Bourbon: Details about the major distilleries

Herald-Leader staff reportJune 6, 2013 

  • ABOUT THIS SERIES

    This is the first in a four-part series, The Spirit of Kentucky, looking at the state's bourbon industry.

    Through the remainder of 2013, about once every other month, the Herald-Leader will explore a different facet of one of Kentucky's most well-known, important and fastest-growing industries.

    Future installments will delve into the marketing and selling of bourbon, the lifestyle that has sprung up around the drink, and the industry's future. Also look for occasional features in print and online exploring the drink.

    Find all the coverage collected online at Kentucky.com/kybourbon.

Kentucky was once home to hundreds of bourbon distillers. Now, there are seven major houses. Here is information on each of them. Information as provided by the distillery.

BUFFALO TRACE

Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Buffalo Trace Distillery. Not publicly traded. 113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort.

When established, by whom; owned by now: Established in 1787 by Hancock Lee. Now owned by the Sazerac Co., a family-owned company based in New Orleans.

Historical importance: Oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States, distilling even during Prohibition. Only distillery to have three living master distillers: master distillers emeriti Elmer T. Lee and Gary Gayheart and current master distiller Harlen Wheatley.

Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Sazerac Rye, Pappy Van Winkle, George T. Stagg.

Other significant brands the company owns: 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, produced at the company’s 1792 Distillery in Bardstown.

Number of barrels of bourbon: 300,000 at Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Number of employees: 350 at Buffalo Trace.

Distillery and related sites (warehouses, visitors center, other): Three total distilleries in Kentucky: Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, 1792 Distillery in Bardstown and the Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro.

Websites, contact information for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: www.buffalotracedistillery.com. For tours: (502) 696-5926. Four different tours offered: Trace Tour, Hard Hat Tour, Post-Prohibition Tour and Ghost Tour. No charge for tours and a free tasting is also included after each tour. Reservations required for Hard Hat, Post-Prohibition and Ghost tours.


FOUR ROSES

Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Four Roses. Not publicly traded. 1224 Bonds Mill Rd., Lawrenceburg.

When established, by whom; owned by now: The Four Roses name was trademarked in 1888 by Paul Jones Jr. Currently owned by Kirin Brewery Co., Tokyo.

Historical importance: One of six Kentucky bourbons that were legally sold during Prohibition for medicinal purpose. Once the No. 1 selling Bourbon in the United States until Seagram bought the brand, introduced a blended whiskey with the Four Roses name and relegated Four Roses Bourbon to international markets only. Kirin bought the brand in 2002 and re-introduced it to the United States.

Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon, Four Roses Single-Barrel Bourbon, Four Roses Small-Batch Bourbon.

Other significant brands the company owns: None.

Number of barrels of bourbon: 200,000 barrels in inventory.

Number of employees: 97.

Distillery and related sites (warehouses, visitors center, other): Distillery, major visitor center and gift shop in Lawrenceburg. Bottling and warehousing and smaller visitor center and gift shop in Cox’s Creek.

Websites, contact info for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: www.fourrosesbourbon.com. Tours are free.


HEAVEN HILL

Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Heaven Hill Distilleries. Headquartered in Bardstown. Distillery in Louisville.

When established, by whom; owned by now: Established in 1934 by the Shapira family, which still owns it.

Historical importance: Largest family-owned and -operated distilled spirits company and bourbon supplier. Second-largest producer and holder of aging bourbon in the world. Recently filled barrel No. 6.5 million. Producer of Evan Williams, the second-largest-selling bourbon in the United States and the world.

Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Old Fitzgerald, Larceny, Henry McKenna, Parker’s Heritage Collection, Heaven Hill.

Other significant brands the company owns: Burnett’s Vodka, Christian Brothers Brandy, Hpnotiq Liqueur, Lunazul Tequila, Pama Pomegranate Liqueur.

Number of barrels of bourbon: About 1 million barrels.

Number of employees: About 540 nationwide.

