The Void Sake Co. is Kentucky’s latest testament to water’s integral role in its thriving spirits industry 

By Quin Welch, Building Kentucky

If you live in Kentucky, or have ever visited, there is a decent chance that you’ve tried bourbon – the Commonwealth’s signature beverage. The Bluegrass State is well-known globally for bourbon, and that industry continues to hit new heights with each passing year.  

Kentucky also has a thriving craft brewing industry that has become increasingly popular with residents and visitors in recent years. 240 breweries and distilleries from across Kentucky rely on the state’s abundant water supply to create their products and share them with the world. 

Left to Right: Brandon Floan, Justin LeVaughn and Joe Rice.

But while bourbon and beer are big business in the Commonwealth, one business is forging a new, untraveled path. Co-founders Brandon Floan, Joe Rice and Justin LeVaughn – all of whom have worked in craft brewing for years – decided to fill a void… with sake. And, just as it does with bourbon and beer, water is fueling more innovation in Kentucky’s spirits industry. 

The Void Sake Co., Kentucky’s first sake brewery, began producing sake in its Lexington facility in 2020, where it has also opened a small taproom. Joe Rice, who has bartended at various craft breweries in Lexington, said he and his partners wanted to start their own business and create something new and unique. 

“We all individually talked about pursuing something in the craft beverage space,” Rice said. “We played around with the idea that there was a “void” of sake across the country, especially in Kentucky. So, we saw the opportunity to fill that void and to bring something different to the state.” 

LeVaughn, a scientist at heart, became fascinated with koji, a key ingredient in sake that is a mold that grows on rice, after using it to make a beer for Lexington’s Ethereal Brewing. 

“It’s almost like growing a plant or culturing something,” LeVaughn said. “So, from there, the sake bug bit us and we made the leap to brewing our first batch with a recipe that we found online, and then spent the next couple of years refining it. The process of making sake is what I fell in love with, because it’s so unique and different from beer brewing and winemaking.” 

Courtesy of The Void Sake Co.

LeVaughn said water’s role is crucial in the sake-making process. And Kentucky’s water is perfect for crafting delicious sake.  

“It’s extremely important. From washing the rice, soaking the rice, steaming the rice, and then, just like any other beverage, it’s the majority of the actual beverage,” LeVaughn said. “Our water in Kentucky leads to a very strong, healthy fermentation, which is nice.” 

In February, The Void officially opened its new, expanded taproom, where they have a food truck, a stage for local musicians, and much more space to host customers. Rice said having a reliable water supply in addition to other key infrastructure has set The Void on a path to success in business. 

“Being able to find a location that has the right infrastructure –power, water, electricity — is huge these days,” Rice said. 

In a state where tradition meets innovation, The Void Sake Co. stands as a testament to the endless possibilities in Kentucky’s spirits industry. As they raise their glasses to toast the future, one thing is clear – Kentucky’s growing economy is fueled by water.  

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