Diageo, parent of Bulleit bourbon and rye as well as myriad other brands, announced Wednesday it will renovate part of its mothballed legendary Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Shively, outside Louisville, to capitalize on the burgeoning tourist trade.
Diageo will invest an initial $2 million in the Stitzel-Weller Visitor Center, which the Britain-based company hopes to open by Kentucky Derby weekend, May 3 this year. The original administrative building will become a whiskey education center, with a celebration of Diageo's brands as well as the heritage of the distillery, which has been closed since 1992.
Although Diageo has a distiller's license, it doesn't actually distill anything on site or even in Kentucky. There are no plans at present to reactivate the distillery.
"Another of our state's storied distilleries will get new life thanks to Diageo's investment, which will attract even more bourbon fans to Kentucky," Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement. "We're excited about this project and for the continued growth of Kentucky's bourbon businesses."
The company plans to complete the visitor center, welcome center and gift shop this summer.
Bourbon tourism is booming, with almost 750,000 visitors to at least one distillery last year, according to figures released last month by the Kentucky Distillers' Association and Sazerac.