Distillery and related sites (warehouses, visitors center, other): Bernheim Distillery, Breckinridge Street in Louisville. Warehouses in Bardstown, Deatsville and Louisville. Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center visitors center in Bardstown. Evan Williams Bourbon Experience along Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville set to open in fall.

Websites, contact info for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: General company information: www.heavenhill.com. Visitor’s center: www.bourbonheritagecenter.com. Branded websites: www.evanwilliams.com, www.larceny.com.


JIM BEAM

Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Beam Inc. NYSE: BEAM. Main distillery is James B. Beam Distilling Co., 149 Happy Hollow Rd., Clermont. Company headquarters in Deerfield, Ill.

When established, by whom; owned by now: Jacob Beam moved from Maryland to Kentucky and began distilling bourbon in the late 1700s. James Beam rebuilt the distillery in Clermont in 1933 after Prohibition. The distillery is currently owned by Beam Inc., which became a stand-alone, publicly traded spirits company in October 2011.

Historical importance: Producer of the world’s No.1-selling bourbon, Jim Beam. The Beam family is known as the first family of bourbon.

Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Jim Beam Bourbon, Maker's Mark Bourbon, Knob Creek Bourbon, Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Bourbon, Knob Creek Rye Bourbon, Red Stag flavored whiskies, Jacob’s Ghost White Whiskey.

Other significant brands the company owns: Sauza Tequila, Pinnacle Vodka, Courvoisier Cognac, Skinnygirl Cocktails, Cruzan Rum, Hornitos Tequila, Larios Gin, DeKuyper Cordials, Canadian Club Whisky, Teacher's Scotch Whisky, Laphroaig Scotch Whisky, Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, Whisky DYC, 2 Gingers Irish Whisky.

Number of barrels: Not disclosed.

Number of employees: More than 875 people in Kentucky.

Distillery and related sites (warehouses, visitors center, other): Jim Beam American Stillhouse is in Clermont, where the main distillery is. Plants in Boston, Clermont, Frankfort and Loretto.

Web sites, contact info for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: Visitors centers: www.americanstillhouse.com. $8 for tour, free for those younger than 21; $199 for VIP tour. (502)543-9877. Company: www.jimbeam.com.


MAKER’S MARK

Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Maker’s Mark Distillery. Owned by Beam Inc. (see above). 3350 Burkes Spring Road, Loretto.

When established, by whom; owned by now: Established 1953 by Bill Samuels Sr. Owned now by Beam Inc.

Historical importance: Bill Samuels Sr.’s family members have been distillers for several generations, but he famously burned the family recipe in favor of a new one substituting soft red winter wheat for the traditional rye as the flavor grain, producing a sweeter, softer bourbon.

Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Maker’s Mark, Maker’s 46.

Other significant brands the company owns: None.

Number of barrels: Not dislosed.

Number of employees: Maker’s Mark employs about 120 employees in Loretto.

Distillery and related sites (warehouses, visitors center, other): The distillery is in Loretto.

Web sites, contact info for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: www.makersmark.com. Tours are $7 per adult, and you must be 21 or over to dip your own bottle.


TOWN BRANCH

Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Town Branch Distillery. Not publicly traded. 401 Cross Street, Lexington.

When established, by whom; owned by now: Building established in October 2012. Distilling started in 2008 in brewhouse. Founded by Pearse of Lyons of Alltech in Nicholasville; owned by Alltech and Pearse Lyons.

Historical importance: The first metropolitan location on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Distillery is named for Lexington’s Town Branch stream, the waterway rich with limestone that once enticed numerous distillers to set up operations along its course. Founder Pearse Lyons came from five generations of coopers and is the first Irishman to achieve a formal degree in brewing and distilling. The company’s malt whiskey, Pearse Lyons Reserve, is the first malt whiskey made in Kentucky since 1919 and was released in 2010. The Visitor Center was formerly the Old Lexington Ice House.

Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Town Branch bourbon, Bluegrass Sundown bourbon-infused coffee liqueur.

Other significant brands the company owns: Pearse Lyons Reserve malt whiskey; Kentucky Ale, Kentucky Light, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout and Kentucky IPA beers.

