It's boom times for bourbon, and while the number of distilleries across the country continues to increase, no place has seen more action than the Bluegrass State. There’s been a massive investment of money and resources in bourbon's heartland, with upstarts looking to join the fray alongside traditional Kentucky powerhouses.
The new bourbon distilleries fare quite a bit larger than your typical craft upstarts. To compile our list, we chose operations where distillation began as recently as last year or houses that will have the stills flowing by early 2018. With apologies to half a dozen slightly older notables—Boundary Oak, Kentucky Peerless, Michter's, New Riff, Boundary Oak, Wilderness Trail and Willett, for example—these are the 10 new Kentucky bourbon distilleries you should know.
An established brand that already has a following of supporters who crave its port- and rum-cask-finished whiskeys, Angel's Envy now has its own distillery and visitors center, located on Louisville’s Main Street. With a 35-foot column still powering the operation, it officially opened its doors in November 2016 after completing the $27 million project.
This bourbon house is unique in that it launched what it calls a Collaborative Distilling Program. In other words, Bardstown will be distilling the whiskey other brands end up bottling and selling. And it's been hugely successful right off the bat. It has already sold out all of its production capacity and is pursuing expansion. Production began in 2016, spearheaded by former Maker's Mark master distiller Steve Nally.
Bulleit has been a household name for more than a decade, and its highly anticipated distillery opened in March of this year in Shelbyville. After a massive $115 million investment from parent company Diageo, the distillery has hit the ground running with a 52-foot column still and room to store more than 200,000 barrels.
A new venture set on the grounds of the former Old Taylor Distillery, which had sat dormant for four decades, Castle & Key is led by Marianne Barnes, Kentucky's first female master distiller. Production began in November 2016, and the doors will be open to the public by late this summer. One of the highlights? A rickhouse that’s said to be the longest in the world, stretching the length of two football fields.
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With an estimated cost of between $10 and $13 million, Dueling Barrels from Alltech is projected to open this fall in Pikeville after delays pushed back a springtime debut. Details have been somewhat sparse, but the plan for the facility is for the "dueling barrels" concept to represent its function as both a brewery and distillery.
The James E. Pepper distillery plans to start production this fall after rebuilding the historic Lexington facility, which was first constructed in 1874. Its new 12-inch-diameter Vendome column still was made in reference to the one Vendome first built for the distillery in 1934, after the end of Prohibition. The distillery will draw its water from an on-site limestone well 200 feet below ground.
Lux Row Distillers in Bardstown expects to begin production this fall, while opening its visitors center to the public in spring 2018. The distillery will produce established Luxco brands such as Rebel Yell, Blood Oath and Ezra Brooks, and plans for the 70-acre site include space for six barrel warehouses.
Brown-Forman will unveil its Old Forester distillery and visitors center in downtown Louisville in early 2018. Located in renovated buildings along the city's historic Whiskey Row, the project comes in at a price tag of $45 million. The facility will be able to produce about half of the brand's needs, with the remaining production continuing to be handled at the Brown-Forman Distillery.
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The O.Z. Tyler Distillery began production in September 2016 at the former Charles W. Medley Distillery in Owensboro. The facility first opened in 1936 but remained inactive for the last 24 years. The project is backed by parent company Terressentia and is named for the late Orville Zelotes Tyler, who co-created the company's TerrePURE "accelerated aging" process.
Rabbit Hole Distilling expects to open to the public by early 2018 with construction being completed by the end of this year. The project will be located in Louisville's NuLu neighborhood, and the distillery aims to produce 20,000 barrels per year with a 24-inch diameter Vendome column still.