Brown-Forman Corp. opened the Old Forester Distillery, a $45 million, 29-job bourbon production center and visitor attraction re-establishing the brand’s historic home on Whiskey Row in Louisville, Kentucky.
The project encompasses two historic buildings in Louisville, 117 and 119 W. Main St., which combine for approximately 70,000 square feet of space that encompasses distilling, barrel making, aging and bottling operations. Brown-Forman’s investment covered extensive renovations and the purchase of new equipment.
The facility can distill 100,000 proof gallons annually, supplementing production capabilities at the Brown-Forman distillery at 2921 Dixie Highway in Louisville. The Old Forester Distillery offers tours and features a tasting room, exhibits, bourbon-making demonstrations and event spaces.
“As Brown Forman’s founding brand, Old Forester has stood the most difficult test of all...the test of time,” said Paul Varga, Brown-Forman CEO. “We are thrilled to open our doors today on Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row, inviting the world to a unique experience in urban distilling, brand and company history and bourbon hospitality.”
In 1870, George Garvin Brown founded Brown-Forman in Louisville, where the company remains headquartered today. Brown set up shop on Main Street, dubbed Whiskey Row, and began sealing bourbon in glass bottles, an innovation for the industry, which commonly sold bourbon by the barrel. The current building at 119 W. Main St. served as Old Forester’s home 1882-1919.
“Old Forester is an iconic brand within the bourbon industry, and it truly feels like this distillery is returning to its rightful home,” Governor Matt Bevin said. “I commend Brown-Forman and officials from both the city and state for working to make this project a reality. Despite a number of obstacles in completing the project, most notably the Whiskey Row fire of July 2015, the company was able to deliver on this beautiful new distillery and the 29 jobs associated with the project. We appreciate the company’s commitment, and are delighted to welcome Old Forester back to Whiskey Row!”
To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in September 2014 preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $900,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
Additionally, KEDFA approved Brown-Forman for up to $410,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing. Brown-Forman also can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, “In Louisville, bourbon is more than just our signature drink, it’s a critical part of our history, unique culture and our growing economy,” Mayor Fischer said. “Old Forester was first bottled in Louisville, and has used innovation to grow its brand and open the Old Forester Distillery on none other than National Bourbon Day, bringing new jobs and investment back to its roots. Our city applauds Brown-Forman and Old Forester for their resilience in restoring historic Whiskey Row, and distilling a product that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.”