Diageo Brands Will Build New Distillery on Bourbon Trail

An architectural rendering shows what Diageo's planned distillery in Shelby County would look like. The site would have a 100-acre buffer to maintain the surrounding landscape. COURTESY OF DIAGEO NORTH AMERICA

An architectural rendering shows what Diageo’s planned distillery in Shelby County would look like. The site would have a 100-acre buffer to maintain the surrounding landscape. COURTESY OF DIAGEO NORTH AMERICA

Global liquor giant Diageo PLC announced plans to build a new distillery in Shelby County Kentucky amid a global boom in American whiskey sales.

The U.K.-based company called the $115 million project about 30 miles east of Louisville a significant investment in the state’s growing bourbon industry. It still needs approval from local government officials, but Diageo hopes to complete the project by the end of 2016.

A variety of current and future Diageo bourbon and whiskey brands would be distilled at the facility, with a production capacity of 750,000 9-liter cases per year.

“Diageo has a long tradition within the craft of whiskey-making, and we look forward to bringing this artisanship to the new distillery,”

said Diageo North America President Larry Schwartz.

According to a news release, Diageo (pronounced dee-AH-gee-O) will buy 300 acres on Benson Pike in Shelby County near Bagdad and break ground in coming months.

Finalization of the plans is subject to approval by local government.

The announcement comes as bourbon, most of which is made in Kentucky, continues to boom. It is currently the fastest growing category of spirits in the United States, enjoying double-digit expansion in the past year. Worldwide, demand for premium bourbons and new flavored whiskies continues to rise as well.

Until now, Diageo has had no active distillery in Kentucky, although the company owns the historic Stitzel-Weller plant in Louisville, which is being turned into a $2 million tourist attraction.

With the Shelby County distillery, which the company says it hopes to have operating by late 2016, Diageo will begin making its own bourbon; until now, the company has marketed bourbon distilled by others, including the popular Bulleit brand and “Orphan Barrel” series.

The company was reluctant to say outright that Bulleit, which is widely rumored to be made at Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, will move to the new distillery.

“Diageo is constructing the facility with flexibility and growth in mind and will distill a number of current and future Diageo bourbons and North American whiskey brands,”

Diageo’s North American executive vice president, Guy Smith, said in a statement.

The project will represent a significant investment in Kentucky’s growing bourbon industry. The company expects that the construction project will provide about 30 jobs in whiskey distillation and maturation.

Also Thursday, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval for $4 million in tax incentives for Diageo’s project, including $2.5 million in performance-based corporate income tax credits and wage assessments. The company also is eligible for an additional $1.5 million in Kentucky sales and use taxes on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing equipment.

According to KEDFA’s report, Diageo will spend $2 million on the land, $94.3 million on the distillery, $12.4 million on equipment, and $6.3 million on other start-up costs.

The jobs created will have an average hourly wage of $29 including benefits.

Larry Schwartz, president of Diageo North America, said in a statement, “This proposed investment in Shelby County, in the heart of Kentucky bourbon country, will cement our commitment to expanding our share of the American whiskey category.” Diageo’s North American headquarters is in Norwalk, Conn.

“Distilled spirits remain a marquee industry in the commonwealth,” Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement, “and Diageo’s new distillery will ensure that even more Kentucky bourbon is enjoyed around the globe.”

Local leaders also hailed the news of the major investment.

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said,


“The Shelby County Fiscal Court is very excited that Diageo is proposing to expand its worldwide distillation operations by building a state-of-the-art distillery in Shelby County. We look forward to a great partnership with Diageo, and we welcome them to the community.”

Diageo will have an open house to discuss the plans for the proposed Shelby County distillery, answer questions and hear from the public. The event is scheduled for 2 to 7 p.m. June 10 at the Shelbyville Country Club, 47 Smithfield Road.

A public hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. June 17 at the Stratton Community Center, 215 Washington Street in Shelbyville.

