Brown-Forman plans to expand Woodford Reserve visitors center

jpatton1@herald-leader.comOctober 21, 2013 

The 200th Anniversary Tour at the Woodford Reserve Distillery on McCracken Pike near Versailles shows visitors one of the original stills, on the left, and the current ones, on the right.

CHARLES BERTRAM — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

Louisville-based distiller Brown-Forman is planning a $1.63 million expansion and renovation of the visitors center at Woodford Reserve Distillery outside Versailles. The proposed changes will be considered Thursday by the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority in Frankfort.

The distillery, part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, receives more than 160,000 visitors a year. Earlier this year, the distillery received preliminary approval for tourism-related tax incentives for the project including a new tasting room, upgraded retail spaces and guest areas, said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.

The expansion could be eligible for up to 25 percent of the investment, based on the visitor traffic. The tourism authority will decide the incentives amount on Thursday. Brown-Forman declined to comment ahead of the authority meeting.

This follows tourist-related expansions at several Kentucky distilleries: Heaven Hill's Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville will open in November, and Wild Turkey's new visitors center is expected to open next year. Angel's Envy and Michter's also are working on distilleries and visitors centers in Louisville.

Bourbon tourism is booming, with a record 500,000 visits to at least one Kentucky distillery last year, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association. By 2016, the group predicted that could reach 800,000 visits, with 40,000 people going to all seven distilleries on the trail.

In June, Brown-Forman announced a $35 million expansion of the Woodford Reserve distillery and its warehouse capacity that will enable the company to meet growing demand for its super-premium bourbon. The company is adding three new warehouses and new stills and is expanding its bottling line.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval for up to $3 million in tax incentives and benefits for the distillery expansion.

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

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