Bulleit Distilling Co. officially opened its brand new, 300-acre, $115 million distillery in Shelbyville in March of 2017, but it was missing just one thing — OK, well two things: a visitor center and public tours. You need the former to facilitate the latter, of course, so construction began one year later in May of 2018.
And now, the Bulleit Visitor Experience is ready to open its doors and distillery to the public for the first time beginning Tuesday, June 25. Insider got a sneak peek at the $10 million, 12,000-square-foot space on Monday and can affirm that it was well worth the wait.
The center astutely mixes modern with tradition and provides ample room for tastings — three rooms in fact — as well as a cocktail bar, an expansive gift shop, a lounge area, and outdoor seating space and much more. It was designed and built by EOP Architects out of Lexington.
Some of the unique perks include creating your own label of Bulleit for free — which you can adhere to one of their five bourbons and rye whiskies they sell there — as well as a bartender-in-residence program that will bring the very best bartenders to the distillery from near and far.
With the opening of public tours, Bulleit, which is owned by the spirits giant Diageo, becomes the 17th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Another interesting feature for Bulleit is its commitment to preserving waste and being a green facility in all aspects of production, guest experience and barrel aging.
According to Sophie Kelly, senior vice president of whiskey at Diageo, the company worked with Oceanic Global on the cocktail bar and and Urban Blooms on the live plant wall next to it and also will construct a greenhouse on the property to grow the herbs and plants for the seasonal cocktails.
The greenhouse will be run by students from the University of Kentucky’s Department of Horticulture.
The new Visitor Experience sits a bit of a distance away from the distillery, so a bus will take guests to and from. The bus is colorfully decorated by the Louisville graffiti and tattoo artist Braylyn Stewart.
Bulleit was started in 1987 in Louisville by Tom Bulleit, a lawyer who decided to pursue his dream of resurrecting an old family bourbon recipe. Tom Bulleit is still very much a part of the brand, which was purchased first by Seagram in 1997 and then by Diageo in 2000.
Before the distillery in Shelbyville, Bulleit’s headquarters operated out of the former Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Shively. Diageo still owns that space and will keep a Bulleit presence there for those who cannot make it out to the main distillery. Many Bulleit barrels age there as well and Diageo uses the space for its other bourbon brands as well, which include Blade & Bow and I.W. Harper.
Public tours will begin Tuesday, June 25, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours are $20 and include a sensory-based tasting experience.
Below are more behind-the-scenes photos of the new Bulleit Visitor Experience.
This story has been updated to reflect that Urban Blooms installed the live plant wall.