Diageo announced in February that it will open a visitors center at its legendary Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville. Diageo has said that it hopes that the visitors center will be included on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, the popular tourism project of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

Besides Bulleit bourbon and Bulleit Rye, Diageo’s North American whiskey portfolio includes George Dickel, which is made in Tennessee, and the Crown Royal and Seven Crown brands. Diageo is the world’s leading premium drinks company and also owns Johnny Walker, J&B and Buchanan’s scotches; Bushmills Irish whiskey; Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas; Baileys liqueur; Captain Morgan rum; Tanqueray gin; Guinness beer; and Beaulieu Vineyard and Sterling Vineyards wines.

Diageo’s brands include Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Guinness, Bulleit Bourbon and George Dickel Tennessee Whisky. Global rival Brown-Forman Corp., maker of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, is headquartered in Louisville.

In the U.S., sales volume for bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys has grown 26 percent over the past decade, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, an industry group. Exports of U.S. whiskeys have grown to roughly $1 billion last year, more than double what it was a decade ago.

State and local officials expressed enthusiasm about the project, which is expected to create about 30 jobs for whiskey distillation and maturation.

“Distilled spirits remain a marquee industry in the commonwealth, and Diageo’s new distillery will ensure that even more Kentucky bourbon is enjoyed around the globe,” said Gov. Steve Beshear.

State Sen. Paul Hornback, who represents the district, said it would be a “fantastic investment” for the community.

“We are thankful for the positive economic impact this will bring and are proud that bourbon, a signature industry of Kentucky, will now be made right here in Shelby County,” Hornback said.

The proposed 300-acre distillery site would also include six barrel storage warehouses. Barrel storage has become a legal issue for Diageo in neighboring Tennessee, where the company has sued the state to halt the enforcement of a law requiring whiskey made there to be stored in-state.

Dickel said it stores all of its Tennessee Whisky at its distillery near Tullahoma, about 60 miles south of Nashville. But other products made there are stored at a company-owned distillery in Kentucky. The federal lawsuit claims that state law violates interstate commerce rights under the U.S. Constitution.

If the law isn’t tossed out, the company said it would have to decide whether to expand storage capacity in Tennessee or reduce production of spirits other than George Dickel Tennessee Whisky at the distillery, which would likely lead to job cuts there.

Diageo spokeswoman Kristen Crofoot said Thursday’s announcement was unrelated to the Tennessee litigation.

“Those warehouses will be for the product we make there,”

she said of the new facility.


What Role Did Women Play in the Rise of Bourbon?


As bourbon enjoys its greatest rise since the end of Prohibition, women play an integral role in the spirit category’s future. They always have, writes the Courier Journal.


  • In Kentucky, Catherine Spears Frye Carpenter operated a distillery in the early 1800s using a “sour mash” fermentation technique that is still used today.
  • Other women running a commercial distillery in the 1800s include Virginia’s Marion Radford, Pennsylvania’s Mitilda Werkheiser, Tennessee’s Louisa Nelson, Georgia’s Ida Weldon, and Kentucky’s Mary Jane Blair, who managed a 9,000-barrel-a-year distillery for the popular Blair’s Old Club brand.
  • Marjorie Samuels redefined liquor packaging when she created the name “Maker’s Mark” and developed a slender bottle with dripping red wax.

In a time when women were relegated to home duties, these whiskey-making women proved that the females could do a man’s job. Early American women also proved men could not do a woman’s job.

But men being men, a women wasn’t considered for a Master Distillers job because the guys would look up her skirt as she climbed the stairs.

Not much has changed… guys still want their bourbon broads sexy.

Read more… Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch & Irish Whiskey


Woodford County’s Old Taylor Distillery Renaissance


OldTaylorDistilleryA company is planning to restore and reopen Woodford County’s Old Taylor Distillery.

Peristyle LLC has announced plans to renovate the 125-year-old facility and distill bourbon. The company plans to invest up to $6.1 million and create 10 full-time jobs.

Gov. Steve Beshear called the project “the renaissance of one of the state’s most historic and iconic distilleries.”

Restoration will occur over 18 months on the 83-acre complex.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $200,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The project was also approved for tax benefits up to $50,000 through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act.
The company will spend the next 18 months restoring elements of the 83-acre complex, updating existing infrastructure with the goal of being operational in the fall of 2015. Peristyle will restore key buildings and areas in phases so the location can be opened for tourism and events.

