Whiskey House of Kentucky - Opening Day July 1, 2024

Whiskey House of Kentucky located in Elizabethtown, Kentucky quietly celebrated something it had been planning on for more than two years – the official start of distilling operations. Whiskey House Co-Founders David Mandell and John Hargrove gathered with their 60 employees and family members to mark this historic occasion. There was no ribbon cutting, no balloon release, no grandiose speeches from local dignitaries, but there was food, family, recognition of a job well done and the awarding of a full barrel of whiskey for every employee. To memorialize the July 1, 2024, date Whiskey House’s own color guard made up of Army, Navy and Air Force veterans, marched their way to the front of the building for the presentation of colors as they raised the flag in celebration. Watch the video until the end and you’ll see it.

A Distillery Redo with a New Mission

It’s not often you get a redo in life, but it does happen. Think of it like building a house. The opportunity to design your own home can be wonderful and overwhelming all at the same time. There are thousands of decisions that must be made along the way from the initial idea to completion. The day you take possession and put the key in the front door for the first time you start to think, “If I ever build another house I’m going to change X, Y and, Z.” Kind of like, “Why am I even using a physical key, shouldn’t I have a smart lock, app, or keypad to get in the front door?” You learn a lot along the way, and you bank that knowledge for the next time you build. Well, that’s pretty much what has happened with David Mandell, Daniel Linde, and John Hargrove all formerly of Bardstown Bourbon Co., when they decided to build Whiskey House of Kentucky, the most sophisticated new distillery in the United States.

“We have a great wonderful opportunity to be able to do everything over again,” said Whiskey House CEO and Co-Founder David Manell. “Rarely in life do you get the chance to take everything you learned and do it all over again, so we built everything from scratch but with a completely different focus.”


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If you have ever visited historic distilleries like Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace or Heaven Hill’s Bernheim Distillery you seem to go around circles trying to figure out the workflow. The history in these places is wonderful and design made sense when things were being built in a post-Prohibition era but as these distilleries expanded their designs meandered over the years as equipment was shoehorned in for multiple expansions. In the case of startup Whiskey House of Kentucky, they started with a 176-acre blank slate. And, since the customers for this high-tech facility are all B2B customers, everything here was designed for contract distillation rather than their own brands or tourism. That’s not to say it’s not a beautiful distillery but, the beauty comes in the design for simplicity, efficiency and production.

A Linear Design with a Central Passage

You won’t find any pyramids here. This distillery is all business. The large 110,000 square foot building is basically a huge rectangle. The simple yet elegant design allows the workflow to begin with raw corn, wheat, rye, malted barley and other grains as they enter the North side of the building all the way through until the white dog enters a barrel and exits on the South side of the building to take a short ride where it will mature in one of 34 barrel warehouses. The front of the building where you can see windows is mostly office space while the backside of the building is all production where supplies and finished products are coming and going.

“The idea was to keep the full production process on one side of the passage with the supporting spaces on the other side towards the front of the building,” explained Joseph & Joseph Architects Partner Eric Huelsman, AIA. “In the transverse direction, grains come in on one side and barrels out on the other. We have found that this linear design is the most efficient for building square footage and process piping efficiency.”

The Model – ‘100% Focused on Our Customers’ Brands’

“[At other distilleries] everybody’s focusing on their own brands and also doing contract production. We looked at this and we said, ‘You know what we have to help solve this problem, because there’s a real problem. There’s no place that exists, where it is designed from scratch, to do nothing but custom production, every facility was either an older facility, one that was kind of jerry-rigged to do it, as was the case when we designed Bardstown Bourbon Co. It was not designed to do contract distillation, we began one way and then we pivoted when we saw an opportunity and we went after it and kind of backed our way into it.’”

“When we started Whiskey House, we took everything we learned about contract distillation, all the challenges, and we have the opportunity to do it all over again. So what would you do? That’s Whiskey House.

“We’re giving our [contract] customers total focus. We are designing from scratch the most advanced distillery in the country with the most flexibility, so that we can get the performance and consistency of a huge system, while having flexibility to go down to small runs, and be able to cycle that through. That was a massive engineering challenge. Now, we are 100% focused on our customers’ brands.”


