Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Does this Latest Warehouse Accident Mean Anything?

The partial collapse of this warehouse at O. Z. Tyler Distillery in Owensboro has caused the closure of Ewing Road.
After midnight on Monday morning, a whiskey aging warehouse at the O. Z. Tyler Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky partially collapsed. About 4,000 of the 20,000 barrels held there got loose. No one was injured. The barrels appear mostly intact and no leakage has been reported according to Master Distiller Jacob Call.

A similar accident happened last year, on June 22, at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Both accidents occurred after very wet springs. Both are steel clad warehouses, wooden buildings covered with a corrugated steel skin. The Barton warehouse was built in the 1940s, the Tyler one was built in the 1960s.

That damaged warehouse as it appeared in 2009.
O. Z. Tyler was previously the Medley Distillery, home of Ezra Brooks Bourbon. It resumed distilling less than three years ago after a major renovation.

What is the impact of these accidents? Not much. There are more than 10 million barrels of whiskey aging in the United States right now, so a loss of 4,000 here or 19,000 there doesn't mean very much. And most of the affected whiskey isn't lost. Although it is a painstaking process, each barrel will be removed from the pile and inspected. Most will be undamaged and returned to storage to continue aging.

If it seems like there have been a lot of these accidents lately, consider that the amount of whiskey aging in America (most of it in Kentucky and Tennessee) has grown dramatically in recent years. Some of the warehouses that are now loaded to capacity stood underused or empty for several decades after bourbon sales collapsed in the 1970s.

The most dramatic loss at an American distillery occurred in 1996, when a fire swept through the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, destroying the distillery itself and seven warehouses. Approximately 7.7 million gallons of whiskey were lost, but even that was only about two percent of the industry's combined inventory at the time.

In May of 2000, a warehouse collapse at Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg caused a fire. Whiskey spilled into the Kentucky River, killing an estimated 200,000 fish. In August of 2003, a Jim Beam warehouse at a remote maturation site caught fire. In both incidents, about 19,000 barrels were lost.

In April of 2006, a storm damaged a warehouse at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort. Although it left the barrels exposed to the elements, no barrels were lost.

If you think these warehouses collapse too easily, consider this. A barrel of whiskey weighs about 500 pounds. A typical warehouse holds about 20,000 of them. That's about 5,000 tons!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the smell of perspective in the morning! :)

Great info, Mr. Cowdery! If anything, your figures help show that the industry is well positioned to meet future demand and is in the process of working through the current demand "somewhat" outpacing supply (for some hyped brands/expressions). That is good to know.

Last time I was in KY I picked up a couple of mini-bottles of O.Z. Tyler's very young bourbon and rye, just to try. Haven't opened them yet and not sure what to expect from 6-mo bourbon and rye :) Hope they can bring good mature product in a few years.