Pappy Van Winkle

Oh Pappy Days! This year’s Pappy will be plentiful … or will it?

I just received the annual Pappy Van Winkle press release from Buffalo Trace, and it looks like all six expressions will be released this year — and there will be more bottles available than in the past. Does that mean you’ll be able to walk into Liquor Barn and find one on the shelf? Hell no!

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Van Winkle line partnering with Buffalo Trace Distillery.

 “(Buffalo Trace Master Distiller) Harlen Wheatley and his predecessors had been distilling the W.L. Weller wheated recipe for many years before our 2002 joint venture. We trusted their expertise in distilling and aging, and it paid off, as many of Buffalo Trace’s brands are just as sought after as our own,” said Julian Van Winkle III, president of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, in the news release.

“My son Preston and I still take care of the marketing and management of our brands, but we leave the rest of it to the team at Buffalo Trace. The 20-year partnership has flown by, and I feel confident we’re leaving it in good hands for the future Van Winkle generations.” 

Pappy Van Winkle
The full lineup of Pappy Van Winkle whiskeys. | Courtesy

The bottles should be hitting shelves in October. If you’re curious about the suggested retail pricing and tasting notes of each expression, here are the notes from the news release:

$69.99 — Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon 10-Year-Old 107 proof

Tasting Notes: 

Color: Tawny in color.

Nose: Very sweet, with notes of honey, dulce de leche, caramel corn, rooibos tea and lightly toasted nuts. Hints of the wheat and corn are present which enhances the complexity. 

Taste: Medium-bodied palate with dried fruit and nuts. Each sip finishes with a very long bold wave of floral honey, caramel, and toasted barrel flavors which counter the weight of the alcohol.

Finish: An elegant balance between oak, grain, and maturation.

$79.99 — Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12-Year-Old (90.4 proof)

Tasting Notes:

Color: Brilliant amber.

Nose: Rich and decadent with butterscotch, toffee, vanilla and hints of nectarine and satsuma adding to the complexity. There is still a wisp of bready wheat present which is perfectly balanced with the spicy and rich oak notes.

Taste: Butterscotch and toffee are prominent in the taste but there are also hints of spiced praline which contribute to the long, round finish that is sweet without being cloying.

Finish: An outrageously well-crafted bourbon that pays homage to its source ingredients but shows that oak, the right distillate, and patience can create unparalleled depth and balance.

$119.99 — Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13-Year-Old (95.6 proof)

Tasting Notes:

Color: Rich copper color.

Nose: An incredibly enticing and complex aroma with notes of toasted pumpernickel, plum, fig, and sweet-tobacco aromas

Taste: Smooth with medium-to full-bodied palate bursting with bold and delicious flavors of toffee, caraway, and dried cherry, and a hint of leather and mint.

Finish: A symphony of flavors sits endlessly on the palate, causing the unsuspecting drinker to wish there was an endless supply in their glass.

$119.99 — Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15-Year-Old (107 proof)

Tasting Notes:

Color: Striking, brilliant, copper color.

Nose: The aroma is seductive with intense sweet brown notes like maple, caramelized sugar, toffee, and toasted almond.

Taste: Waves of caramel and toffee meld into familiar memories of fresh-baked holiday spice cookies made with molasses. The mouthfeel is rich, supple, full-bodied and briefly veers toward decadent before the wood influences lend a balancing dryness.

Finish: Long, flavorful, and complex. An unbelievably opulent and flawless bourbon that takes wood and distillate to its absolute pinnacle.

$199.99 — Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20-Year-Old (90.4 proof)

Tasting Notes: 

Color: Dark amber in appearance with ruby highlights.

Nose: This full-bodied bourbon has a sophisticated forefront of leather with complementary notes of smoke, warm tobacco, treacle, espresso, and charred oak.

Taste: The aromas and flavors are endlessly complex and each new sip reveals something new to discover.

Finish: Suave and confident with layers of bold, integrated nuances.

$299.99 — Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23-Year-Old (95.6 proof)

Tasting Notes: 

  • Color: Rich mahogany color.
  • Nose: Reminiscent of a crisp fall day, with aromas of ripe red apples, cherries and tobacco.
  • Taste: Wood is the star here with supporting notes of caramel, apple, apricot, leather, walnuts, and vanilla Crème Brulé.
  • Finish: Long-lasting and rich, opening with bold flavors of oak and caramel that tease the palate before fading slowly and elegantly until the next sip.

