Twenty-one months ago, John Hargrove went to David Mandell and said, “I have an idea.” And now, less than two years later Whiskey House of Kentucky, a new $130 million distillery is under construction in Elizabethtown, Kentucky and is expected to make its first distillate in July of 2024.
That’s pretty darn fast to create a business plan, line up financing, find land (176-acres) that can handle the manufacturing needs of a high-tech modern distillery, find an architect that can design your distillery and find a construction company that can bring your dream to life but that is exactly what Mandell, Hargrove and Daniel Linde have done.
A Team That Moves Fast
This is not the first distillery rodeo for David, Daniel and John. The co-founder trio worked together in the past to start Bardstown Bourbon Company and beginning in mid-2022 they decided to get the band back together to begin a new chapter in their lives.
“Today is our official groundbreaking,” said Whiskey House of Kentucky Co-Founder and CEO David Mandell. “And as you can see by the building behind us, we move very quickly at Whiskey House. In fact, it was only 15 months ago that we broke ground. And only six months before that, when John Hargrove came to me and said, ‘I have an idea’. And within a couple months, Dan Linde was dragged back from his quiet life in London, and that’s not London, Kentucky, that’s London England.
“As many of you know, we are a team that moves fast. We are a team that loves big ideas, we are a team that shares a clear vision, we are a team that delivers on our promises. We are a team that cares deeply about our employees, the culture we create and the legacy that we leave. And we are also a team that fundamentally believes that our business has a responsibility to support the local community and also the health of the bourbon industry at large.”
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100% Focused on B2B Contract Distillation
“When we founded, created, and built the Bardstown Bourbon Company… we completely reshaped the landscape in [Bardstown] the Bourbon Capital of the World,” said Mandell. “We created a completely new model for manufacturing and production, and we had a major impact on the American whiskey industry. Now, I’m so proud to say that we are doing it again, just a little bit differently. On this 176-acre campus, we are building the most sophisticated, technically advanced, custom bourbon and American whiskey distillery in the United States.
“We will be the first distillery designed from the ground up to focus solely on large scale, flexible, custom whiskey production. With no brands of our own, Whiskey House will provide the highest quality production, unparalleled customer service, competitive pricing and unprecedented visibility into the barrel, manufacturing, and whiskey manufacturing process for our customers. This facility will set the bar for advanced manufacturing in the industry.”
It Takes a Village to Build a Distillery
Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory was also in attendance at the ribbon cutting.
“The thing that warms my heart about today is that David mentioned that it takes a village to build a distillery… I think it shows the unity and the camaraderie of our industry that you have so many people here from different distilleries,” said Gregory. “You have Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famers here like Buzick Construction President Tommy Blincoe, Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, and Judge Watts who was just recently voted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. That just shows that we are stronger when we work together. That’s been the backbone of everything we do at the Kentucky Distillers’ Associations since it was founded in 1880.”
Gregory added, “We now have, believe it or not, 100 distilleries in Kentucky for the first time ever, in 40 counties. So, a third of the Commonwealth now has a distillery.”
Creating a New Business Model in American Whiskey
Whiskey House is designed to focus solely on large-scale, flexible, contract whiskey production. Unlike most new distilleries whose business model includes launching brands and catering to tourism, Whiskey House will do none of that. With no brands of its own, Whiskey House will focus all its efforts on quality customer service, competitive pricing and visibility into the manufacturing and barrel aging process for its custom whiskey production customers.
“Whiskey House of Kentucky is totally designed from the ground up for contract bourbon and American Whiskey production with a focus on our business-to-business customers,” said Co-Founder, President, and COO John Hargrove. “It is not open to the public. We are not going to do tours, restaurants, we are not going to have a brand of our own. Our sole focus is our customers and how we deliver the most consistent, best quality bourbon and American whiskey in their portfolio and work with their sales and technical teams to deliver all the information they need to make business decisions while delivering it at a great, competitive cost.”
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Whiskey House does plan on becoming a future member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, but it has no plans to become part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail at this location. They may have a future remote location within 10 miles of the distillery that will include tourism but that will focus on their customers’ brands and not on Whiskey House.
90% Sold Out for the First 5-Years
“By design, we are 90% sold out for the first 5-years,” added Hargrove. “We are holding back 10% for new customers. These are all brands, not investment barrels. These are all branded customers… Now that the word is officially out there, we may see an influx of new customer requests. We kind of do an interview to confirm that they are the right customer, the right partner for us, because we want to build long term relationship with brands that have a lot of runway for their brand to grow.
“One of the focuses for us is not having our own whiskey or brand at Whiskey House. If you are a customer, you’ll never get kicked out. As in other contract sites as their [in-house] brand grows and they need more new distillate volume, they’ll push those capacity restraints on to their contract customers. Here we took the opposite approach. We want to grow with you. That’s why we are already looking at our expansion plans for 2027. We want people to be able to consolidate for consistency purposes across the board in their portfolios. We want to be able to offer a one-stop shop where there is no threat of having to be reduced or being dropped out of the program.”
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“Congratulations to Whiskey House of Kentucky and its entire team on reaching this incredible milestone in Elizabethtown,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. “This new distilling operation will not only foster growth in the commonwealth’s signature bourbon industry but is also bringing $130 million in new economic development investment, well-paying jobs and another great reason for tourists to visit the area.”
Rocky Adkins, the Governor’s senior advisor, attended the ribbon cutting event and congratulated company and regional leaders: “Bourbon is a $9 billion industry in the commonwealth and provides jobs for more than 22,500 of our people. Whiskey House of Kentucky is making sure this industry and the Elizabethtown community remain strong far into the future.”
The cooker and fermentation tanks are already installed at the distillery with the 48” Vendome Copper & Brass Works copper column still that will stand 48’ from floor to ceiling is expected to be delivered and installed next month.
Whiskey House of Kentucky anticipates a total investment of $350 million over the next 10 years. The distillery expects distillation to begin on July 1, 2024.