Here we go again – but in a good way. Another piece in the downtown Whiskey Row puzzle fell into place today as Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced Brown-Forman Corp. (NYSE:BFA, BFB) will build an Old Forester distillery and visitor experience on Main Street downtown.
The distillery is expected to create up to 20 new jobs and cost approximately $30 million to develop.
Brown-Forman will open the facility for its founding brand, Old Forester, in two historic buildings at 117 and 119 W. Main St., according to a press release. The building at 117 W. Main once was home to the Mercury Paw music venue and before that City Lights, among others.
The combined buildings have approximately 55,000 square feet with 52 linear feet facing Main Street. The investment will include renovating the buildings and purchasing equipment.
The new distillery will be able to distill 100 percent of Old Forester’s current demand. In addition to production, the distillery also would serve as a home base for the Old Forester brand. The facility would be open to tours and feature a tasting room, exhibits, bourbon-making demonstrations and event spaces.
“Bourbonism is real and just keeps growing in our city and our state,” Fischer said in the release. “Not only is Brown-Forman growing one of its strongest brands, it also is redeveloping two key structures in a historic block of our downtown, which will encourage more investment, more stability and more growth.”
Paul Varga, CEO and president of Brown-Forman Corporation, said bringing Old Forester to Whiskey Row is a tip of the hat to its heritage. He noted that Old Forester was America’s first bottled bourbon, introduced by founder George Garvin Brown more than 140 years ago.
With that initial release, Varga said, Brown “changed our industry and Louisville community forever. As demand for high quality bourbon continues to increase, the Old Forester Distillery will enable us to expand capacity to share not only one of the greatest tasting bourbons with more of the world, but share the story of one of Kentucky’s bourbon icons.”
In addition to Old Forester, Brown-Forman Corp. produces various other well-known brands, including Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort, Finlandia, Herradura, Early Times, and Woodford Reserve. The company is headquartered in Louisville and employs nearly 4,200 people worldwide.
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $900,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
KEDFA also approved Brown-Forman for tax benefits up to $410,000 through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act, which allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales tax for construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development, and electronic processing equipment.
“We’re proud of Brown-Forman’s rich heritage, which is an integral part of Kentucky’s world famous bourbon industry,” Gov. Beshear stated in the release. “This expansion, including 20 new jobs and more than $30 million in investment, will help grow sales and exports for a Kentucky product that is increasingly in demand across the globe.”
Get your passports ready. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is growing.