If you like the trend for urban wineries, how about an urban distillery?
Bourbon and rye maker Michter’s has purchased the historic Fort Nelson Building in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, and will spend $7.8 million in renovations.
By spring 2013, the building will be transformed into a small distillery, with public tours and tastings. Single-barrel rye whiskey and small-batch and single-barrel bourbons will be produced at the facility.
Over the years since its 1890 debut, the cast-iron building has housed numerous businesses including a grocery wholesaler, a tobacco exporter and a coffee roaster—but never a distillery.
Most of Louisville’s bourbon distilleries are located in the countryside, about an hour’s drive from the downtown business and tourist district. This will be the first urban Bourbon distillery, walking distance from other attractions like the Louisville Slugger Museum. City officials are hopeful that this will be the first in a series of bourbon-themed attractions along Main Street, where the whiskey business flourished in the 19th century.
And why not? Bourbon is a huge driver of local jobs and tourism for the state, as well as for Louisville in particular. According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon. In fact, there’s 4.7 million barrels of aging bourbon currently aging in the state—outnumbering the state’s population of 4.3 million. That’s right—there’s more bourbon than people in Kentucky.
Michter’s, a division of New York-based Chatham Imports, now distills and bottles its products in Bardstown but has roots in Pennsylvania. It claims to have supplied whiskey during the American Revolution to George Washington and his troops during the harsh winter of 1777–78 at Valley Forge.
In the 1990s, Michter’s President Joseph J. Magliocco teamed up with distiller and spirits executive Richard “Dick” Newman to bring Michter’s to Kentucky.
“When we set up our whiskey program for Michter’s, Dick and I wanted to get back to the ‘cost be damned’ roots and produce the finest whiskey possible,” Magliocco says. “Our goal was to show that whiskey made in the United States could be the equal of great whiskey made anywhere in the world.”