March 4, 2022
 Contact:, 202-224-4343

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Recently, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, recognized Neeley Family Distillery of Sparta, Kentucky, as the Senate Small Business of the Week.

Dr. Paul entered the following into the Congressional Record:

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, as Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, each week I recognize an outstanding Kentucky small business that exemplifies the American entrepreneurial spirit. This week, it is my privilege to recognize the small business, Neeley Family Distillery of Sparta, Kentucky, as the Senate Small Business of the Week. 

Today I honor a business deeply rooted in Kentucky history. Founded in 2015, the Neeley Family Distillery bares a history far older than their date of official registration. The Neeley family has been distilling and bootlegging illegally in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for eleven generations, with James Neeley distilling the first batch of Neeley family whiskey on American soil in 1740. James Neeley came to the New World with a mastery passed down to him by his Irish forefathers. Ten generations later, James’ descendant and lead distiller Royce Neeley uses many of these same skills to craft fine Kentucky Bourbon.

Though his single barrel bourbon earned him a gold medal from the 2020 World Spirits Competition, Royce is just as famous for his moonshine. Royce’s great grandfather Leonard Neeley developed the moonshine over one hundred years ago, by adding sugar to the original family recipe for rye whiskey. This concoction was so popular in the days of underground bootlegging that it led a vicious and at times violent rivalry with another local bootlegging family. Artifacts from this trialing era are all on display at the Neeley Family Distillery in Sparta, including the pistol Royce’s great-grandfather used to shoot another moonshiner. Though the Neeley family business is no longer under threat of the law or mob rivals, Royce proudly bears that history in the creation of all of the distillery’s products. 

Carrying the torch that his forefather lit long ago, Royce brought the Neeley family name to the legal production of bourbon for the first time in 2015. Starting out as a young entrepreneur with a wealth of expertise, he steadily grew his business in the years to come. However it was not until five years later that Royce switched gears and entered into a new kind of production. Faced with gross shortages of essential products during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Neeley Family Distillery joined forces with other Kentucky distillers to produce nearly 125,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. Together the distilleries donated the much needed product to frontline workers across the Commonwealth. Fulfilling this desperate need required immediate retooling of their facilities, sourcing of necessary products, and totally shutting down their production of bourbon. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated that an industry, once spurned by authorities during the days of Prohibition, could rise to be great stewards of their community during times of hardship and duress. 

The Neeley Family Distillery has since returned to their regular production of Kentucky’s iconic spirit, though they remain ready to answer the call of their community. Realizing the extent of destruction their western neighbors sustained in the 2021 tornados, the Neeley Family Distillery again joined forces with the Kentucky Distillers Association as well as the Bourbon Crusaders to organize a benefit auction in support of relief efforts. This once-in-a-lifetime bourbon auction led to a $3.4 million check benefiting the state’s Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund. In their seven years of operation, this small business has not only earned top ranking awards on the quality of their product, they have earned themselves a record for serving their community during times of adversity. 

Small businesses like the Neeley Family Distillery are the lifeblood of towns across Kentucky, and the rich history of bourbon and its times of legal and illegal production is an intricate detail in the fabric of our state. The Neeley family proudly honors that history by continuing the tradition of fine Kentucky craftsmanship and looking out for one’s neighbor. Congratulations to the Neeley family and the entire distillery team. I wish them the best of luck and look forward to watching their continued growth and success in Kentucky.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Paul continues the tradition of honoring America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship oversees proposed legislation on matters relating to the Small Business Administration and investigates all problems relating to America’s small businesses.


Share This