Frazier History Museum invites you to Bourbon Limited, an exclusive bourbon club

Bourbon Limited
Frazier History Museum invites you to Bourbon Limited.

If you live in Kentucky, love bourbon, enjoy trying new whiskeys and are one of the first 5,000 people to read this here blog, you just might be a great fit for Bourbon Limited, an exclusive new bourbon club curated by the folks at the Frazier History Museum.

The subscription-only club offers one-of-a-kind bottles from some of Kentucky’s top distilleries, as well as craft brands, to its members through the mail. While there is no membership fee to join, the bottles will cost you about $200 for each release, which will occur roughly every two to three months.

If there happens to be a release you don’t want, however, you might lose your spot in the club if you decide to pass on it. That’s the biggest difference between this mail-service club and the ones offered by distilleries like Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam.

But if you’re up for trying bourbons that run the gamut, Andrew Treinen, president and CEO of Frazier Museum, says they’ve got some special bottles lined up from some of Kentucky’s best distilleries.

Bourbon Limited box
Each release will come in a fancy box like this.

Also, he emphasized that these bottles will not be available to the general public in stores or even at the distilleries, and that each distillery they’ve partnered with so far has big plans for their unique bottles for this club.

If you’re wondering why a history museum is hosting a bourbon club, then you haven’t been paying attention. The Frazier History Museum is the starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and it has an entire floor (No. 3) dedicated to Kentucky’s native spirit.

Plus, the gift shop sells bourbon and very cool bourbon-related items, so if you haven’t been for a visit in a while, you should check it out.

But let’s get back to Bourbon Limited. Treinen says in a news release: “The members-only club will serve as a showcase for all the things that make bourbon so unique and uniquely American. It will provide participants with a wealth of inside information — and the stories that bourbon lovers love to share with their friends. And every now and then, members can expect a little something extra in appreciation for their support.”

If you’d like to join, just click the link here and sign up. You’ll have to enter a credit card to reserve a spot, but it won’t be charged until you approve it for the first release. Details on that will come soon, Treinen says.

As for the distilleries involved, that is somewhat of a mystery, and the curators are in the process of adding more each month. From a quick look on the website, some of the initial partners include Wilderness Trail, Blue Run, Peerless and Four Gate, and I’ll throw in Rabbit Hole because I have some inside information. Anything else you’re gonna have to feed me bourbon.

So am I joining Bourbon Limited? Well, I already beat you to it.

Bourbon Women

Another successful Bourbon Women SIPosium is in the books

Although I only attended the luncheon at this year’s Bourbon Women SIPosium, held Aug. 25-28 in downtown Louisville, I felt every bit a part of the annual bourbon extravaganza that brings together women from all over the country to mingle, sip and learn more about their beloved brown spirit. The energy was high, the mood oozed with excitement, the speakers were inspiring and the samples runneth over throughout the entire event.

Jackie Zykan
Jackie Zykan gave a touching speech about taking risks.

I kick myself every year that I don’t sign up to do more events during the SIPosium, which include classes, meals and excursions to distilleries. This year they even expanded the agenda to four days, and I spoke with some ladies who said they would be here all week if they could.

During the Welcome Lunch, hundreds of attendees gathered — myself included — to hear both Marianne Eaves (formerly of Woodford Reserve/Old Forester and Castle & Key, now with Sweetens Cove and Eaves Blind, to name a few) and Jackie Zykan (formerly of Old Forester, now with Hidden Barn) talk to the crowd that was filled with industry folks, whiskey fanatics and, of course, Bourbon Women (often those three are one in the same).

Eaves talked about her numerous consulting projects around the country and also about her decision to leave her job as master distiller of Castle & Key a few years back. Since then she’s started her own consulting business and also Eaves Blind, where people can join to taste samples of some of the things she’s working on.

She said many people questioned her sanity when she left the role as master distiller, but ultimately she had to follow her passion and march to the beat of her own drum.

“I discovered that so much more is happening in bourbon than just in Kentucky,” she said.

Speaking of following your own path, Keynote Speaker Zykan echoed that sentiment when she spoke to the room. She focused on her bourbon journey and where it has taken her, and she gave an inspiring pep talk on the importance of listening to yourself instead of society’s “shoulds.” In fact, she didn’t view her recent job change as a risk — it’s more of a calling.

