Family-owned spirits company expanding production with $135 million state of the art distillery
The Bourbon industry marked a special homecoming today as Heaven Hill broke ground on a $135 million distillery in Bardstown – with a name paying tribute to the family-owned company’s original distillery that burned in a devastating fire in 1996.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear joined Heaven Hill President Max Shapira and Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll to commemorate the start of construction and reveal the new distillery’s name: Heaven Hill Springs Distillery.
“We’re honored to celebrate this homecoming with a return to distilling in Bardstown to augment our overall bourbon-making capacity, as well as continue to make an impact in the Bardstown community,” Shapira said. “I’m proud to salute our history and the many Bardstown men and women who helped build our brands over the years by naming our new facility in honor of the original Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery that my father and uncles founded in this community nine decades ago.”
The new, state-of-the-art Heaven Hill Springs Distillery is being built in the heart of the “Bourbon Capital of the World” at 1015 Old Bloomfield Pike, off KY 245, and is expected to be operational by the end of 2024. Initial production is slated for 150,000 barrels a year, and over time will have capacity to ramp up to producing 450,000 barrels annually. This will be in addition to the company’s distilling that occurs at the historic Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, which will continue to operate at full capacity of 450,000 barrels annually.
As part of Heaven Hill’s 2030 Environmental Sustainability Strategy, the new distillery has been designed to create a more environmentally conscious distilled spirits industry and ensure a thriving environment for generations to come. Heaven Hill Springs Distillery has been engineered to minimize water use to below industry benchmarks and reuse certain water streams. The site will use native plants and natural systems to manage stormwater runoff and improve habitat on the property. The distillery will include a wastewater pretreatment system to ensure discharged water exceeds environmental standards and greatly reduces the load on the city’s treatment plant. Heaven Hill also will plan to utilize energy creation and recovery, lessening the distillery’s demand on the city’s electrical grid.
The new distillery adds at minimum 38 jobs to the company’s 381 people already working in Bardstown at Heaven Hill’s Loretto Road bottling, aging and tourism facilities.
“This is a significant day for Heaven Hill and Kentucky. The return of distilling operations to Nelson County is a return to the company’s roots, and the investment highlights the continued growth of bourbon and spirits in the commonwealth,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “I am incredibly happy for the residents of Bardstown and the surrounding area, and I want to thank the leaders at Heaven Hill for this commitment to create new job opportunities and build the company’s presence in our state.”
Heaven Hill and Bardstown: ‘a shared and storied history’
Max Shapira’s father and four uncles, along with a group of Bardstown-area investors, founded “Old Heaven Hill Springs” distillery in 1935, and filled its first barrel on December 13 of that year.
The company grew over the years and added several acclaimed brands, including Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Larceny, Henry McKenna and more, which have earned numerous spirits-industry accolades. Master distillers of the Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery over the years included Joe Beam, Harry Beam, Earl Beam, Parker Beam and Craig Beam.
In 1996, a fire resulted in the loss of the distillery, seven rickhouses and almost 100,000 barrels of whiskey. After the fire, Heaven Hill moved distilling to the historic Bernheim Distillery in Louisville. However the bottling and aging of whiskey along with other functions proudly continued in the Bardstown area where they remain today. In addition, in 2004, the company dedicated the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center—most recently expanded and renamed to the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience—that has become an award-winning focal point for the region’s bourbon tourism and has greeted millions of visitors over the years.