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New $10 million bourbon experience coming. Here’s what you’ll see.

The new 9,000-square-foot visitors’ center will include a large retail space that will sell all of the existing Bulleit brands and possibly some exclusive releases.
The new 9,000-square-foot visitors’ center will include a large retail space that will sell all of the existing Bulleit brands and possibly some exclusive releases. Herald-Leader

Diageo plans to build a $10 million visitors’ experience at the new Bulleit Distilling Company in Shelbyville.

The 9,000-square-foot project, which was approved for $2.5 million in incentives from the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet on Wednesday, will have a tasting room, tours and more.

“We thank the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet for their assistance through the process,” said Barry Becton, senior director of Federal Affairs and Whiskey at Diageo North America, in a statement. “We also thank the people and leadership of Shelby County, especially county Judge-Executive Dan Ison and State Sen. Paul Hornback, for their continued support of the distillery as we look to build a visitor center that we expect will bring thousands of visitors to the community each year.”

The $115 million Bulleit Distilling Co. began operations earlier this year. The 300-acre campus already includes five barrel warehouses with a sixth under construction. Each warehouse can hold 55,000 aging barrels of bourbon. The state-of-the-art distillery was built using global best practices for bourbon production, including environmentally conscious features such as a solar array.

“The visitors’ center experience would highlight the cutting-edge, modern whiskey-making process at the state-of-the-art distillery,” according to the application for Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority incentives.

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Tourism tax incentives were approved for a new visitors’ experience at the Bulleit Bourbon distillery that opened earlier this year in Shelbyville. Jonathan Palmer Herald-Leader

This will be the second Bulleit tourist opportunity: The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller near Louisville also received incentives and will become the Stitzel-Weller Experience. That will be used to highlight the historic site as well as other Diageo brands such as Blade and Bow and I.W. Harper.

The new visitors center will become “the home of Bulleit Bourbon,” said Jeff Parrott, director of American whiskey development for Diageo.

“Ultimately, we wanted this to encompass the history and heritage, the archives of the brand, and include a tour of distilling experience, highlighting the state-of-art distillery and its environmentally friendly footprint,” Parrott said. “And there also will be a tasting. People will come back to the visitors’ center for a tasting.”

He said the spacious visitors’ center will have several tasting rooms, a large retail footprint and Tom Bulleit’s office. “That’s where he will be when he is in Kentucky and working,” Parrott said.

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Brand founder Tom Bulleit, who cut the ribbon on the new distillery earlier this year, will have an office in the new Bulleit Bourbon Experience to use when he’s in Kentucky and working. Jonathan Palmer Herald-Leader

“We will have a full line of Bulleit available, and we would love to do some exclusive products there, too,” Parrott said.

Construction on the project could begin as early as January and is expected to take a year to complete, according to documents filed with the state.

Parrott said that the visitors center could create about 30 jobs, in a mix of full-time and part-time.

“And we think it will generate more tax revenue for the county and the town,” he said. “And it also will help all the local restaurants and shops because of the excitement around the brand.”

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The new Bulleit Bourbon Experience will highlight the brand, which is selling more than 1 million cases a year globally, according to Diageo. Jonathan Palmer Herald-Leader

Bulleit Bourbon is selling “north of 1 million cases a year globally,” Parrott said. “Because it’s so hot, we expect a good turnout.”

Based on what similar distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail report, Diageo estimated in its application that the Bulleit Experience could receive 100,000 visitors in 2019, with three-fourths of them coming from out of state. That number is expected to more than double by 2023. The center will be open year-round, and will advertise heavily, spending an expected $975,000 in the first five years.

Janet Patton: 859-231-3264, @janetpattonhl.

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