“The Old Taylor Distillery is one of the most remarkable landmarks in central Kentucky,” said Will Arvin, an executive at Peristyle LLC. “We believe that in the context of growth in demand for Kentucky-produced spirits worldwide, its location in the heart of the most productive bourbon distilling region and the need for additional food and hospitality options in an area experiencing growing tourism, this one-of-a-kind property holds great promise to become a prime destination for tourists and Kentuckians alike.”

Built in 1887, the Old Taylor Distillery was once considered a showcase of bourbon making in Kentucky, where one of the world’s largest stills and one of the longest bourbon warehouses are still in place. Founder E.H. Taylor was known as the father of the modern bourbon industry for his key role in the passage of the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897, which ended the widespread adulteration of distilled spirits.

Old Taylor was the first distillery to reach 1 million U.S. government certified cases of straight bourbon. A drop in demand forced the distillery to close in 1972, and the property has since fallen into severe disrepair. The complex was highly regarded for its beauty, which includes an ornate, colonnaded spring house, sunken gardens, a fish pond and limestone buildings.

“Community leaders are ecstatic over the news…

“This investment shows Peristyle’s commitment to Woodford County and the commonwealth and is a tribute to our dedicated and skilled workforce,” said state Sen. Julian Carroll of Frankfort. “It means additional job opportunities and a boost to the economy, while contributing to Kentucky’s booming bourbon industry. I am pleased with the company’s commitment to restoring and reopening the historic Old Taylor Distillery and future restoration projects. Peristyle is a good corporate partner, and I wish them continued success.”

“Today’s announcement further solidifies the sizable role that Millville and Woodford County are playing in the bourbon industry,” said state Rep. James Kay of Versailles. “I want to thank Peristyle for making such a large investment and helping us return distilleries like Old Taylor to their glory days. I cannot wait to see what this company is able to do with this facility and what it will mean for our community once it’s operational. I also want to thank Gov. Beshear and his administration for their work in helping to make all of this possible.”

“We would like to welcome Peristyle LLC as our newest corporate citizen,” said Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle. “We’re thankful not just for its economic impact, but also for preserving an historic landmark that means so much to the people in our community.”

“It’s been a goal this past year to find a company with the passion to preserve this historic distillery and bring new jobs to our community,” said John Soper, chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority. “We believe we found the right blueprint with Peristyle LLC at a time when Kentucky’s bourbon industry is at its height.”

Happy 50th Bourbon – Timeline of It’s History


Bourbon is a lot – a LOT – older than fifty years old. So let’s say Happy “Official” Birthday to bourbon on May 4, 1964 the day the United States Congress resolved to declare bourbon whiskey as a “distinctive product of the United States.”

Fifty years later bourbon is enjoying a world-wide boom,  helping invoke “the shared memory of the American past,” as Dane Hucklebridge writes in his new book, Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit.

Bourbon—which is made primarily from corn and aged in charred oak barrels—has a long history that actually began long before European settlers sailed to America.  Hucklebridge to distilled the story of bourbon into the following timeline.

5,000 B.C.

An early form of corn is domesticated by ancient Mesoamericans, becoming the staple grain of pre-Columbian American civilization. Corn dogs, however, are still roughly 6,900 years away.

1265 A.D.

Catalan playboy Ramon Llull abandons his hard-partying ways to become a Franciscan monk—but he never completely gives up on drinking. Ramon discovers that with just a copper alembic, alcoholic beverages can be distilled into stronger spirits. Ireland and Scotland are intrigued…


Tired of trans-Atlantic beer runs, Jamestown colonist George Thorpe decides to make his own booze using native Indian corn. The precursor to modern bourbon is born, but gets off to a rough start—George is killed by disgruntled Powhatan Indians just two years later.


Fed up with intoxication without representation, Americans take matters into their own hands—and their own stills. With cheap British rum no longer available during the Revolution, making liquor from our own corn and rye starts to sound like a darn good idea.


After welcoming an initial wave of Scots-Irish settlers, Kentucky officially becomes a state. In the wilderness of the Bourbon County region, native corn grows better than any other grain. Tremendous amounts of whiskey-making ensue.


