There is no one size fits all when it comes to starting a distillery. Many people think the first thing you do is build a distillery, start distilling, let barrels pile up until there is a need for a barrel warehouse or rickhouse and then wait. Others try to speed up that process by sourcing their whiskey before building a distillery or warehouse. And then others decide to work with an existing distillery to make their whiskey using their own mash bill and then let the whiskey age until its ready to hit the market. Think of it kind of like being a guest chef in someone else’s kitchen. The latter is pretty much the path that Luca Mariano Distillery in Danville, Kentucky has taken.
The Journey from Garage to Distillery
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Luca Mariano Founder Francesco Viola started distilling in his garage using some of his grandfather’s old whiskey and brandy recipes he created in Italy. He shared the results of those efforts with his neighbor and soon learned that distilling in his garage (tax free) was illegal. That was in 2010, in 2013 he went legit and got his own Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) number. Fast forward a few more years with some experimentation at a few distilleries and then in 2016 Viola ended up working with Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville, Kentucky and he been distilling using his own bourbon and rye recipe and putting barrels away ever since.
The Search for the Luca Mariano Distillery Home
With distilling under way, it was time to look for that forever home to build what would one day be the Luca Mariano Distillery. Viola started his search in Danville with realtor and one-time farmer Dan Campbell. The first place that Campbell showed him checked all the boxes for what Viola was looking for in his distillery home; it had farmland, it had some interesting history, and it had a historic home on a 300+ acre property. The only problem was it was not for sale. The two searched on, combing through dozens of more properties and farms.
In the end, he ended up right where he started. After some kitchen table negotiations Viola purchased the 300+ acres in Danville and the home of Luca Mariano Distillery was born. That acreage has now expanded to 500+ acres and the first of many barrel warehouses was just completed.
Luca Mariano’s Journey to Building a Distillery and Barrel Warehouse No. 1
Here’s how Viola explained the search for the perfect farm with his realtor Dan Campbell and the ribbon cutting of his new 11k barrel warehouse.
“We found Dan Campbell,” said Viola. “He took us from this farm from Danville, all the way to Bardstown, Louisville, Frankfort, Lexington and everywhere in between. We looked at every farm that was for sale but this one spoke to us, and we fell in love with it. We are very thankful for Dan Campbell and all that he’s done. He’s been really good to us. He’s worked tirelessly for us. He’s really helped to bring all this property together. There are several pieces of property he had to tie together to bring back the original William Crow Farm. We just got the last piece a couple weeks ago so, we are very thankful to Dan. And Mary Catherine, his better half. They are amazing people and I’m very thankful to have them in our lives. And I’m very happy to dedicate this rickhouse to Dan Campbell.
“We have a rich history here from the past, but we are creating history here right now. Everyone that has helped me get to this point in building the distillery will be honored along this river of rickhouses. Dan Campbell will be No. 1.”
“Torta A Tre” – A Three Layered Cake Rickhouse Design
The new Luca Mariano Distillery rickhouse was designed by Hoerr Schaudt, out of Chicago and built by Buzick Construction located in nearby Bardstown. The design style is sometimes referred to as ‘Tiered Rickhouse’ or ‘Steeple Style Rickhouse’. You can see similar style rickhouses in Deatsville that are presently aging Heaven Hill and Maker’s Mark bourbon.
“It’s our state-of-the-art rickhouse that we custom designed through intensive rickhouse research we did over the past 12 years,” explained Luca Mariano Distillery Marketing Director Jennifer Brandt. “Smaller 3 floor rickhouses are the best to properly age barrels. We have 2 small rickhouses in one. Three floors on the bottom. Then three smaller floors on the top with a seventh floor to really move the airflow through the entire rickhouse. We call it “Torta A Tre” – A Three Layered Cake Design.”
The design features 31 ricks. Floors 1-3 hold 13 barrels on each side for a total of 26 per row. As you go up, the cake tiers or steeple reduces and floors 4-6 hold 7 barrels on each side for a total of 14 per row. What you might consider the 7th floor is open to allow for good airflow. The rickhouse is currently holding more than 3,500 barrels of aging bourbon and rye whiskey. The total capacity for this first rickhouse is 11,100 barrels. Brandt said that future rickhouses will likely be a little bit larger.
Luca Mariano Distillery is expected to break ground on their new distillery in a matter of weeks.
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