FORT KNOX — Liquor producer Brown-Forman Corp. and Fort Knox are mixing two Kentucky traditions — bourbon and the military — at the famed Army post.
Soldiers and business executives planned to gather Wednesday for the opening of the Woodford Reserve Room, a place where soldiers can kick back and relax, perhaps while sipping whiskey crafted in the Bluegrass State.
The room, featuring a granite bar and decorated with old bourbon barrels, carries the name of Brown-Forman's Woodford Reserve brand, a high-end bourbon made in Woodford County.
Brown-Forman executives call it the first-of-its-kind venture at a U.S. military installation and said it could start a trend if the Fort Knox opening is a hit.
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Perhaps a Jack Daniel's Room — named after the company's top-selling whiskey — could someday be featured at another military installation. But for now, the company wants to get it right at Fort Knox.
"This is just so new for us that we're going to learn from it," said Joe Bollinger, a Brown-Forman executive who oversees sales of the company's products at military installations.
The Louisville-based spirits company is hoping to win over new fans of Woodford Reserve by allowing the brand's name to be attached to the room.
"We hope as troops come and go through Fort Knox, they're going to take a piece of bourbon country back with them," Bollinger said.
Col. Bruce Jenkins, the Fort Knox garrison commander, said it's "the first and only branded bourbon room in the Army" and will provide a "unique gathering place" for soldiers, their family members, civilian employees and others.
"Even though Fort Knox is an Army installation, we really consider ourselves part of the community and the commonwealth," he said.
The room, which comfortably accommodates 90 people, is part of the Saber and Quill club, a post facility that features a restaurant and areas that can be rented for events. The opening featured Woodford Reserve and other Brown-Forman products, but after that, Fort Knox will decide what's served from the bar.
Brown-Forman is receiving a fee for the use of the Woodford Reserve name but won't disclose the amount. The naming rights deal is part of a two-year contract with an option for another two years, the company said.
The company paid for the renovations to the room. It plans to send master distiller Chris Morris to Fort Knox a couple of times a year to promote Woodford Reserve.
Bollinger said the company also will preach the importance of moderation. "We want to be pro-active," he said. "There's a lot of stress right now in the military with all the deployments these troops have been through."
Fort Knox, about 50 miles southwest of Louisville, houses the Army's Human Resources Command and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division. It was previously home of the U.S. Armor Center, but after 70 years at Fort Knox, the armored divisions were moved to Fort Benning, Ga.