The name “Bourbon Whiskey” first appears in an advertisement—the title given to the barrel-aged corn liquor that’s being shipped down the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. Mardi Gras will never be the same again.


The Bottled-in-Bond Act, followed less than a decade later by the Pure Food and Drugs Act, finally defines what bourbon whiskey truly is: delicious. Along with some other things, of course. It has to be made primarily from corn, and it must be aged in new charred oak barrels.


Some knuckleheads in Washington get the bright idea to ban alcohol. Gangsters, speakeasies, and the Charleston result. The only legal way to purchase bourbon is with a doctor’s prescription, predating medicinal marijuana by ninety years. The Great Depression, however, makes everyone reconsider.


America’s involvement in the Second World War means that millions of Americans have to put their lives on hold to help secure victory—bourbon-makers included. The entire bourbon industry sets aside whiskey making to produce industrial alcohol for the war effort. And G.I. Joe gets his first DUI…


The U.S. Congress declares bourbon whiskey to be a distinctive product of the United States, stating once and for all that it’s only real bourbon if it’s made in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Coca-Cola and apple pie both turn green with envy, and Americans across the land celebrate accordingly.

Raise a glass to the best thing Congress ever did on May 4, 1964 – and maybe since then too.

Jeff Koons Jim Beam Bourbon Train For Sale Valued at $35 Million


Yup a stainless steel train full of Jim Beam bourbon will be sold by Christie’s

Here’s the deets:

Jeff Koons (b.1945) 
Jim Beam J.B. Turner Train 
stainless steel and bourbon 
11 x 114 x 6½ in. (28 x 289.5 x 16.5 cm.) 
Executed in 1986. This work is number one from an edition of three plus one artist’s proof. 

The BBC says it may be worth $35,000,000, but Christie’s says $3,000,000 to $5,000,000.


The artist apparently has a love of Jim Beam… here’s a Model A Ford truck full of Jim Beam…



Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve New Visitor Centers Open on Bourbon Trail



Woodford Reserve and Wild Turkey distilleries will open the doors to their brand new visitor centers this month.

Woodford Reserve will host the official grand opening of it’s new visitor center in Versailles on Wednesday, April 9 at 11 am.

The bourbon maker hopes the new facility will better accommodate the growing number of Bourbon Trail visitors. Last year, the distillery welcomed approximately 130,000 people.

The $1.9 million renovation includes the addition of a tasting room, improvements to the retail space and aesthetic enhancements according to Brown-Forman, the company that owns the brand.

Brown-Forman CEO Paul Varga and Master Distiller Chris Morris will attend the official opening of the renovated visitor center.

Further down the Bourbon Trail, Wild Turkey will open the doors to their new 9,140 square foot visitor center on Tuesday, April 15.

Events will be happening throughout the day, including a special address by Governor Steve Beshear.

The grand opening also coincides with legendary Master Distiller Jimmy Russell’s 60th anniversary. Wild Turkey has decreed 2014 as “The Year of Jimmy” to honor the milestone. To mark Russell’s service, his son – Distiller Eddie Russell – has created a special limited-edition bourbon, which will be unveiled at the event.

For more information on the distilleries and their new attractions you can visit www.wildturkeybourbon.com andwww.woodfordreserve.com.

Grills Gone Wild BBQ Festival Comes to London


The Grills Gone Wild Barbecue Festival,  will begin its festivities Friday in London, Kentucky. The event will take place at the Laurel-London Optimist Club on KY 80 west of London.

The  registration and setup for both professional and amateur competitors is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and the event opens to the public at 5 p.m. The public is cautioned that professional barbecuers will not be offering samples of their potentially award-winning barbecue, but there will be vendors available Saturday with food for hungry guests.

The real fun for guests begins Saturday; vendors for the public offering different types of foods and items will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Noon will bring the music of Jade Robertson and Blake Branscom, and after the entertainment comes an eating contest sponsored by Little Caesars. The event will also feature a car show and a cornhole tournament. Big Adventure Inflatables will be at the festival with plenty of activities for kids.

There is no cost of admission for the festival. – See more