Sherrie Moore and Alex Castle
Whiskey women Sherrie Moore and Alex Castle

“I’m a 5-foot-2 stack of mistakes,” she said about making the leap from master taster of Old Forester to starting a new brand with Hidden Barn. “I’ve never been happier in my entire life.”

To me, the luncheon was what I imagine the Oscars to be like. As I sat at my table awaiting the speakers, I was fan-girling out on all the talented industry women in the room.

From Sherrie Moore (formerly of Jack Daniel’s and Uncle Nearest) to Alex Castle (of Memphis’ Old Dominick Distillery) to Bourbon Women founder herself Peggy Noe Stevens, it was a who’s-who of the whiskey industry, and it was truly awesome that they were all badass women.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2022

Four Roses’ 2022 Limited Edition Small Batch will be up for grabs through a lottery

I’m not sure what I’m more excited about: the cool weather and crisp leaves of fall or a boatload of new bourbon releases. Either way, both will be here soon, and one of the first big releases (besides King of Kentucky and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon) is the annual Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2022
A beautiful pour | Courtesy

The 2022 iteration features four recipes hand-selected by Master Distiller Brent Elliott that range in age from 14 to 20 years. For all those Four Roses fanatics out there, the recipes are:

  • 14 year-old OESF
  • 14 year-old OESV
  • 15 year-old OESK
  • 20 year-old OBSV

Last year, Four Roses released a special 20-year-old single barrel at the distillery, so I know how special and tasty those older bourbons can be.

“From the beginning of crafting this year’s Limited Edition Small Batch bourbon, two particular batches stood out to me as potential candidates to go into the blend: a 14-year-old recipe batch that is remarkably smooth and rich on the palate, and a 20-year-old recipe batch that exhibits the best fruit barrel and spice qualities of extra-aged bourbon,” says Elliott in a news release. “The test blends revolved around those two batches until we landed on a liquid with a perfect balance that is unique, layered, mellow and elegant.”

I was fortunate to receive a small press sample of the bourbon, and I can attest to its nearly perfect balance and mellowness, even at 109 proof. On the nose I get a bowl full of cherries and a slight black peppery spice. And on first sip, I get tingles of banana, brown sugar, creme brûlée and plum, finishing off with some of that lingering spice from the high-rye recipes.

The 2022 LE Small Batch will be released around the country on Sept. 17 at a suggested retail price of $179.99. There are approximately 14,100 bottles.

Since they don’t want people camping out at the distillery, they’re opting for the public lottery draw via the Four Roses website. You can enter to win the rights to purchase a bottle from Aug. 22-26, and if you win, you must pick up the bottle yourself.

You can better believe I’m entering for a chance. Fingers, toes, arms, legs, nose hairs crossed!

The two King of Kentucky releases

We two Kings: In honor of 5th year, Brown-Forman releases two King of Kentucky expressions

King of Kentucky barrel
There will be two Kings this year. | Photo by Sara Havens

The King of Kentucky brand of whiskey was once a household name — for whiskey drinkers — in and around Louisville. The brand debuted in 1881, and after Prohibition, Brown-Forman acquired the rights in 1936. It was so popular, in fact, a giant replica of the bottle was featured atop Brown-Forman’s headquarters off Dixie Highway, where a bottle of Old Forester can now be found.

King of Kentucky
The King of Kentucky was once the bottle on top of Brown-Forman. | Courtesy of B-F Archives

In 1968, when bourbon started its decline in popularity in the U.S., the brand was sadly discontinued. But in 2018, B-F revived the label as a premium single barrel release.

And now, in the brand’s fifth year as a fancy-pants bourbon, the company is releasing two expressions: a 15-year-old bourbon and a very limited 18-year-old bourbon.

Master Distiller Chris Morris chose two lots of barrels to set aside for the limited-release product: one from 2004 and the second from 2006.

“This year’s releases come from two production days, two years apart,” said Morris in a news release. “This showcases what a difference two years at these extreme ages make on the color, flavor and aroma of this wonderful whiskey.”

There will be about 3,500 bottles of the 15-year King of Kentucky released in Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio, and for the 18-year King, there are only 250 bottles. The former retails for $249.99, and the latter $349.99. Of course your chances of ever finding these on a liquor store shelf are few and way, way far between.

