A warehouse collapsed at Barton 1792 Distillery, located in Bardstown, Friday morning, affecting an estimated 10,000 barrels of bourbon, but there were no injuries.
Nelson County Emergency Management Director Joe Prewitt and Bardstown Fire Chief Billy Mattingly said their concern is that whiskey could run into a tributary of the Beech Fork River about 250 feet away.
State environmental officials were contacted and were expected to arrive soon after the incident, which happened around 11 a.m.
Mattingly said that half of the building collapsed “length-wise” and the other half was leaning and starting to bow. Nobody was allowed within 200 feet of the building, he said.
The warehouse collapsed on nearly 10,000 barrels of spirits, and another 10,000 barrels were in the part of the building that was still standing, Mattingly said.
“Right now we’re trying to determine why it collapsed,” he said. “There was nobody in the building at the time. We’re very fortunate in that.”
The accident brought down an electrical service line, but Mattingly said the power has been shut down to the whole area. There was no immediate fire hazard.
However, he added: “We’ve got storms moving in later with lightning and high wind. That’s going to be a concern for us.”
The more immediate concern for Prewitt and Mattingly was the whiskey flowing into the streams.
Mattingly said the warehouse, No. 30, was on a steep hill — “It’s a straight drop-off” — and firefighters were unable to tell whether there was whiskey in the water.
He said the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office was going to provide a drone to determine the extent of contamination if there was any.
“We’re not sure how many barrels ruptured,” the chief said.
Mattingly said there is a 12-foot deep basement under the warehouse, and first responders hope most of the bourbon went into the basement.
The property is outside Bardstown’s city limits, but Nelson County Fire and Rescue requested mutual aid from Bardstown Fire.
Emergency Management has jurisdiction in the event of disasters.
A Kentucky Standard reporter visited the property moments after the warehouse collapsed but was told that any information would have to come from Plant Manager Johnnie Colwell or a spokeswoman for the company and that they were both “at a meeting on the other side of town.”
Late Friday afternoon, no one from the company had returned calls to the newspaper.
Barton 1792 Distillery is owned by the Sazerac Company, which also owns the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort.