For the first time in decades, a distillery is returning to Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville, Kentucky — and we couldn’t be happier.
Opening officially on National Bourbon Day (June 14), Old Forester Distilling Company’s new 70,000-square-foot, $45-million distillery will be open for tours and tastings, guiding consumers through the entire process of whiskey-making. Not only will you get to see how bourbon is fermented and distilled into what we know and love, but you’ll also get to see how barrels are made.
We’re not talking about a video that shows a cooperage. Depending on the time of day, you’ll be able to see barrels being assembled by coopers for future use. And there’s freaking fire involved. Real, hot fire that is used to char the barrels. You won’t see that at the KFC YUM! Center (though you will be able to see Journey, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Fall Out Boy in the coming months, which is almost as cool as bourbon-making).
The location of the distillery (on Main Street in the downtown section of Louisville) is about more than just convenience. At one point following the Civil War when the economy was booming, Main Street in Louisville was the center of the bourbon industry. There were almost 100 (89, to be exact) bourbon distilleries in operation, selling their wares to thirsty Kentuckians. Then a little thing called Prohibition happened and the majority died out. Only one company —Brown-Forman, with its founding brand Old Forester — has operated continuously in that time. Now, with the opening of the distillery, Old Forester is back in the building where it all started.
As a fully functional distillery, the Old Forester Distilling Company has the capacity to produce 100,000 9L annually. That means the distillery will distill around 100,000 proof gallons of whiskey per year, processing 4,500 gallons of mash per day. The bottling line can bottle up to 2,400 bottles per day while the on-site warehouse can hold up to 900 barrels. The rest will be aged at the Brown-Forman Distillery, which is not open to the public.
Not only is the distillery fully operable, but it is damn beautiful. As far as distillery experiences go, it’s not one you’re going to want to miss while in Kentucky.
The distillery will be open weekly Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The tour and tasting will be offered at $16. The distillery will offer extended hours throughout opening weekend; full tour details and advance tickets are available at the Old Forester website.
(Want to learn more about Old Forester? Check out our interview with master taster Jackie Zykan on The Manual podcast.)