Last week, I was invited as a member of the local spirits media to come out to Brown-Forman to taste the 18-year-old and hear more about it from Morris himself.

Master Distiller Chris Morris
Master Distiller Chris Morris discusses the King. | Photo by Sara Havens

It’s important to note that B-F heat-cycles its warehouses, meaning the distillate in the aging barrels goes in and out of the barrel more often than just the standard four seasons of Mother Nature.

Of course this doesn’t speed up aging — in bourbon, time is time — but it does mean there are more flavor exchanges going on inside the barrel, and also more evaporation. Hence the low yield of older B-F bourbons.

“It’s not all about wood, it’s about maturation,” Morris said. And out of the 12 barrels they pulled for the 18-year King, they only got about 250 bottles. If you’re doing the math, that’s only about 20 bottles per barrel. In comparison, with a standard barrel, you get about 150-200 bottles.

So how’s it taste? Just as rich and decadent as you could imagine. The 18-year-old bourbon especially has wonderful notes of fruit, honey and molasses.

And the color of the bourbon alone looks like something Winnie the Pooh would be guzzling out of his honey jar. It’s something I’d love to sip on slowly throughout a cool fall evening, with new notes jumping out with each taste.

Even at about 130.3 proof, this sipped like a 90-proofer. I get the same experience when I sip on a William Larue Weller, which I’ve only had twice in my life. And because this elder King is so rare, I’m guessing that may have been my only chance for a few ounces of that as well.

The two King of Kentucky releases
The two King of Kentucky releases | Courtesy

I am firmly putting both of these Kings on my Christmas list, so y’all can start shopping early. The press release says they will be out in stores this month.

Amine Karaoud of Old Louisville Whiskey Co.

Say hello to the new Old Louisville Whiskey Co.

Amine Karaoud of Old Louisville Whiskey Co.
Amine Karaoud started Old Louisville Whiskey Co. with his wife Beth. | Photo by Sara Havens

There’s a new bourbon about to hit the shelves of your favorite liquor store, and it pays homage to a historic Louisville neighborhood where the founders spent much of their time.

The Old Louisville Whiskey Co. has just launched its first small batch bourbon that is aged between 7 and 10 years and bottled at barrel proof (114). The couple behind the company, Amine and Beth Karaoud, started the brand after they sold several properties in the Old Louisville neighborhood, including Red Castle Liquors, to fund the project.

The Karaouds have much respect for the notable neighborhood known for its Victorian mansions, and they wanted to honor it with its very own whiskey brand that also celebrates tradition and history.

“We’ve always loved the architecture in the neighborhood, and Old Louisville is really where we learned the trade of whiskey and gained our bourbon knowledge,” said Amine in a news release. “Much like the neighborhood, we wanted to release a whiskey that was aged properly. It took patience, but it has been well worth the wait.”

The Old Louisville brand will feature a variety of mashbills for each batch, and Amine tells me future releases might include a 16-year-old American whiskey and a rye whiskey. All batches will be limited to 2,000 bottles or less.

Old Louisville Whiskey Co
Old Louisville Whiskey Co. celebrates the historic neighborhood. | Photo by Heather Parker

Amine has secured barrels from various distilleries throughout the years, so he’s amassed quite an inventory to work with and blend. For Batch 1, he used rye bourbon that was distilled at MGP in Indiana.

The company operates out of a warehouse off Poplar Level Road, which the Karaouds plan to turn into a tasting room and barrel select experience that will be open to the public.

I attended the launch party last night, where I got to see the space where basically EVERYTHING happens (barrel storage, dumping, blending, bottling, labeling, etc.) and also try a sample of Batch 1.

The gift shop and tasting area are already well on their way to being open (although they aren’t open yet — stay tuned to social media for that announcement at @oldlouisvillewhiskeyco), offering a cozy bourbon experience for someone looking for something off the beaten path of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

And the bourbon, well, it’s a solid pour and a fine specimen for a first batch. At 114 proof, it’s a little hot at first, but the burn soon gives way to the familiar caramel, toasted marshmallow and black pepper notes, as well as some almond and dark cherry flavors as well. It’s also non-chill filtered and is somewhat viscous, which I noticed as I swirled it in the glass.

