One of the best parts about distillery tours is they are all different. The vast majority are really good, some are a bit rough around the edges while some are exceptional. Whether you are a whiskey fan, a distillery owner or someone planning a new distillery experience a visit to the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky is one of those exceptional tours you should take.
Back in 1994 when Brown-Forman’s late Chairman and CEO Owsley Brown II proposed spending $10 million to renovate the dilapidated old Labrot & Graham Distillery some were skeptical about the endeavor. After a two year renovation project the distillery was opened up to the public and the Woodford Reserve Bourbon brand was born. In 2003 the name of the distillery was changed to the Woodford Reserve Distillery so consumers could more easily connect the dots between the distillery and the bourbon brand.
Had to Do Something to Eliminate Traffic Bottlenecks
With so many fans visiting the distillery Woodford Reserve had to do something to accommodate the logistics of so many people, cars and buses. The answer was to renovate an old farm house across the street to become the new starting point and welcome center for the distillery. The renovated farmhouse includes a main hall with seating, a ticketing area, restrooms, a bar, and outdoor entertaining spaces. Materials include oak and limestone as a nod to the importance of both in the bourbon-making process. The halls are adorned with all original artwork by mostly Kentucky artists depicting the Kentucky landscape. Guests will board a bus to go across the street, where they will experience fermentation, distillation, maturation and bottling before heading to the Visitor’s Center for the best part – the bourbon tasting.
Watch the video above to here from Master Distiller Chris Morris and others during the opening ceremony.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony Woodford Reserve Global Brand Director Mark Bacon said, “Owsley had a vision. In the mid-1990s he wanted to create a Homeplace for bourbon in Kentucky where folks could come enjoy the history of whiskey.”
“I always enjoy the drive up…it reminded me today of one of the special things about our distillery and that’s really just the sheer beauty that we are surrounded by. When you turn off of Hwy 60 onto Orchard Grass Springs Road, those rolling bluegrass hills and you see the thoroughbred farms that are our neighbors. It always reminds me of what a beautiful place this is and that’s one of the things that makes it special…Our distillery is truly the cornerstone of the Woodford Reserve brand and I really believe that there is a bit of this place in every glass of Woodford Reserve that is enjoyed around the world.”
Stay Informed: Sign up here for the Distillery Trail free email newsletter and be the first to get all the latest news, trends, job listings and events in your inbox.
Owsley Brown II’s vision has clearly paid off and set a standard for other distilleries. The Woodford Reserve Distillery has been a part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail since its inception in 1999. In 2018 the Woodford Reserve Distillery welcomed 152,000 tourists to its Homeplace while the Kentucky Bourbon Trail as a whole welcomed a record number of 1.4 million tourists across all its member distilleries.
View all Kentucky Distilleries.
Photos from the Woodford Reserve Welcome Center Opening
Click any image to enlarge.