Brown-Forman Corp. to build $30 million Old Forester distillery - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Brown-Forman Corp. to build $30 million Old Forester distillery on Whiskey Row

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Rendering of the Old Forester distillery Rendering of the Old Forester distillery
Brown-Forman founder George Garvin Brown, far right in dark suit, at 117 W. Main Street in Louisville in 1904 (Brown-Forman photo) Brown-Forman founder George Garvin Brown, far right in dark suit, at 117 W. Main Street in Louisville in 1904 (Brown-Forman photo)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville-based Brown Forman Corp. plans to build a distillery for its Old Forester bourbon and a "visitor experience" in the vacant Whiskey Row warehouses in the 100 block of West Main Street downtown, Mayor Greg Fischer's office said Thursday.

The $30 million distillery will cover about 55,000 square feet in two historic buildings at 117 and 119 Main Street, and will serve as a home for the Old Forester brand with public tours, a tasting room, exhibits, bourbon-making demonstrations and event spaces, according to a news release from Fischer's office.

Brown-Forman hopes to open the distillery in the fall of 2016, company spokeswoman Elizabeth Conway said.

"Bourbonism is real and just keeps growing in our city and our state," Fischer said in the release. "Not only is Brown-Forman growing one of its strongest brands, it also is redeveloping two key structures in a historic block of our downtown, which will encourage more investment, more stability and more growth."

Brown-Forman received approval from the state on Thursday to recoup about $1.3 million of the investment from the state and Metro government through economic development incentives.

Metro government has already contributed $2 million to help a group of preservation-minded investors including Brown-Forman buy and stabilize the run-down Whiskey Row warehouses. The group, Main Street Revitalization, got involved in 2011 when developer Todd Blue was proceeding with plans to demolish the buildings. 

Besides the two buildings where the distillery is planned, Main Street Revitalization owns three adjacent Whiskey Row buildings. It's unclear what will become of those buildings.

"We look forward to sharing our own development plans in the near future,” Main Street Revitalization co-developer Valle Jones said in a prepared statement.

Fifteen jobs will be created at the new distillery paying an average of $28 an hour, including the value of employee benefits, according to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority.

Conway said there will be "no job impact" at the company's Shively distillery where Old Forester is currently made along with other brands such as Early Times.

"The bourbon business is booming so the demand for that high-quality product is continuing to increase," she said.

It's a homecoming for Brown-Forman, which occupied 117 W. Main Street from 1900 to 1919, according to the company. The buildings that will house the new distillery were constructed in 1857. They part of the row of warehouses storing barrels of whiskey.

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