The suggested retail price for Batch 1 is $149.99, and you should start to see it on liquor store and bar shelves this week. Here are some more photos from the launch party:

Jackie Zykan with barrels

A taste of Hidden Barn Bourbon reveals a bright future for Jackie Zykan

Jackie Zykan with barrels
Jackie Zykan at Neeley Family Distillery | Courtesy

When Old Forester Master Taster Jackie Zykan announced she was stepping down from the position in early July, the bourbon community lost its collective shit. And many questions surfaced on social media and beyond:

How could she leave such a cush job? Where’s she going? What’s next? Is she leaving bourbon forever? Isn’t this what happened with Marianne Eaves? Has she lost her mind? Is she crazy?

After talking with Zykan for nearly 30 minutes, I have quick answers to most of those: No, she’s not crazy — unless you consider the desire to follow your passion cuckoo. She’s not leaving bourbon, and in fact she’s enhancing it with her new brand called Hidden Barn.

Hidden Barn bottle

She is grateful for the opportunities and experiences Old Forester and parent company Brown-Forman gave her, but she ultimately craved the freedom of working in the industry on a smaller scale.

One question I’d like to float out there to ponder: Would people have gotten so worked up about the news if Zykan was a man? I think not, but we can save that discussion for another time.

Unfortunately I can’t go into specifics here about our conversation because the interview was for Bourbon+ magazine — so you’ll have to wait until the fall issue to read it. But I can share some tasting notes on the media sample she sent me, which is going fast because I keep sharing it with anyone who stops by my house.

But first, a little background on Hidden Barn and who Zykan is working side by side with these days.

Zykan joined forces with Colorado bourbon aficionados Nate Winegar and Matt Dankner to help launch Hidden Barn as the master blender. The three partners chose to work with Neeley Family Distillery and the talents of Master Distiller Royce Neeley, who comes from generations of Kentucky moonshiners.

In a news release, Zykan said: “We wanted to produce the kind of whiskey we would be proud to share, we wanted to lift the guardrails and pursue boundless creativity and unmatched quality in our process. Hidden Barn whiskies are full of subtlety and nuance, emphasizing quality at every turn and crafted to be shared in the celebration of good friends and good whiskey.”

Jackie Zykan and Royce Neeley
Hidden Barn Master Blender Jackie Zykan and Master Distiller Royce Neeley | Courtesy

The first release — Batch #001 — is labeled “Whiskey Made the Hard Way” and is made up of seven barrels distilled at Neeley Family Distillery using fermented wild yeast. Royce Neeley controls every step of the process from grain to aging, personally hand-collecting wild Kentucky yeast, carefully monitoring  a five-day fermentation using traditional cypress fermenters, and personally distilling and hand-cutting the double pot distillation.  

The result is a 106 proof, 4-5-year-old small batch bourbon with a suggested retail price of $74.99. The mash bill is 70% corn, 20% rye and 10% malted barley.

So how’s it taste?

Nose: I get some citrus and sage on the nose, and I swear I haven’t spent any time at Yankee Candle store recently. I also get a strong butterscotch note followed by baked cherry.

Palate: Wow! The first sip immediately takes you to Funky Town. There’s so much going on here I don’t know where to begin other than to say it’s different — in a good way. I get that butterscotch again, but it quickly gives way to raisin and fig notes, followed by a peppery zest and a flavor similar to a strawberry Fruit Roll-Up. Seriously. I’m not sure if it’s the wild yeast causing so much chaos, but it’s tingly and bounces off tastebuds like a game of pinball.

Finish: The finish is warm and cozy, leaving you with a bit of cinnamon and baked apple — like Grandma’s famous pie. This is going to be a great sipper for the fall.

The first batch of Hidden Barn should be at Kentucky liquor stores by the first week of August. Let me know if you see any, because I’m gonna need a backup.

Copper & Kings (finally) releases first bourbon

Master Distiller Brandon O'Daniel on barrels
Copper & Kings Master Distiller Brandon O’Daniel shares some samples from other bourbon finishes. | Photo by Sara Havens

Copper & Kings American Brandy has marched to its own double-base drum solo since it opened in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood in 2014. A brandy distillery located smack dab in the middle of Bourbon Country that produces just about everything but bourbon might confuse tourists, but locals know their spirits, tours, competent crew and rooftop restaurant have always been top-notch.

