Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Four Roses Isn't Messing Around

Photo by Ben Carson for The Anderson News.
This photograph appears in today's issue of The Anderson News, a newspaper (and web site) serving Anderson County, Kentucky. What is it, under that plastic wrapping? It is a boiler, headed to the Four Roses Distillery. As reported by Ben Carson, it is a 100,000 gallon boiler, manufactured in Minnesota, that will replace the current boiler and also support the distillery's $34 million expansion.

The boiler is an essential part of any distillery, although it is not something most people think about when they ponder a distillery's component parts. On one level it is simple, it boils water to produce steam. The complicated part is doing that safely and consistently on a large scale.

Historically, most of them were fueled by coal. Today it is natural gas.

If you ever tour a craft distillery and ask to see the boiler (not usually on the tour), it probably will look something like this.

Columbia MPH30 boiler at Scratch Distillery in Edmonds, Washington.
The capacity of this boiler is 227 gallons. There are, of course, boilers of all sizes in between. Many of the new distilleries in Kentucky, such as Michter's, Wilderness Trail, Castle & Key, and Bardstown Bourbon Company, have boilers not much bigger than this one, so the image of the new one for Four Roses is a bit shocking. Many of these new plants have initial capacities close to one-million proof gallons, which is a lot and in no sense 'micro,' but the big boys such as Four Roses are still much, much bigger, and most of them are expanding.

A distillery is an expensive proposition, small or large. A whiskey distillery investment means banking on an unknowable future. Guess wrong either way (too much or too little) and you stand to lose an enormous amount of money, but you will make an enormous amount of money if you get it right. Kentucky is not the go-to state for very many businesses, but it remains the location of choice for bourbon-making. Despite bourbon now being made in more places than ever before, the industry continues to be concentrated in Kentucky.

Danville's Wilderness Trail Distillery, which is building a new facility west of town, will be using a locally-made boiler from Sellers Manufacturing. The 75-year-old company has a factory in Danville but is based in the Chicago suburbs. Shane Baker of Wilderness Trail says they chose the Sellers boiler in part because it is locally-made and also because it uses no water treatment chemicals.

1 comment:

Mark Fleetwood said...

Chuck, with this and Campari's investment in WT, it's always seemed odd to me that Bardstown, with it 2-3 distilleries, seems like a veritable Times Square compared to Lawrenceburg. Maybe Nelson Cty supports Bardstown more than Anderson does L'burg. Or maybe L'burg locals just like it that way thank you very much.