Brown-Forman - Announces $95 Million Expansion to Double Distilling Capacity

In November 2020 we reported that Brown-Forman had applied with the state for a tax incentive to upgrade and expand its facilities in Louisville, Kentucky.

Four months later Brown-Forman has officially announced they are moving forward with a $95 million expansion at their main campus located on Dixie Highway in downtown Louisville. If you are driving through downtown and wondering where Brown-Forman is headquartered just look to the skyline until you find the iconic Old Forester Bourbon water tower. It reaches 218 feet into the sky and at the base of that tower is the company’s headquarters. The distillery is located just over a couple miles down the road.

Old Forester - Water Tower Reveal 4
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Factoid: The Old Forester water tower can hold 100,000 gallons. If that bottle was filled with bourbon it would add up to 50,472 – 750ml bottles or 8.5 Million 1.5 ounce shots of Kentucky Bourbon.

Brown-Forman to Double Bourbon Whiskey Production

The planned expansion will double the production capacity to help meet the growing demand for American bourbon whiskey. In addition to the production capacity Old Forester will create an oak tree nursery on the property for a long-term study of oak tree sustainability, part of the company’s overall effort to ensure the future viability of one of the most critical ingredients in bourbon making.

Construction is expected to take more than two years to complete. The site, located off of Dixie Highway in Shively, will be fully operational throughout this period.

“The demand for American whiskey worldwide is a result of the craftsmanship and specialness of Kentucky’s signature spirit,” said Alex Alvarez, Chief Production and Sustainability Officer, Brown-Forman. “This expansion will allow us to increase production, improve efficiency, and enhance the workspace so we can continue bringing whiskey, made right here in Louisville, Kentucky, to the world.”

Brown-Forman’s premium bourbons including Old Forester Bourbon, Woodford Reserve Bourbon and its newest launch Cooper’s Craft Bourbon have enjoyed exceptional growth over the last decade, with reported net sales of +18% in the first half of the company’s current fiscal year.

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What’s Included in the $95 Million Brown-Forman Expansion Project?

The project will include the following.

  • Doubling the number of fermenters
  • Adding column still capacity and mash cookers
  • Improving the grain handling and by-products system
  • Improving on-site traffic flow for safety
  • Creating green space for a tree nursery
  • Modernizing the workspace, including a new break room, new locker rooms, and wellness space

The State of Kentucky Provides $5 Million Tax Incentive

To encourage investment in this growing industry, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development approved Brown-Forman for tax incentives up to $5 million under the Kentucky Reinvestment Act. This performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting certain targets. An additional $500,000 was approved under the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act, which allows companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on certain construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development, and electronic processing equipment.

Brown-Forman has a long history of distilling at the Shively location. The original distillery was built in 1935 by the Old Kentucky Distillery Company. Brown-Forman acquired the distillery in 1940. The company replaced the original distillery with the current operation in 1954-1955 and did a major expansion of the facility in 1966-1967. During that time, Brown-Forman contracted with the Olmsted Firm to do landscaping, as part of this effort a nursery was established at this location consisting of 3,500 trees, plants, and shrubs.

The new Old Forester Tree Nursery, the first urban white oak seedling establishment and genetic study, will be conducted in partnership with University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. It will serve as a model for other urban studies in the future with the goal of improving economic and ecological value in urban, rural, and natural forests.

Brown-Forman and partners will plant acorns in the nursery in the Spring of 2021. This program adds to the white oak sustainability work Brown-Forman supports as a founding member of the White Oak Initiative alongside DendriFund and other industry partners.

Brown-Forman Corporation brands include Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Finlandia, Korbel, el Jimador, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Coopers’ Craft, Herradura, New Mix, Sonoma-Cutrer, Chambord, BenRiach, GlenDronach, Slane, and Fords Gin. Brown-Forman’s brands are supported by approximately 4,800 employees and sold in more than 170 countries worldwide.

Historical Note: The Old Kentucky Distillery operated from circa 1880 until it was shut down due to the United States ban on alcohol in 1919. Prior to 1895, it operated under the name Mayflower Distillery Co. In 1892, it was purchased by Dick Meschendorf who changed the name to Old Kentucky Distillery and produced different brands of whiskey including “Cherokee Springs”, “Dew Drops”, “Fountain Spring”, “Goodwill”, “Kentucky Dew”, “Moon Light”, “Normandy”, “O K D”, “Old Cherokee Spring”, “Old Jefferson County”, “Old Kentucky”, “Old Oak Ridge”, “Old Watermill”, “Royal Velvet”, and “Woodbury.”

Learn more about Old Forester Distillery.
Learn more about Woodford Reserve Distillery.
View all Louisville Distilleries.
View all Kentucky Distilleries.

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