Now, after eight years in the industry and under new ownership of Constellation Brands, Copper & Kings is finally releasing a bourbon — but of course it has a C&K twist to it. The sourced bourbons will be finished in used brandy barrels from the distillery and will only be available on a bottle-your-own tour called the Barrel-To-Bottle Experience.

I stopped by the distillery Wednesday morning to find out more about the hands-on tour and, most importantly, the bourbon. Master Distiller Brandon O’Daniel gave me a behind-the-scenes tour and a few samples he drilled right from the barrel, and he explained why C&K threw it’s hat into the bourbon ring after all this time.

Copper & Kings first bourbon
Copper & Kings first bourbon | Courtesy

But first, let’s talk bourbon. At the moment, C&K isn’t set up to distill bourbon on its four Vendome-made pot stills, so the distillery will be sourcing bourbon from “friends in the business.”

O’Daniel said the first batch, which is available now, comes from 5-6-year-old bourbon sourced from Indiana, so it’s likely it is MGP juice. O’Daniel then finishes the bourbon for 13 months in either apple or grape brandy barrels.

If you take the Barrel-To-Bottle tour, you’ll get to try both expressions and select your favorite to bottle — while this first batch of 14 barrels lasts. But don’t worry, O’Daniel and his team have many more bourbon finishes up their sleeves, and those will be released on the tour when the others run out.

If you’re wondering about proof, this bourbon comes out at cask strength, so the grape brandy finished bourbon is 119 proof, and the apple brandy finished bourbon is 122 proof.

Out of the two mentioned above, my palate cozied up to the apple finish as the favorite, but the grape finish isn’t far behind. They both have great spice notes and bourbon staples like vanilla, caramel and oak on the nose, but the taste takes it to another level with the finishing barrels.

The apple finish has a bit more earthy and baked fruit notes on the palate, and the finish is like a scoop of vanilla ice cream plopped next to a slice of fresh-from-the-oven apple pie, complete with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Meanwhile, the grape finish is more floral on the palate, with hints of honeysuckle, fresh green apple and green grapes. The finish on this one is also quite pleasant and fruity.

C&K has an entire inventory of award-winning spirits — brandy, gin and absinthe — so by adding bourbon to the lineup, it only pads their success and pushes them toward more and more innovation.

“We’ve been anxious to get into bourbon for some time, but we’re making sure we’re still doing true to our brand and doing things our way,” said O’Daniel. “It’s been fun.”

The fill-your-own-bottle station
The fill-your-own-bottle station | Photo by Sara Havens

O’Daniel seems truly at home downstairs with all the aging barrels, a mad scientist tinkering in his spirits laboratory and blaring Phish to the barrels while they rest (what C&K terms “sonic aging”). And he assures me that while the bourbon game has been fun to get into, the distillery’s flagship product will always be brandy.

The Barrel-to-Bottle Experience is $35 for the tour, plus $65 for the hand-filled 750ml bottle of your choice. The tour includes all sorts of tastings, including both bourbons, and there are other options at the bottle-your-own station as well.

Breaking ground at the new distillery

Heaven Hill breaks ground on new $135 million distillery, to be called Heaven Hill Springs

Breaking ground at the new distillery
Gov. Andy Beshear, Heaven Hill President Max Shapira and Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll break ground on the new Heaven Hill Springs Distillery in Bardstown. | Photo by Sara Havens

It was just the kind of weather you’d expect for a June morning if you found yourself, say, standing in the middle of an empty field in Bardstown with a couple dozen folks from the bourbon industry: warm but not sweltering, slightly humid, with a nice cooling breeze.

The occasion was to celebrate — and break ground on — a new $135 million distillery Heaven Hill plans to open in 2024, which is to be named Heaven Hill Springs Distillery to pay tribute to the company’s original distillery that burned down in 1996. The distillery will initially produce 150,000 barrels a year, but over time it can ramp up to more than 450,000 annually.

Heaven Hill also owns the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville — which it purchased in 1999 and is where all of its distillate is made now — and it will continue to produce bourbon and whiskey there as well. So technically, by 2026 let’s say, Heaven Hill could produce upwards of 900,000 barrels a year with both facilities. Now that’s some bourbon!

A rendering of the new distillery | Courtesy

During the ground-breaking ceremony, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear joined Heaven Hill President Max Shapira and Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll to toast the new distillery and 38 full-time jobs it will bring to the greater Bardstown community.

“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,” said Shapira. “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.”

