Buffalo Trace Continues Massive Expansion To Increase Its Bourbon Supply

By Hannah Kanik / August 19, 2021

Buffalo Trace Distillery recently said it is making strides on its $1.2 billion expansion that includes more barrel warehouses, the construction of an additional still, additional fermenters, an expansion of the dry house and more.

That all being said, the Kentucky-based distillery says it will be a few years before the bourbon supply catches up with the demand. 

“The bourbon category continues to grow at a rapid rate, and while we have been increasing production across our portfolio for the last several years, we are still catching up to consumer demand,” said Sara Saunders, vice president of marketing at Buffalo Trace Distillery, in a prepared statement.  “While we are producing and shipping a record amount of product, we understand the frustration from fans that our brands aren’t easy to find or readily available. We take pride in the quality of our product above all else, and we believe that there is no substitute for aging. Unfortunately, this lengthens the lead time of getting product into consumers’ hands.”

The distillery made headway on a number of projects, including a second still house, located adjacent to Buffalo Trace’s existing 1930’s still house that will double the production capacity for the distillery, with a duplicate still standing 40 feet tall and having the capacity of 60,000 gallons.

New Evaporator

A new evaporator on a crane above a Buffalo Trace dry house (image via Buffalo Trace)

Eight more fermenters were added and went online in January 2021, which joins the four new fermenters that were added in December of 2019 and brings the total number to 24.

The distillery is repurposing its Warehouse B — the oldest aging barrel warehouse on the property. It was built in 1884 but has sat empty for the past two decades after it was determined that it was not ideal for aging the quality whiskey Buffalo Trace requires with today’s rigorous standards, the distillery said.

What’s happening here is that this all brick warehouse has a location at the back of the distillery near the cookers and fermenters, making it what’s said to be an ideal location for drying spent mash to sell to farmers for livestock feed. It will be repurposed to a new dry house while maintaining its historic integrity. Buffalo Trace’s existing dry house will continue to operate once the new dry house is complete, but the additional dry house is necessary for the increased production.

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New barrel aging warehouses HH, II, and JJ have also been added in the past year and LL and MM are under construction now.  Warehouses KK and NN are in the planning stages.    Since most of Buffalo Trace’s bourbons age eight to 10 years, more warehouses continue to be built as production increases.  A total of 10 new barrel warehouses have been built to date since 2017, each holding 58,800 barrels and costing about $7 million each to build and another $21 million each to fill with barrels.

The progress made over the past year joins previous expansion items as part of Buffalo Trace’s $1.2 billion investment, such as four new 22-foot tall cookers, four new fermenters, a 110,000 square foot bottling hall, and an expanded Visitor Center which triples the size of the former retail, tasting and event space.

Upcoming infrastructure projects in the near future include a new mill house, which will be located close to the original location of the hammer mill from 80 years ago.  The mill house will increase the grain grinding capacity to match new distillation capacity by replacing the current hammer mills.  Corn, wheat, rye and barley are trucked into Buffalo Trace from various non-GMO farmers in the region, but then must be ground on site before the grains can be used to make bourbon.

More barrel aging warehouses are also planned for the future, as well as another craft bottling hall which will allow Buffalo Trace to produce more single barrel and small batch bourbons.

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“We’ve made great strides in our expansion so far, but we still have a long way to go in order to meet the needs of our fans,” said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley. “We continue to take all the proper steps to ensure every barrel is of the highest quality as we increase supply.”