Jack Daniel's announces $100m expansion in Tenn.

jpatton1@herald-leader.comAugust 22, 2013 

Tastin Jack

Jeff Arnett, the master distiller at the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., said the expansion will "follow Mr. Jack's belief when he said, 'Every day we make it, we'll make it the best we can.' "

MARK HUMPHREY — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, whose "Old No. 7" is already the biggest-selling whiskey in the world, is getting bigger.

Louisville-based Brown-Forman announced Thursday a $100 million expansion at the Lynchburg, Tenn., distillery that will include more stills and barrel warehouses.

"The expansion will help Jack Daniel's continue to bring our distinctive, charcoal-mellowed whiskey to the world and to follow Mr. Jack's belief when he said, 'Every day we make it, we'll make it the best we can,'" Jeff Arnett, master distiller at Jack Daniel's, said in a statement.

"This company is an American brand but, more importantly, a Tennessee brand well recognized across the world, making it a global ambassador for our home state," Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in a news release. "Jack Daniel's is one of our most historic exports, and it helps us in our efforts to bring new Tennessee products to the world marketplace."

Jack Daniel's sales volume has grown for 21 years, with global sales of the Jack Daniel's family, which includes the rising star Tennessee Honey, up by 9 percent in the past fiscal year.

In June, Brown-Forman announced a $35 million expansion at Woodford Reserve in Versailles that is to double bourbon production capacity there.

Why all the growth?

American whiskey sales are soaring: In 2012, for the first time ever, brown spirits and whiskey sales increased faster than those of vodka, gin, tequila and other spirits. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the alcohol industry trade group, last year's 3.6 percent growth in sales of U.S. whiskey was the biggest increase in 30 years.

Much of that momentum came from bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, which surged 13.2 percent from 2007 to 2012, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Many brands are capitalizing on their newfound popularity with expansions in capacity and in products.

Kentucky's distillers, who produce 95 percent of the world's bourbon, have announced more than $300 million in expanded distilleries, barrel warehouses, bottling lines and visitor centers in recent years.

New products including Tennessee Honey and Gentleman Jack, a premium whiskey based on Jack Daniel's, extend the line to new price points and new drinkers.

At the Brown-Forman annual meeting in July, chairman and CEO Paul Varga said that despite the brand's category dominance — it sells more than 10 million cases in 160 countries — there is room for growth.

The expansion will add about 90 full-time jobs over the next five years, with construction expected to begin this fall and finish within two years. The distillery currently employs about 435 workers.

The company already is working on a new cooperage in Alabama, expected to be ready next year, that will double its barrel-making capacity. Now it will have something to go in those barrels.

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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