Alltech broke ground Friday for a $4.5 million distillery that company president Pearse Lyons said will be the first built in Lexington in nearly 100 years.
In the 20,000 square-foot plant, Alltech's Lexington Brewing and Distilling company will produce a new bourbon scheduled to be launched this fall, to be named Town Branch Bourbon after the stream that runs under downtown Lexington. The distillery also will produce Pearse Lyons Reserve whiskey and Bluegrass Sundown, an after-dinner bourbon-and-coffee beverage.
The distillery will be at 401 Cross Street, between Maxwell and Pine streets. The site is across from the brewery where Alltech produces its Kentucky Ale and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, and next to a former ice house used as the brewery visitors center. Alltech is a global animal health and nutrition company based in Nicholasville.
Construction is scheduled to begin Sept. 19 and is expected to take about a year.
Lyons said the new building was needed because Alltech's production of its ales has grown; the beers are now sold in seven states. The company intends to expand distribution to several other states by year's end.
Production of the ales, whiskey and after-dinner drink has outgrown the existing buildings, and the new distillery will provide needed expansion. Also, for about four years, the company has made the bourbon that it will formally unveil in a few months.
That bourbon is stored in hundreds of barrels in a warehouse in Bardstown, "quietly maturing," Lyons said. Alltech has bought a 300,000 square-foot commercial building on Angliana Avenue — formerly headquarters for Eagle Beer Distributors — and will store the bourbon barrels there once production is ramped up.
Initially, the distillery will produce 1,000 cases of bourbon, but Lyons said production could reach 40,000 to 80,000 cases.
Million Architecture in Nicholasville designed the distillery, which will be built of Kentucky limestone, with glass walls on three sides so the copper stills and fermentation tanks can be seen from the outside. "It's designed to be visitor-friendly and to showcase the products," architect Jay Million said.
Lyons said he hopes the distillery will become a tourist destination.
He said the project will require about 50 construction jobs and about a dozen additional jobs for Alltech's Beverage Division, bringing the division's total to 50.
Mayor Jim Gray called opening a bourbon distillery in Lexington's urban core "a big deal" for boosting revitalization efforts and paying homage to the city's bourbon heritage. Lexington was a major bourbon producer in Kentucky about a century ago, with three large distillers on Manchester Street, including the James E. Pepper Distillery, the nation's largest bourbon distillery at the time.
Gray said the distillery will be "within a stone's throw" of the proposed Arena, Arts and Entertainment district and said he expects it to become "a leveraging point for the district."
A portion of the former Pepper distillery houses Barrel House Distilling Co., which makes Pure Blue vodka and is waiting for its bourbon and bourbon-barrel rum to age.