Number of barrels of bourbon: Currently 1,350 barrels of bourbon at rest.

Number of employees: 72 employees.

Distillery and related sites: Distillery, brewery, visitors center and gift shop in Lexington. Alltech’s craft distillery, where Irish whiskey is distilled, was installed at Carlow Brewing Co., Bagenalstown, County Carlow, Ireland.

Web sites, contact info for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: www.kentuckyale.com. $7 per adult for tours.


WILD TURKEY

Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Currently owned by Gruppo Campari/Campari America, which is traded on the Milan, Italy, stock exchange; ticker symbol: CPR.MI. 1525 Tyrone Road, Lawrenceburg.

When established, by whom; owned by now: Established by Austin Nichols and Co in 1850. Currently owned by the Italian company Gruppo Campari/Campari America.

Historical importance: Master Distiller Jimmy Russell and Associate Master Distiller Eddie Russell are the only father-son duo in the Bourbon Hall of Fame.

Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Wild Turkey 101, Wild Turkey 81, Wild Turkey 81 Rye, Kentucky Spirit, Rare Breed, Russell's Reserve 10 Year, Russell’s Reserve Rye, Russell’s Single Barrel, Wild Turkey American Honey, Wild Turkey Spiced, Wild Turkey Forgiven.

Other significant brands the company owns: Campari owns Skyy Vodka, Cabo Wabo Tequila, Espolon Tequila, Frangelico, Carolans, Appleton Rum, Glen Grant Scotch, Aperol and Cynar.

Number of employees: About 150 at Wild Turkey.

Distillery & related sites (warehouses, visitors center, other): A new visitor center is scheduled to open in 2014 on Wild Turkey Hill overlooking the Kentucky River. Seventeen barrel warehouses on distillery campus on Tyrone Road; more warehouses are located in Anderson County and Camp Nelson in Jessamine County.

Web sites, contact info for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: Wildturkeybourbon.com, (502) 839-2182, free tours.


BROWN-FORMAN/WOODFORD RESERVE

Name, ticker symbol if publicly traded, location of main distillery/headquarters: Brown-Forman owns Woodford Reserve. NYSE: BFA and BFB. Brown-Forman is headquartered in Louisville. Woodford Reserve is at 7855 McCracken Pike, Versailles.

When established, by whom; owned by now: Brown-Forman was founded in 1870 by George Garvin Brown in Louisville. His original brand, Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, remains one of Brown-Forman's brands. George Garvin Brown IV, a descendant of the founder, is part of the fifth generation of the Brown family members engaged with the company and serves as the presiding chairman of the board.

Historical importance: Woodford Reserve is the smallest and oldest operating distillery in America. Whiskey was first produced on its site in 1812, and it was here that some of America’s earliest distilling pioneers including Elijah Pepper, Oscar Pepper and James Crow honed their craft. Another Brown-Forman product, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, was officially registered by the U.S. government in 1866 and based in Lynchburg, Tenn. The Woodford Reserve distillery is the oldest registered distillery in the United States and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Major labels of bourbon and bourbon-related products: Woodford Reserve, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection

Other significant brands the company owns: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Southern Comfort, Finlandia, Jack Daniel’s & Cola, Canadian Mist, Korbel, Gentleman Jack, el Jimador, Herradura, Sonoma-Cutrer, Chambord, New Mix, Tuaca, Woodford Reserve

Number of barrels of bourbon: Not disclosed.

Number of employees: Nearly 4,000 for all Brown-Forman brands. 52 at Woodford Reserve Distillery. 31 at Brown-Forman Distillery.

Distillery and related sites (warehouses, visitors center, other): Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles. Brown-Forman Distillery in Louisville. Warehouse locations not disclosed.

Websites, contact info for tours, admission cost if any, etc.: Brown-Forman: www.brown-forman.com. Woodford Reserve Distillery, www.woodfordreserve.com. Woodford Reserve tours: Distillery ($7, free for military personnel with ID), National Historic Landmark tour ($25), Corn to Cork in-depth tour ($25). (859) 879-1812.

SOURCE: Bourbon distilleries

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