Old Forester Throws Open Its New Distillery Doors On Louisville’s Whiskey Row

In the annals of Kentucky bourbon history downtown Louisville was once considered a hub for the industry. What was known as Whiskey Row at one point housed at least 19 distillers, wholesalers and other related businesses. The passage of time changed this, and now the passage of time is slowly restoring it. The Old Forester American whiskey brand from Brown-Forman is the latest to take the plunge, opening the doors to a new visitor friendly distillery there today.

The new Old Forester distillery comes to light just a little over three years after it was announced the brand had taken possession of the property deed of two historic buildings it once called home to (Brown-Forman was housed here at one point before it moved its headquarters to its current location). A $45 million, 70,000 square foot distillery build out then commenced that was setback somewhat after a devastating fire happened in buildings directly adjacent to the project in mid-2015.

Old Forester Distillery

Old Forester Distilling Co. (image via Brown-Forman)

“Over the last 148 years, Old Forester has had its share of memorable moments and enduring accomplishments,” said said Campbell Brown, Old Forester President and Fifth Generation Brown Family Member, in a prepared statement. “Today marks yet another chapter to a story that has survived Prohibition, world wars and the changing palates and tastes of consumers across the globe. We are delighted to now welcome friends old and new into our new, old Home.”

As to what visitors can expect at this distillery, here is how the consumer facing side is broken down by Brown-Forman:

The tour experience at Old Forester begins with a primer on Bourbon history and the role played by both Old Forester and its hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. From there, guests follow the whiskey’s journey through the distillery.

Four 4,500 gallon tanks guide guests to a glass elevator, where they ascend through a light-filled atrium in full view of the 44-foot-tall copper column still, designed and constructed by Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Louisville, bringing the distillation process to life.

Guests then make their way to the cooperage. Brown-Forman is the only major spirits company to craft its own new barrels, and the process is seamlessly integrated into the new downtown distillery. Tour guests will look on as coopers hand raise each barrel and will feel the heat as they witness the charring of a barrel. In full view, barrels are tested and filled before making their way to the aging warehouse.

Down a charred, wood-lined hallway, guests are guided through the colors, flavors and aromas that whisky takes on during its time in a barrel. Unique to Old Forester Distilling Co., guests enter the on-site, three-story warehouse from the highest rack, offering a bird’s eye view. A catwalk leads guests down through the warehouse, where roughly 900 barrels will age.

Not just a tourist attraction that’s joined the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, Old Forester is also a smaller scale working distillery with the capacity to produce approximately 100,000 proof gallons annually. The on site aging warehouse can age up to 900 barrels of bourbon at once, and the bottling line has the capacity for up to 2,400 bottles a day. All overflow production, aging and bottling is handled at other Brown-Forman facilities.


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...