The proposed Old Forester Distillery, which will become the centerpiece of the Whiskey Row revitalization, is one step closer to reality.
Brown-Forman announced Thursday it has closed on the two buildings at 117 and 119 W. Main St., which it purchased for $4.5 million from investors (and Brown-Forman descendants) Christy Brown and Laura Lee Brown, as well as the latter’s husband, Steve Wilson.
Phil Lynch, a Brown-Forman spokesman, told IL Friday morning the company expects to hold a groundbreaking event mid-summer, but the company has already been working inside the buildings — which are a combined 55,000 square feet — for a few months.
That explains another announcement from B-F yesterday: Its projected investment in the project has grown by 50 percent, to $45 million. Lynch said the costs grew once the firm and its design team began adding specifics.
“(The added cost is) mostly related to the building, once we got in it and found the conditions, but also we added costs when the designers and architects developed specific plans,” he said via email. “Not surprisingly for Brown-Forman, it’s going to be a world-class facility, and that costs money.”
Messer Construction, a regional powerhouse with an office here, will manage the project. The brick and masonry facades of the two buildings will be preserved and restored.
Brown-Forman is no stranger to Whiskey Row, of course. The firm operated out of the 117 building from 1900 to 1919, before moving to its current west Louisville headquarters. The distillery will produce the spirits giant’s entire Old Forester run (and allow the company to double current production).
The $45 million investment is another in a series of financial and personal down payments Brown-Forman has made recently on Old Forester, which was the company’s bedrock brand for decades. They include naming family member Campbell Brown president of the brand and investing $20 million in product revitalization.
The Old Forester Distillery is still on track for a fall 2016 opening, the company said.