Friday, June 27, 2014
Another Big Fuss About a Small Distillery
About a month ago, the biggest drinks company in the world announced its plan to build a new distillery in Kentucky, capable of producing a maximum of 750,000 cases of bourbon a year. The brand it's supposed to make there, Bulleit Bourbon, already sells about 650,000 cases a year and is growing fast, so obviously they're going to make only some of it at the new place.
On Thursday, a group calling itself the Bardstown Bourbon Company (BBC) announced its intention to build a jazzy new distillery (architect's rendering above) in an industrial park overlooking the Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway. It will be capable, they say, of producing up to 450,000 cases a year. They also introduced their master distiller, Steve Nally, formerly of Wyoming Whiskey and before that, Maker's Mark, a well-known and respected figure in Kentucky whiskey circles. He intends to make a wheated bourbon at BBC, as he did in Wyoming and Loretto.
Although this new place will be much bigger than the one in Wyoming, it's about half the size of Maker's, which is in the middle of a long-delayed expansion.
To put all this into perspective, that little distillery down in Lynchburg will produce about 13 million cases this year.
While we're looking at numbers, how come it's going to cost Diageo $115M to build a 750,000-case distillery, when BBC says it can build a 450,000-case distillery for $25M? I know Diageo is a foreign company, but that's one hell of a locals discount.
It's not just those two outfits. Wild Turkey never did explain how they are going to double production in their new facility using the same size beer still as the old place.
More often than not nothing goes according to plan, but even if this new distillery starts producing next fall it won't have anything worth drinking before 2020 at the soonest.
It's great that new distilleries are going up and it's great that Kentucky and the respective cities and counties are supporting it. Kentucky and Tennessee are to whiskey what Wisconsin is to cheese, they should make the most of it. But please, someone, wake me when the whiskey is ready.