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Brown-Forman confirms $95m distillery expansion

Old Forester Bourbon owner Brown-Forman has moved forward with its multi-million-dollar distillery expansion in Louisville to meet increasing demand for American whiskey.

The Old Forester distillery in Louisville, Kentucky
The Old Forester distillery in Louisville, Kentucky

Brown-Forman, which also owns Jack Daniel’s, first revealed it was considering an expansion of its Louisville distillery in November 2020.

At the time, the project was in an evaluation phase, with the producer receiving preliminary approval for US$5 million in tax incentives from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) for the proposed project. Brown-Forman has also received approval for an additional US$500,000 under the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act.

Brown-Forman has now confirmed it will progress with the US$95m expansion of its Louisville site, located near Dixie Highway in Shively.

The original Shively distillery was built in 1935 by the Old Kentucky Distillery Company and was acquired by Brown-Forman in 1940. The company replaced the original distillery with its current operation in 1954-1955, followed by a major expansion from 1966-1967.

As part of the new plans, Brown-Forman will double the capacity of the facility, which will remain fully operational during the expansion period.

“The demand for American whiskey worldwide is a result of the craftsmanship and specialness of Kentucky’s signature spirit,” said Alex Alvarez, chief production and sustainability officer, Brown-Forman.

“This expansion will allow us to increase production, improve efficiency, and enhance the workspace so we can continue bringing whiskey, made right here in Louisville, Kentucky, to the world.”

During the first half of fiscal 2021, Brown-Forman saw a 22% increase in sales of its premium Bourbon portfolio, driven by sustained double-digit growth from Woodford Reserve and Old Forester.

The US$95m investment will include doubling the number of fermenters on site, adding column still capacity and mash cookers, improving the grain handling and by-products system, and enhancing on-site traffic flow.

Furthermore, Old Forester will create an oak nursery on site as part of a long-term study of tree sustainability. The move is in line with Brown-Forman’s aim of ensuring the future viability of key ingredients in Bourbon making. Brown-Forman and its partners will also plant acorns in the nursery in spring 2021.

The white oak study will be conducted in partnership with the University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. The examination will also serve as a model for other urban studies in the future.

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