Drinks giant Diageo has announced plans to build a massive distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky, capable of churning out over 10 million proof gallons annually—equivalent to about 189,000 barrels, or 45.6 million bottles. That capacity compares closely to some of Kentucky’s biggest whiskey makers, including Wild Turkey (11 million proof gallons), and well outpaces the capabilities of newly opened distilleries like Lux Row (1 million proof gallons) and Old Forester (190,202 proof gallons). The Lebanon distillery will be Diageo’s second whiskey production facility in the state, joining the Bulleit Distilling Co. in Shelbyville which opened in March 2017 with a maximum capacity of just 3 million proof gallons. Diageo also operates the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at the former Stitzel-Weller distillery in Louisville, which offers tours and tastings of the historic site but does not include a production distillery.
Plans for the Lebanon project include an investment of $130 million over three years, with construction slated to begin in early summer of 2019. Diageo will construct a distillery, dry house—a facility to process stillage, the thick wastewater left over after the distillation process—and warehouses on the 144-acre site. The company plans to produce several of its American whiskey brands there, including Bulleit, and may also develop new brands. The goal is for distilling to begin in 2021; of course, whiskey takes several years to age, so it will be a while before any products from the new facility are on the shelf. There are no plans to include a visitor center or other tourism element at the site.
How open should whiskey brands like Bulleit be about sourcing? Our editors debate.
As bourbon and other American whiskeys have boomed in popularity over the last few years, many companies have expanded operations or opened new facilities to accommodate growing demand. Established distillers like Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace have all invested or announced plans to invest in additional warehousing and production, while newcomers have also entered the scene. In addition to the openings of Lux Row and Old Forester earlier this year, Stoli Group announced plans to build Kentucky Owl Park—a distillery complex centered around its Kentucky Owl whiskey brand—in November 2017, and Angel’s Envy filed plans to expand its warehousing and production at a site in Henry County in September. Many smaller distillers have opened recently or will soon open.
All this means that more bourbon is coming—something every whisky lover can celebrate.