prohibition. Jeptha Creed opened to the public in November 2016, offering vodka, honey vodka, moonshine, and lemonade moonshine.
Today, the distillery offers a variety of bourbon, vodka, and moonshine. They have both apple and blueberry vodka, as well as apple pie and blackberry moonshine and Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which Joyce is most proud of. It’s made from Bloody Butcher corn grown straight from her husband’s farm.
Keeping with the theme of local roots, Joyce looked to the Shelbyville’s history for inspiration when it came time to name the distillery.
“Our home farm, where I still live, and where I raised my children, is at the foothills of some hills called Jeptha Knobs,” Joyce says. “It has my personal family history because that’s where I lived and raised my children, and it has biblical history associated with it, so I find Jeptha Creed to be perfect for what we want to represent.”
Running your own business
Autumn and Joyce both recognize that owning a distillery is an uncommon profession for women, but neither gives it much thought.
“We get questioned about that every once in a while,” Joyce says. “To me, I don’t think of us as being women. We’re business owners. We’re bourbon distillers.”
For Joyce, she prefers to think of herself as the expert in the room — rather than being the only woman in the room.
“I like how it seems to be inspirational to other women,” Joyce says. “And if we can do that, I’m very happy to be an inspiration to them.”
Check out some delicious Jeptha Creed cocktail recipes here.