A group of media, Bulleit employees, construction crews, and Shelby County officials and residents gathered Tuesday morning on the loading dock of Warehouse 6 — one of the first completed structures at the future home of Bulleit Distilling Co. — for a progress report on the $115 million project. It’s been a little over a year since ground was first broken on the Shelby County farmland, and chief engineer Dan Feeser said they’ve got about one more year to go before a distillery is up and running.
Bulleit bourbon, which currently operates out of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville’s South End, eventually will be distilled and aged at the 300-acre site, along with current and future Diageo — Bulleit’s parent company — products. The grounds will house a 1.8 million-proof-gallon distillery, six warehouses, a barreling building, a power house, several storage ponds and at least 100 acres set aside for natural conservation and reforesting.
The highlights of the press conference included the announcement by Feeser that all of the corn needed to make bourbon will be purchased from Shelby County farmers and that Diageo is constructing a distillery that is highly energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
“With the help and support of the Shelby County community, today I am proud to say the construction of this distillery is on time,” said Feeser. “I look forward to next year when we can gather once more and celebrate the end of a successful construction project and the beginning of Bulleit being made right here in Shelby County.”
Feeser said the construction of a bourbon distillery was met with a warm welcome by Shelbyville and Shelby County residents, and he looks forward working alongside them as both have a passion for the community.
One immediate concern that will have to be worked out by the time the distillery opens in June 2016 is Shelby County’s “moist” status, which means you can only purchase alcohol by the drink at restaurants that seat at least 100 patrons and derive at least 70 percent of sales from food. (Shelbyville is now wet.) Both Feeser and Pauline Rooney, Diageo’s vice president of distillation, maturation and engineering, would not comment on the issue, saying their top priority is just getting the construction completed.
If the distillery wants to be competitive with the others on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, they’ll need to be able to offer visitors samples of their products and the opportunity to purchase bottles.
One interesting tidbit is that each state-of-the-art warehouse will hold up to 55,000 aging barrels, which are stacked vertically by the pallet — six barrels per pallet, six pallets high and 18 rows deep. Rooney said the vertical aging method was borrowed from Scotch-making methods in her homeland of Scotland, and it does not differ from the typical rickhouse aging methods where the barrels lie on their sides, bung up.
There are currently more than 43,000 barrels of Bulleit aging at Warehouse 6, and the sweet, welcoming scent of the angel’s share put a smile on everyone’s face.