Gov. Beshear called renderings of the new facility “the Hogwarts of bourbon distilleries” and spoke not only of the booming bourbon industry in Kentucky but also of the many other industries that are bringing people to Kentucky daily — not only to visit but to live.

“This is a significant day for Heaven Hill and Kentucky,” Beshear said. “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.”

After a toast with the crowd of bourbon industry folks, local and regional politicians, media and many Heaven Hill employees both past and present, Beshear, Shapira and O’Driscoll planted their silver shovels into the ground and tossed up the dirt for all to see and celebrate.

A group toast
Let’s toast to expansion and bourbon at 11:30 a.m.! | Photo by Sara Havens

And speaking of dirt and earth and breaking ground, the new distillery will be built to create a more environmentally conscious distilled spirits industry. According to a news release, it will be engineered to minimize water use and reuse water streams, native plants and natural systems to manage stormwater runoff. It’ll also include a wastewater pre-treatment system to ensure discharged water exceeds environmental standards and reduces the load on the city’s treatment plant.

Heaven Hill Springs Distillery will sit right off KY 245, on Bloomfield Pike, not too far from Lux Row and Bardstown Bourbon Co. It’s also less than 3 miles from the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience, which just debuted an expansion and renovation exactly a year ago.

newly expanded Angel's Envy Distillery

A sneak peek inside Angel’s Envy’s new $8.2 million expansion

newly expanded Angel's Envy Distillery
Welcome to the newly expanded Angel’s Envy Distillery. | Photo by Sara Havens

It’s crazy to think that a distillery that opened in 2016 already needs some elbow room, but when you’re making bourbon in Kentucky, it’s basically par for the course.

Angel’s Envy will soon open the doors to its latest $8.2 million expansion, which adds 13,000 square feet to the Main Street distillery and will allow more than 100,000 guests per year. The project has been underway since late 2020, and the folks over there have been tight-lipped about what we can expect from the new space — until now.

Every time I’ve stopped by Angel’s Envy during the last year or so, I noticed the construction was always behind closed doors, or more like behind huge black tarps. I tried sneaking a peek on several occasions, but they would threaten to take my bourbon away and I would quickly oblige.

Finally, last week, a small group of local media was invited to witness the incredible vision and foresight Angel’s Envy has to propel them to the next level of bourbon tourism in Kentucky.

Lincoln Tasting Room
One of the new tasting rooms is named after Lincoln Henderson, the co-founder of Angel’s Envy. | Photo by Sara Havens

When your distillery and all its components already fill out 90,000 square feet, 13,000 more feet isn’t a tremendous amount to add. But what they’ve managed to do with that new space completely changes the game.

We’re talking five more private tasting rooms, a full kitchen for caterers, several new event spaces, a new bar, doors that open by themselves when tours begin, a “Bottle Your Own” experience room, and an expanded gift shop for more merchandise. Yes, you really do need some Angel’s Envy socks. Trust me.

Dee Ford, the Brand Home General Manager at Angel’s Envy, told us that this expansion will allow them to accommodate 64,000 more people per year, which is about how many they’ve had to turn away the last couple of years due to space and tour limitations.

Many tourists come to Kentucky believing they can just walk up to a distillery and jump on a tour, but unfortunately, that just isn’t the case anymore. Ford said she hated sending people away who just wanted some kind of distillery experience but didn’t have a reservation, and now there’s room for tastings and special bottles and all the shopping a bourbon fanatic could want.

new bar
Look at this brand new bar! | Photo by Sara Havens

“We’re really proud of the expansion and the opportunities it will give us,” Ford said. “We can’t wait for the public to see what we’ve created for them.”

Angel’s Envy chose the same style of building for the expansion, so you really don’t notice a huge difference when looking at the old vs. the new from the outside, and inside, the connected buildings work as one seamless hub of activity. The five new private tasting rooms are pristine and intimate, allowing you to hear every word the guide says as he explains how to taste bourbon.

One cool new feature that I particularly liked was a new room/foyer where all tours now begin. This is where you meet your guide and he or she gives you the rundown of the rules. Then, as you are about to embark on your excursion, two large wooden doors swing open like magic, welcoming you inside the working distillery.

The newly expanded Angel’s Envy and all of its new facilities will open to the public on Tuesday, June 14, which is fittingly National Bourbon Day.