When it comes to making bourbon, there are some strict guidelines that have to be followed to legally be labeled bourbon. When it comes to being labeled a Kentucky bourbon there are a few more steps that have to be followed. The spirits must be made in Kentucky “from grains which are cooked, fermented, and distilled in Kentucky” and “aged in oak barrels for a period of not less than one full year.” To be called ‘Kentucky Straight Bourbon’ it has to be aged at least two years. That’s Kentucky Bourbon 101.
When it comes to a Kentucky distillery experience there are a few things that visitors expect, most importantly a tasting, that’s what it’s all about after all. But, there are a few other things that the 1 million plus people that visited a Kentucky distillery last year count on seeing when they visit a distillery. If we boil it down to the basics, they expect to see mashing of grains, fermentation tanks, copper stills (I know, many are stainless steel but people expect to see copper), and rickhouses filled to the ceiling with dusty oak barrels sitting on their side with a bung pointed toward the Angels.
Throw in a few more recent amenities like a tasting room with a fireplace, a full service bar serving cocktails and maybe even a sit down restaurant. From all this, you kind of get a picture in your mind of what to expect on a visit to a modern distillery.
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Now, take all those pre-conceived notions about what to expect on a visit to a distillery and throw them out the window. Kentucky Owl, The Wiseman’s Bourbon established in 1879 was purchased by Stoli in January 2017 from fifth generation owner Dixon Dedman. Later that year in November, Kentucky Owl officially broke ground on their new distillery location on 420 acres at Cedar Creek Quarry. The quarry, of course it’s a limestone quarry, sits smack dab in the middle of Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon Capital of the World.
At the time, Stoli officially announced a $150 million investment to build a new distillery destination that would include a freshwater lake for fishing and recreation, a gourmet restaurant, a convention center and hotel, a vintage passenger train and a refurbished train station. Not your typical distillery.
Disney World Ain’t Got Nothin’ on Kentucky Owl Park
The company has just announced that they hired world-renowned Shigeru Ban Architects to create a state of the art Kentucky Owl Park. Based on the drawings and animated video the company has released, Kentucky Owl Park will be like no other distillery in the world. Shigeru Ban Architects will design and build out the 420-acre site at the quarry to include rickhouses for aging, a bottling center, a state-of-the-art distillery and offices for the American Whiskey Division of Stoli® Group. The plans include a train station that will allow Bardstown’s vintage dinner train to stop on the property. Kentucky Owl Park will become a must-see destination, connecting to other distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and create a tourist experience unlike any other.
Watch this video to take a virtual walk through Bardstown’s first pyramids.
The company says the Kentucky Owl Park will be a collection of one-of-a-kind buildings that are rooted in industrial vernacular design, each of which will be carefully sited within the natural rustic landscape. Shigeru Ban’s vision for the site hearkens back to the 19th century with long-span steel structures that have been reinterpreted with the use of mass timber. Each building will have a distinct structural form that incorporates visual elements of the local bourbon-making process. The existing quarry pits will be turned into beautiful lakes with crystal-clear, limestone-filtered water.
“When evaluating architectural firms for Kentucky Owl Park, it was imperative that the selected group boasted a strong portfolio of work, but also that their plans for this initiative truly pushed the boundaries within the design world and along the Bourbon Trail,” said Yuri Shefler, Owner of SPI Group, the parent company of Stoli Group and the Kentucky Owl brand.
Dean Maltz, Managing Partner of Shigeru Ban Architects, added, “We are honored to have been chosen to build Kentucky Owl Park and are eager to bring the joint vision of Stoli Group and Shigeru Ban to life. This is an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves like never before, as these plans serve as our first Kentucky distillery and incorporate unique highlights and nods to the industry and its history, while prioritizing light and a connection to nature, features the architectural world has come to expect from our firm.”
Shigeru Ban Architects is an international architectural practice founded in 1985 by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban. The firm has offices in Tokyo, Paris, and New York, and has constructed over 100 projects across six continents.
Construction on the massive project is expected to begin in 2020 and will take a couple of years to complete. Can’t wait!
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Kentucky Owl Park Renderings Gallery
Click any image to enlarge.
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