Bourbon Industry

Angel's Envy building $12M Louisville distillery

An artist's rendering of the Angel's Envy Distillery to be built in downtown Louisville.
An artist's rendering of the Angel's Envy Distillery to be built in downtown Louisville.

LOUISVILLE -- Calling it one of the worst-kept secrets in economic development, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer formally announced Tuesday that Angel's Envy will build a $12 million distillery complex on Main Street.

Gov. Steve Beshear hailed the growth in Kentucky's internationally known bourbon industry and the creation of 40 potential jobs.

Angel's Envy, which will sit near the future Ohio River Bridge and across from Louisville Slugger Field, is the latest in a series of new bourbon-related developments coming to downtown Louisville's revitalized Whiskey Row, including the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience at Sixth and Main, Michter's Distillery at Eighth and Main, and Peerless Distilling at Tenth and Main.

The new distillery comes during a time of tremendous growth in the bourbon industry, Beshear said, the greatest expansion since Prohibition. More than $265 million in new bourbon-related projects have been announced or completed in recent years.

At one time, Louisville was the center of the bourbon universe, said Wes Henderson of chief operating officer for Angel's Envy parent Angel's Share Brands. One thing that has been gone from downtown, he said, is distillation.

"It's been almost a hundred years since that's taken place," Henderson said. "Our job at Angel's Envy is to bring bourbon back to Louisville, back to Bourbon Row, in addition to honoring the history of bourbon throughout the state. We plan to reclaim that history right here."

Angel's Envy plans to build a fully functioning distillery, that will mill grain, distill whiskey, barrel, age and bottle their premium products all on site. Some barrels will be stored at another location in Jefferson County.

The distillery eventually plans to become a part of Louisville's Urban Bourbon Trail as well as the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

But first, they have to rehab the 19th century Vermont American complex at Main and Jackson; according to Angel's Share president and CEO Marc Bushala, almost everything except the walls of the 65,000-square-foot property will be rebuilt.

The rehabilitation project is pursuing federal historic tax credits for up to 20 percent of the construction costs, which are estimated to be about $5 million, Bushala said.

In May, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval for up to $872,000 in economic incentives for the distillery, which is expected to create at least 17 jobs initially.

The company also announced Tuesday that Jonathan Blue's Blue Equity has made a "significant investment" in the brand.

Louisville-based architects Joseph & Joseph designed a building that plays up the historic qualities but fits in a multistory column still. The bottling line will be in the adjacent Baer Fabrics building.

Work on the bottling line could begin in 90 days and be completed by the end of the year, Wes Henderson said. The distillery is expected to be finished by December 2014, when Angel's Envy will begin making its own spirit.

The company presently buys its bourbon, which is then finished in port wine casks, and its rye, which is finished in rum casks.

Although the Vendome-made still will be capable of producing at least 30 barrels a day, initially, Henderson said, they will be filling much less than that. But sales are booming, he said, and in three years they expect to sell 100,000 cases of Angel's Envy products.

His father, former Brown-Forman master distiller Lincoln Henderson, said that based on the number of tourists that come to Louisville, the Angel's Envy distillery expects to get at least 100,000 visitors a year.

And they will have some interesting things to taste, he said. "We're going to come up with some really neat stuff."