Ground broken for Diageo distillery in Shelbyville - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ground broken for Diageo distillery in Shelbyville

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SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Right now there is only an old run down tobacco barn on the site in rural eastern Shelby County.

But as a scale model showed at a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, it will soon be the site of a $115 million distillery.

It was the unveiling of  the name of the new operation to be known as the Bulleit Distilling Company, named for Louisville native Tom Bulleit.

He is the founder of Bulleit Bourbon, now owned by the London, England based giant spirits company Diageo which sells its products in 180 countries. Its brands include Johnny Walker and Crown Royal to name just a few.

"With this $115 million investment you will see some structures starting to be built in the not too distant future," says Paul Gallagher president of North American Supply for Diageo.

For Bulleit it is a dream come true.

"I started when I was 17 or 18 years old many years ago working at a distillery in Louisville and had this dream to have my own distillery and this is literally a dream come true," he says.

Bulleit says with the new distillery to be built by Diageo plans call for the further growth of the Bulleit brand.

He adds, "It will mean a lot to the brand, for instance we are launching in 40 countries and I think this will give us the supply to do the things we want to do."

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear was part of the groundbreaking ceremony.

"It seems like the world just can't get enough of Kentucky bourbon," says the governor.

While Thursday's announcement comes as many of the state's distilleries are expanding to meet the strong worldwide demand for bourbon, industry representatives say the Diageo project is unique.

"We rarely have major distillery announcements where it is a greenfield site built from scratch," says the executive director of the Kentucky Distillers' Association Eric Gregory.

Once it is completed at the end of 2016, the new distillery could become part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

However outside the city of Shelbyville, Shelby County is dry and the products that will be made at the new distillery won't be able to be sold at a visitors center.

"It's dry right now which is the reason we had to toast today with ginger ale," says Gregory.

He told WDRB it is likely that efforts will be made in the future to have a vote that would allow the precinct in which the distillery is in to become wet.

Thirty new jobs will be created to run the new distillery once construction is finished.

As for the old tobacco farm it could be restored as part of the new distillery.

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