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Whiskey House Begins Production at Industry Transforming Distillery

“Thanks to our incredible team, construction partners, service providers and vendors, we’ve delivered the most advanced distillery in the United States in just over two years,” added Mandell. “Our state-of-the-art facility not only provides unmatched quality, flexibility and production capabilities, but we’ve also assembled the best team in American whiskey to deliver exceptional customer service for our exclusive brand partners.”

The facility combines advanced manufacturing principles from the food industry with lean manufacturing techniques and the latest “Industry 4.0” technology. The distinctive design, fully automated system, sequence of operations, and proprietary software enable Whiskey House to run multiple mash bills, including small, craft production runs, while maintaining complete consistency of production.

Sustainability and Certifications

Additionally, Whiskey House meets the highest quality standards. The company received its Kosher certification from Star-K and is in the process of obtaining the following certifications: ISO 9001, 14001, 45001, 22000, 17025, 2018 FSSC, ISO/IEC 27001 and British Retail Consortium.

Whiskey House is also designed to capture and reuse latent energy throughout the production process, resulting in a 50% decrease of energy consumption as compared to the EPA’s Energy Star Certified Distilleries.

“Whiskey House truly sets a new, high bar for advanced manufacturing in the whiskey industry,” said Co-Founder, President and COO John Hargrove. “We’ve created the most flexible distillation system in the country, capable of producing excellent whiskey while enabling tremendous customization at the same time.”

Whiskey House’s fully integrated operational and information technology infrastructure captures and analyzes data across the entire manufacturing process. With the addition of its artificial intelligence applications, the company can continually improve quality and efficiency, increase production yields, expand sustainability initiatives and provide critical, real-time information to customers about their liquid. As a result of its efforts and vision for the distillery, Whiskey House received a Microsoft for Startups Founder’s Hub Grant to accelerate the implementation of AI in all aspects of its manufacturing and distillation process.

“Our technology infrastructure provides customers unprecedented access to every data point about their whiskey production, including critical financial, inventory, and quality metrics,” said Engineering & Technology Vice President Roger Henley. “This information will not only help our customers improve their businesses, but it will help brands tell deeper, richer stories, leading to more innovation and transparency across the industry.”

Produced by Vendome Copper & Brass Works, Whiskey House’s distilling and processing equipment is built around a 48-inch custom still and 14, 33,000-gallon closed-top fermenters. The company started operations with greater than seven million proof gallons of annual capacity (112,000 barrels) and will expand to more than 14 million proof gallons (224,000 barrels) in 2027.

Those 112K Barrels Have to Go Somewhere – Traditional & Palletized Rickhouses

The Whiskey House campus includes plans for 33, 41,496 -barrel traditional rickhouses; a 50,000-square-foot palletized warehouse; a spent grain processing facility; a bottling facility; a rail system (that’s one of the many reasons they chose this site); as well as access to one of the highest yielding hydro stratigraphic limestone aquifers in the region, which sits 120 feet below the property with a steady flow of 50° water.

Whiskey House’s traditional rickhouses employ a distinctive design structure that is long and skinny with extra-large air channels underneath to ensure consistent airflow and uniform maturation for every barrel.

Whiskey House will also track barrels with a specially printed QR code designed to provide access to complete track and trace data. From the time the grain arrives on the property to its final maturation journey, this comprehensive technology captures all batch, quality, and control information throughout the distillery lifecycle, and precisely defines each barrel’s location down to the rick position. Access to this unprecedented amount of actionable information about the production and aging process allows both Whiskey House and its customers to make informed decisions and enhance consistency, efficiency and quality.

The Whiskey House project features architectural assistance from Joseph & Joseph Architects, construction is led by Bardstown-based Buzick Construction and financing is provided Truist Bank.

Will Whiskey House of Kentucky be on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

Whiskey House will be a member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, but you won’t find them on a Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Whiskey House has no brands of its own and a campus closed to the public, removing all potential conflicts of interest between the company and its customers. The team is hyper-focused on providing superior custom whiskey production, innovative liquid design, exceptional customer service, and the competitive pricing for its exclusive branded clients.

Related Story
Whiskey House of Kentucky Cuts the Ribbon on High-Tech ‘Contract Only’ Distillery – We Have No Brands of Our Own [VIDEO]
Whiskey House of Kentucky Announces New $350 Million Investment in the Most Sophisticated Distillery in the World

Learn more about Whiskey House of Kentucky.
View all Kentucky Distilleries.
View all U.S. Distilleries.
Find Bulk Spirits / Contract Distillers.

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