The Dant and Beam family names meander through distillings colorful history like a stream through the rolling hills of Kentucky. They’ve had their names on the door or have taken on the role of master distiller in many, many distilleries since the early 1800s. This week as a part of National Bourbon Day celebration in Bardstown, Kentucky, J.W. “Wally” Dant surprised the crowd when he proudly announced he was returning to the families roots by starting a new distillery.
Dant has purchased 220 acres of land to build Log Still Distillery on a site that was most recently called Gethsemane Distillery until it was shut down in 1961. In 1883 the distillery at this site was called the Head & Beam Distillery but was closed when Prohibition caused hundreds of distilleries across the country to be shuttered. The distillery reopened following the repeal of Prohibition eventually selling to United Distillers and later Schenely. Production at the old distillery was relocated to Louisville in the early 1960s and production at this location ceased. The J.W. Dant brand name was sold to Heaven Hill in the early 1990s. Heaven Hill still produces a J.W. Dant bourbon today so don’t expect to see this name on a future bottle from Log Still Distillery.
“We are looking forward to bringing the new Dant distillery back to into operation in Gethsemane,” said Wally Dant at the gathering in Bardstown. “It’s going to be a big renovation project so you are going to have to be patient with us as we go through this. We plan on using the old bottling house that’s down there on the property as well as the old water tower. We are extremely proud on this National Bourbon Day…Have patience with us, we are going to have a lot of fun with this project and we look forward to seeing you all out there soon.”
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The Log Still part of the name has real meaning. History has it that J.W. Dant, Wally’s Great-great-grandfather started distilling at the age of 16. He fashioned his own still out of two halves of a hollowed out log that was filled with fermented mash and then steam would be fed through copper piping inside the log to start distillation. There are only remnants of the old distillery operations on the site like the old bottling hall and what was once a distillery standard, a water tower as Dant mentioned. The distillery equipment and surrounding buildings are long gone. There are remnants of the old fermentation tubs that you can see from this aerial map view.
Dant said they would be making bourbon and rye whiskey that will likely be aged at least four years. He’s in the process of testing a couple of gin and vodkas recipes right now. He’ll likely start out with a summer and winter gin and a line of bitters. Log Still Distilling will build a campus on Dee Head Road (Gethsemane) between New Haven and New Hope to include a distillery, bottling operation, barrel warehouses and visitor’s center with a gift shop and tasting room.
“We are very pleased to be back in our family distilling home,” Dant said. “Importantly, we want to thank the Governor and the commonwealth for assisting us in developing our project and ensuring our rich Dant family legacy. We need to further credit the J.W. Nalley family who preserved much of the former plant, which we will work to renovate into the new distillery.”
“Bourbon and Kentucky have a rich, shared history, and we are glad to work with a company that wants to tap into that legacy by building a new business in the commonwealth,” said Gov. Bevin. “The arrival of Log Still Distilling signals exciting growth in the industry and reintroduces the Dant family’s historic involvement in Kentucky’s long line of distilling operations. This is tremendous news for the people of Nelson County, and we look forward to the start of operations.”
Rep. Chad McCoy, of Bardstown, said the project furthers the region’s status within Kentucky’s bourbon industry. “This is great news for our community. It is proof that successful economic development policies include supporting Kentucky entrepreneurs,” Rep. McCoy said. “I am thrilled to see the Dant family build on their legacy and open Log Still Distilling. The family name is interwoven with the history of bourbon, all the way back to that first poplar still. Not only will this distillery create jobs and grow our economy, but it will further cement Bardstown as the bourbon capital of the world.”
“The Log Still Distilling project is special because it’s not only resurrecting a distillery property with great bourbon heritage, but it’s being done by the great-great-great grandson of distillery founder Joseph W. Dant,” said Kim Huston President of the Nelson County Economic Development Authority. “We can’t wait to see all the production and activity once again return to this rural area of Nelson County.”
The new distillery is expected to create as many as 20 full-time jobs. To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) last month preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $500,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
Additionally, KEDFA approved Log Still for up to $100,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.
In addition, Log Still can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives.