Old Forester Plans Tenaciously Push Forward Despite Fire

Old Forester Plans Tenaciously Push Forward Despite Fire

By Nino Marchetti / July 22, 2015

The rapid growth of the bourbon industry will not be denied. That’s perhaps the biggest take away today from the just completed ceremonial ground breaking at the site of the new Old Forester Distillery, set on Louisville, Kentucky’s historic Whiskey Row. This event happens on the heels of a very recent fire in the same locale which left serious questions for a moment about the project’s future.

This fire, for those who don’t remember, happened a mere two weeks ago, causing some significant damage to property being developed that is directly adjacent to the planned $45 million Old Forester project. A firewall previously installed between the distillery and the site of the fire is credited, along with the skill of firefighters, with keeping damage to the former to a minimum, though there’s enough of an issue still the original officially planned opening for Old Forester has been pushed off a bit until 2017.

Old Forester Distillery

The site of the future new Old Forester distillery in Louisville. (image via Brown-Forman)

As for the historic groundbreaking today though, it was a Kentucky bourbon moment to remember. In attendance, among others, were Old Forester President Campbell Brown and Brown-Forman Board of Directors Chairman Garvin Brown, leading the Brown family contingent, along with Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville Metro Council President David Tandy and various executives from Brown-Forman.

The ceremony, held in a parking lot directly across the street from the site of the future distillery, also had in attendance Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris. He led a ceremonious filling of the first barrel in connection with the new Old Forester location, adding a new layer of history to a set of properties, already well entrenched in bourbon lore, that were previously used for warehousing barrels of whiskey produced at numerous distilleries in the area. At least nineteen distillers, wholesalers, and other whiskey-related businesses called this block of West Main Street home at one time.

Old Forester

The ceremonious first barrel of the new Old Forester waiting to be filled. (image via Brown-Forman)

What’s going up on part of this Whiskey Row now, at least as far as the Old Forester project goes, is quite the operation. Two combined buildings will offer Brown-Forman 55,000 new square feet to showcase this particular bourbon brand. Plans for the site include distilling up to 100,000 cases of whiskey annually, as well as providing an environment for a tasting room, exhibits, bourbon-making demonstrations and event spaces.

“From barrel making to bottling, this facility will showcase the process and pride that goes into making every bottle of Old Forester bourbon” said Campbell Brown, who is also fifth generation Brown descendant, in a statement. “Bringing our founding brand back to the site where it first began, is cause for celebration at Brown-Forman for both our employees and my family but it’s also a dedicated investment into this region that we hope will drive great tourism interest to the community.”

The Old Forester brand, for the whiskey history buffs out there, is Brown-Forman’s founding brand way back from 1870. It was also the company’s “flagship brand for many years, selling more than a million cases a year by the early 1970s. While consumers’ tastes changed nationally and Kentucky bourbon sales (including Old Forester) declined for many years, Old Forester maintained a strong base of support in its hometown and was often affectionately referred to as ‘Louisville’s Bourbon.'”