Alltech joined the Kentucky Distillers' Association on Thursday, the first craft distillery admitted to membership in 131 years as the trade association seeks to embrace a fast-growing new segment of the liquor industry.
Alltech, a Nicholasville-based biotechnology company, expanded its Kentucky Ale brewery in Lexington a couple of years ago to add copper stills. The company produces a malt whiskey, Pearse Lyons Reserve, named for Alltech's founder and chief executive.
"We think bringing in the craft distilleries does nothing but strengthen the industry," said the KDA chairman, John Rhea, of Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg. "It gives the craft distilleries a great opportunity to come in and build on success."
In addition to Alltech, three other craft distilleries have opened recently in Kentucky: Barrel House Distilling Co. on Manchester Street in Lexington; Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green; and MB Roland Distillery near Hopkinsville. Two others are looking at Louisville as a possible site, said KDA President Eric Gregory.
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It is not just a Kentucky phenomenon; craft distilleries are opening in several other states, too. For example, Kentuckian Colin Spoelman has gotten a lot of publicity for making legal moonshine in Brooklyn, N.Y., at his Kings County Distillery. As the trend continues, Kentucky will be competing with other states for this growing segment of the industry.
Alltech also produces a coffee-and-bourbon drink called Bluegrass Sundown and is developing a bourbon whiskey. Later this year, it will begin construction of a distillery expansion at the Kentucky Ale brewery along West Maxwell Street.
Alltech also has renovated a former ice house at the brewery as a visitors center. The inside looks like a streetscape from Lyons' native Dublin, Ireland. The faux shopfronts bear names from the family tree of Lyons and his wife, Deirdre.
"What we are trying to do is put Kentucky on the global map and put Alltech on the global map, and those are intertwined," Lyons said as he toasted the occasion with Bluegrass Sundown in his visitors center.
Alltech becomes the seventh member in the KDA, which has seen a lot of industry consolidation over the years. When founded in 1880, there were 32 members. The only major Kentucky distillery not part of the KDA is Sazerac, which owns the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort and Tom Moore Distillery in Bardstown and is involved in a legal dispute with the association.