Expansion Planned At Woodford Reserve Distillery

Jun 27, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Brown-Forman Corp. said Thursday it plans to boost bourbon production at its Woodford Reserve Distillery, where an expansion topping $35 million will add stills, double its bottling capacity and increase storage space where the whiskey matures.

The investments at the picturesque distillery - near Versailles in Kentucky's thoroughbred country - come as the brand had record volumes of nearly 250,000 9-liter cases and a 28 percent increase in net sales in the fiscal year that ended April 30, said Brown-Forman spokeswoman Elizabeth Conway.

"We believe that strong consumer interest in bourbon will continue, and we're expanding our production to meet this demand," she said.

The growth at Woodford Reserve continues the rapid pace of expansion among Kentucky's bourbon distillers.

In the past couple of years, those distilleries have invested $265 million in new and expanded production facilities, warehouses where the bourbon ages, visitors' centers, bottling lines and more, said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association. It's the largest expansion since Prohibition, he said.

The recent expansion has included some of the best-known brands in bourbon, including Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Evan Williams.

Gregory said the Woodford Reserve expansion "is more proof that Kentucky bourbon is enjoying a renaissance not seen in generations. Kentucky's signature bourbon industry is adding more jobs, more investment and more visitors than ever before."

Kentucky is home to 95 percent of the world's bourbon production, and there are 4.9 million bourbon barrels aging in Kentucky, which outnumbers the state's population.

The state's bourbon distillers filled more than one million barrels of bourbon last year, the first time since 1973. And more than 500,000 people visited the Kentucky Bourbon Trail last year, the first time the tour has broken the half-million mark. The Woodford Reserve distillery is one of the tour's most popular stops.

Expansion work at Woodford Reserve is expected to start in the fall, Conway said.

The project will include the construction of three new warehouses, each capable of storing 55,000 barrels of aging whiskey, she said. Woodford now has just one, smaller warehouse on its distillery grounds.

Louisville-based Brown-Forman also plans on adding three copper pot stills, doubling the number of stills at the Woodford distillery, and doubling its bottling line, she said.

The company recently purchased nearly 50 acres next to its distillery, giving it more room to grow.

The Woodford Reserve distillery currently has 30 full-time employees, and the expansion is expected to add another 15 jobs.

State officials said the company is in line for up to $3 million in tax incentives as part of the expansion.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the expansion will "help grow sales and exports for a Kentucky product that is increasingly in demand across the globe."

Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey had another sales spike in 2012. Mixed together, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey sales from producers or suppliers to wholesalers rose 5.2 percent to 16.9 million cases last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, a national trade association. Total revenue rose 7.3 percent to $2.2 billion, it said.

Brown-Forman's other brands include Jack Daniel's, Southern Comfort, Finlandia, el Jimador and Korbel Champagne.