New Kentucky Owl Park Aims To Redefine What A Bourbon Distillery Is

, | November 29, 2018

The age of the distillery is changing, there is no doubt. A certain cut of distillers and those who back them seem no longer content to have traditional looking whiskey making and aging facilities. A case in point to this earlier this year was the opening of the futuristic The Macallan distillery in Scotland. Now, the folks at Kentucky Owl, these days owned by the Stoli Group, are seeing how far they can push the design envelope.

The Kentucky Owl distillery’s most noticeable feature – the pyramids (image via Stoli Group)

Kentucky Owl Park, according to those behind it, will be built atop a former 420 acre quarry in Bardstown, Kentucky, becoming something that conceptually embraces the heart of what a distillery is but at the same time takes a fresh approach to it. Stoli Group has turned to the world renowned Shigeru Ban Architects to oversee the project’s plans and development. These plans are set to include rickhouses for aging, a bottling center, a state-of-the-art distillery and offices for the American Whiskey Division of Stoli. And there will be apparently be a vintage dinner train to stop on the property as well.

A rendering of the inside of the Kentucky Owl distillery (image via Stoli Group)

When evaluating architectural firms for Kentucky Owl Park, it was imperative that the selected group boasted a strong portfolio of work, but also that their plans for this initiative truly pushed the boundaries within the design world and along the Bourbon Trail,” said Yuri Shefler, Owner of SPI Group, the parent company of Stoli Group and the Kentucky Owl brand, in a prepared statement. “We are looking forward to Kentucky Owl Park being the next masterpiece from Shigeru Ban Architects, who bring an unparalleled background of more than 100 innovative and environmentally sustainable projects completed to-date.

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“I am energized by Kentucky Owl’s early success in the category and am committed to building a fitting home for this brand along with expanding our presence in whiskies overall.”

Inside a Kentucky Owl rickhouse/tasting center (image via Stoli Group)

Where things get particularly interesting with this collection of one of a kind buildings is that they are, according to Stoli, “rooted in industrial vernacular design, each of which will be carefully sited within the natural rustic landscape. Shigeru Ban’s vision for the site hearkens back to the 19th century with long-span steel structures that have been reinterpreted with the use of mass timber. Each building will have a distinct structural form that incorporates visual elements of the local bourbon-making process. The existing quarry pits will be turned into beautiful lakes with crystal-clear, limestone-filtered water.”

The exterior of the planned Kentucky Owl rickhouses (image via Stoli Group)

These “distinct structural” forms include some pyramid shaped buildings, among other unique considerations.

“We are honored to have been chosen to build Kentucky Owl Park and are eager to bring the joint vision of Stoli Group and Shigeru Ban to life,” added Dean Maltz, Managing Partner of Shigeru Ban Architects. This is an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves like never before, as these plans serve as our first Kentucky distillery and incorporate unique highlights and nods to the industry and its history, while prioritizing light and a connection to nature, features the architectural world has come to expect from our firm.”

The site Stoli is building its new Kentucky Owl distillery on it acquired last year. At the time it was indicated this would be a $150 million development project, and that it could be open as soon as 2020.

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Nino Kilgore-Marchetti

Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...