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.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand this? Whats wrong with the new distilleries?

Chuck Cowdery said...

Too many cases of, as they say in Texas, all hat, no cattle.

Oknazevad said...

Any idea who's behind the new company? An all-new large indy supported by investors who see money to be made in bourbon? Or do they have an established player in the spirits world chipping in? (Found this post after seeing the Luxco one. The idea of an established NDP like Luxco starting a distillery seems more plausible than an all-new start up, but if there's money to be made, there's always someone who's willing to bankroll a venture, especially if the plan includes hiring established figures.)

Chuck Cowdery said...

It's some local investors, not industry people particularly, but everybody in Nelson County has some whiskey-making in their DNA. There's a little bit about them on their web site.