The blending of distilled spirits has been done for centuries. For most of the 21st century the concept of blending in the U.S. has been frowned upon because of a reputation built by rectifiers in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the first companies in the U.S. that set out to change the perception of blenders was Barrell Craft Spirits in Louisville, Kentucky. Barrell Craft Spirits was founded in 2013 by spirits industry veteran Joe Beatrice. When Joe started the company, he thought he wanted to build a distillery. What he learned was he didn’t have to build a distillery to get into the business.
Fork in the Road: Distiller or Blender?
Joe and his wife Janet were visiting one of the first craft distilleries in the U.S. in upstate New York in November of 2011. From that visit to Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, home to Ralph Erenzo’s Hudson Whiskey, Joe decided about a week later that he didn’t want to build a distillery, he wanted to build a brand. Over the next year he created the concept, figured out the point of differentiation, found whiskey sources, came up with the design and in December of 2012 he bottled his first batch of bourbon in Kentucky.
10th Anniversary and Grand Opening of New Facility
“We are celebrating the 10th year anniversary,” said Barrell Craft Spirits Founder Joe Beatrice at the ribbon cutting.” It’s the opening of our new facility, this has been two years in the making. We are so excited to be here to continue our journey from here. This opens up even more production capacity for us. We can’t wait to get these tanks fired up.”
They are waiting to get final permits to get the new $15 million facility fully operational. The new facility features four 6,000-gallon and four 10,000-gallon blending tanks from Peterson Custom Stainless and a bottling line from P.E. Labellers that can produce over a million cases per year in a single shift.
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“I look around and I cannot believe what I’m seeing here,” said Beatrice. “10 years ago, we operated from our living room. Writing labels, filling sample bottles. I pounded the pavement from Brooklyn neighborhoods to upstate New York to open the first 100 accounts. Today, we have 10,000 accounts.
“We did contract bottling using a handful of barrels. Now, in our new facility, on our bottling line, we can produce over 1 million cases a year in one shift. We started blending in a 1,000-gallon tank. Now we have eight tanks that can hold 64,000-gallons of spirits.
“It’s just a simply incredible accomplishment that we’ve gotten this far. We’ve won hundreds of significant awards. We’ve received mountains of press. And it all started with a simple idea of blending cask strength new releases and new products. That was the starting point for us.
“We went against the grain from day one. We were transparent about what we did. We were proud of being a blender and proud of being a non-distiller producer (NDP). And that strategy has really paid off for us, it’s really worked. Along the way, I’ve met so many great people and become friends. And probably most importantly, we have had a lot, a lot of fun doing this. I look forward to the next 10 years.”
Barrell Craft Spirits commitment to innovation, quality, and transparency has had a significant impact on Kentucky and the larger whiskey industry. In 10 short years, Beatrice has built the company into a national brand sold in 49 U.S. states. He has also inspired several other non-distilling producers to pursue blending with whiskey. He remains intimately involved with every step of the production process, using his exceptional palate alongside the blending team to choose and create great spirits.
A 500% Increase in Capacity
The 31,000 square foot facility was designed specifically to support how Barrell Craft Spirits operates as a company under one roof in the most efficient manner possible. Large office spaces encourage a free-flowing discussion of creative ideas around innovative product development. The new operation will allow them to increase its blending capacity by over 500%. The facility will support the growth of current brands and new product launches.
“I am proud to celebrate the expansion and 10th anniversary of Barrell Craft Spirits, a local blender of unique, aged whiskey and rum,” stated Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg. “They have recently invested $15 million back into Louisville’s economy and are creating new high-wage jobs for our residents. Congratulations on your success and continued growth!”
Founded in 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky, Barrell Craft Spirits® selects and blends products that explore different distillation methods, barrels, and aging environments. Their extensive stocks of high-quality casks mean it can craft extraordinary blends that maximize the nuances of each ingredient. Creative finishes, a liberated approach to blending, and a deep-seated commitment to releasing each whiskey at cask strength guides every product release of unique, aged, cask strength whiskey and rum.