Back in 2017 Stoli Group announced it had entered the U.S. bourbon market with the acquisition of Kentucky Owl Bourbon Whiskey brand. Later that year they announced they would build a new $150 million distillery in the Bourbon Capital of the World Bardstown, Kentucky.
A few weeks later they had a groundbreaking ceremony and released renderings of what their world-class distillery would look like. The design was like no other in the world let alone Bardstown. The renderings included a pyramid shaped distillery, multiple rickhouses, a visitor center, a train station, and a massive lake. Since then, things have been kind of quiet and people have been speculating if the distillery would ever really fly.
We recently heard from Stoli Group Global CEO Damian McKinney where he announced this wise old owl is just about ready to soar.
McKinney was in Bardstown for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival to unveil the release of The Wiseman Bourbon. At the event McKinney kicked off his remarks with the news that everyone wanted to hear that the construction of Kentucky Owl Park Distillery is just about to begin.
“How many times do you get a chance to go to the Bourbon Capital of the World? I’ve never been here before in my life,” said McKinney. “It’s really good to be here. It’s one of those exciting moments. I walked around the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and I have to say, it’s world class.
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“Here’s what I promise you. And this is from the founder [of Stoli] Yuri Shefler, myself and others. We truly are on the edge of a new chapter, our next chapter. But it doesn’t just start a new chapter by just turning up and launching a brand. Certainly, over the last year we’ve been driving a big transformation in the business… I don’t know how many of you are competitive or indeed ice hockey players, but one of the films I’ve always loved watching is “The Miracle” about the [Olympic] miracle hockey team. And I go back to it, and I had a meeting with the management team the other day and I said, ‘I think Herb Brooks was truly brilliant. What he did, he had this idea of beating, at the time, the best team in the world. He said I’m going to bring a bunch of people together and in nine months we’re going to beat the best in the world.’ And that’s frankly…what we are doing.”
“At this heart of all of this is how do we create, what we are calling the most powerful ultra-premium portfolio in the world. Business these days is about every month and every quarter. I’ve actually persuaded, and I’ve worked with the founder, and we have a 20 year vision.
“You need to have great brands, and at the heart of our revolution is Kentucky Owl.
“We need a distillery, we need a home, we need to be rooted somewhere. For me, this morning was amazing, we actually went out and walked around the site, first time I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the drone videos but there’s nothing like walking the ground, there’s nothing like seeing the quarrys full of water, there’s nothing like seeing the Canadian Geese landing on the water, it is amazing.
“The second part of all of this is to then start talking practically about what are we going to do and how are we going to get on with this. I’ve seen all the designs. And I’m sure some of you have seen it. The architectural designs are fantastic and we’ve benefited from that.
“How do we build sustainability, how do we maintain the quality, how do we take the richness of the environment, and build a distillery? What you will see over the next few weeks, I promise you, you will see clear indicators that we are actually moving forward with this. We going to do it, we’ve got a project plan, we got great people.”
“Over the next few weeks, you will absolutely see that we are serious and within the next two to four years there will be bits happening, but you will absolutely see this magic distillery taking shape.
“It represents the past and the strength and authenticity of this Bourbon Capital here in Bardstown but I promise you it will look to the future as well.”
When Will Kentucky Owl Park Be Built? Here’s the Timeline.
McKinney is building an international team to make Kentucky Owl Park happen. Part of that team includes boots on the ground folks that know the bourbon industry. In June of this year McKinney announced he had hired John Rhea as Master Blender. Rhea is the former COO for Four Roses Distillery and a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. McKinney said to be on the lookout for another new hire over the coming weeks along with other big announcements about progress on construction.
Here are some key dates that McKinney provided to us for the Kentucky Owl Park build out.
Overall construction is expected to begin next year.
- 2022: Bottling and Barrel Warehouses – Kentucky Owl Bourbon has a partnership with nearby Bardstown Bourbon Company where new make is currently be made and stored. That warehousing and bottling will be one of the first things to shift to the new location.
- 2025: Kentucky Owl Distillery – Construction on the distillery is to begin in 2024 with completion planned for 2025.
- 2026+: Hotel, Concert Hall & Train Station – McKinney says they are first and foremost focused on making spirits and welcoming guests as a part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. A timeline for the other parts of the project included in the renderings like the hotel, concert hall and train station are still to be determined.
Watch the video to hear McKinney explain their goals and vision for the new distillery. Then take a few minutes to enjoy the aerial flyover of the future home of Kentucky Owl Bourbon Whiskey. Enjoy!
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